Jul 242015

ISH2015_Handbook_coverSummer! Summer! Summer of Science! This week has been an intense first introductory week of learning and working together with the students of the International Summer Science School Heidelberg (ISH). In its 20th year the ISH welcomes again talented students from four continents which are staying in Heidelberg to gain exclusive insights into a variety of research areas. During the remaining three weeks of research internships the students from Heidelberg’s sister cities Cambridge (UK), Kumamoto (Japan), Montpellier (France), Rehovot (Israel), and Simferopol (Crimea peninsula)  – as well as students from the US and Australia – will receive individual practical training, hear scientific lectures and explore their host region on various excursions. Continue reading »

Jul 202015
Tug of war: during an infection host cells and bacteria fight for iron. IMAGE: Petra Riedinger/EMBL

Tug of war: during an infection host cells and bacteria fight for iron. IMAGE: Petra Riedinger/EMBL

Proteins responsible for controlling levels of iron in the body also play an important role in combatting infection, according to a study published last week in Cell Host & Microbe.

Humans – along with all living organisms, including pathogens – need iron to survive: invading organisms try to highjack it from their hosts in order to thrive and multiply. Researchers at EMBL Heidelberg, and their colleagues, have now discovered that proteins responsible for helping the body maintain the correct levels of iron at a cellular level are also involved in helping to prevent this theft. These proteins form a system called IRP/IRE (iron regulatory protein/iron responsive element). Continue reading »

Jul 092015
The genome in the cloud

Since the completion of the Human Genome Project in 2001, technological advances have made sequencing genomes much easier, quicker and cheaper, fuelling an explosion in sequencing projects. Today, genomics is well into the era of ‘big data’, with genomics datasets often containing hundreds of terabytes (1014 bytes) of information.

The rise of big genomic data offers many scientific opportunities, but also creates new problems, as Jan Korbel, Group Leader in the Genome Biology Unit EMBL Heidelberg, describes in a new commentary paper authored with an international team of scientists and published today in Nature.

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Jun 162015
Dancing with the cells

Cells ‘dance’ as they draw together during early embryo development

In a nutshell:

New method used to map all tensions of a developing embryo in space and time
Key stage of embryo development controlled by contraction of cells
Cells within an 8-cell embryo shown to ‘dance’ to the same rhythm
The same kind of contraction that fires our muscles also controls a key stage of mammalian embryo development, according to a new study published in Nature Cell Biology. The research, conducted at EMBL Heidelberg, measured and mapped how cells in very early stage embryos bond tightly together. The scientists also discovered a cellular behaviour that hadn’t been observed before: cells in the embryo ‘dance’, each one making the same rhythmic movement.

The focus of the study was a stage of development known as compaction, which takes place when the embryo has eight cells. Compaction changes the embryo from a loosely attached group of cells to a closely bonded single entity. During compaction – which takes around 10 hours – the cells change shape to create the overall form of the embryo, increasing the area of contact between them.

Using a new method, the researchers were able to measure the forces required to change the shape of the cells as compaction progressed. Being able to chart the tension within the embryo without destroying it meant they were able to investigate which cellular process was the main driver behind the compaction process.

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