Biology

Biology is a natural science concerned with the study of life and living organisms, including their structure, function, growth, evolution, distribution, identification and taxonomy. Modern biology is a vast and eclectic field, composed of many branches and sub-disciplines.

  • Every atom counts in Protein structures

    Every atom counts in Protein structures | Tailored parallel X-rays perfectly matching the dimensions of the protein crystals enabled the scientists to determine the proteasome structure in unprecedented detail. Illustration: Hartmut Sebesse / Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry

    Malignant cancer cells not only proliferate faster than most body cells. They are also more dependent on the most important cellular garbage disposal unit, the proteasome, which degrades defective proteins. Therapies for some types of cancer exploit this dependence: Patients are treated with inhibitors, which block the proteasome. The ensuing pile-up of junk overwhelms the cancer cell, ultimately killing it. Scientists have now succeeded in determining the human proteasome’s 3D structure in unprecedented detail and have deciphered the mechanism by which inhibitors block the proteasome. Their results will pave the way to develop more effective proteasome inhibitors for cancer therapy.

  • Faster from the Laboratory to the Patient

    Partners of the POC-Iniative.

    In the development of new medications and medical engineering, there is a gap between the discovery of new potential active ingredients and products and their further development into medicinal products and medical devices by the industry. The Helmholtz Association and the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, together with the Deutsche Hochschulmedizin, have now jointly brought the Proof-of-Concept initiative into being. It promotes the translation of innovative, promising research projects.

  • Fighting Forgetfulness with Nanotechnology

    The international research team is working on a treatment on dementia like Alzheimer, which leads to a death of neuronal cells. © shutterstock.com/Naeblys

    About 29 million people around the world are affected by the disease "Alzheimer". In an international collaboration, scientists of the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) in Mainz together with teams from Italy, Great Britain, Belgium and the USA are now working together on an approach for a therapy. On the one hand, the goal is to understand the processes occurring in the brain that lead to the disease; on the other hand the development of a method for targeted drug delivery.

  • Fighting Myocardial Infarction with Nanoparticle Tandems

    Injection: Via a cannula introduced into the infarction area, the cells loaded with magnetic nanoparticles are injected into the damaged heart muscle tissue of the mouse. © Photo: Dr. Annika Ottersbach/Uni Bonn

    How can damaged cardiac tissue following a heart attack best be treated with replacement muscle cells? A research team under the supervision of the University of Bonn is now presenting an innovative method on mice: Muscle replacement cells, which are to take over the function of the damaged tissue, are loaded with magnetic nanoparticles. These cells are then injected into the damaged heart muscle and held in place by a magnet, causing the cells to engraft better onto the existing tissue. The scientists show that this leads to a significant improvement in heart function. The journal "Biomaterials" presents the results in advance online, the print version will be published in the future.

  • First-Ever “Live” Observation of Formation and Repair of Myelin Sheaths Around Nerve Fibers

    Still from time-lapse video of myelin growing around axons. (c) Technical University of Munich

    Nerve fibers are surrounded by a myelin sheath. Scientists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have now made the first-ever “live” observations of how this protective layer is formed. The team discovered that the characteristic patterns of the myelin layer are determined at an early stage. However, these patterns can be adjusted as needed in a process apparently controlled by the nerve cells themselves.

  • For Bacteria, the Neighbors Co-determine Which Cell Dies First: The Physiology of Survival

    Co-author Elena Biselli at the microscope. Image: A. Heddergott / TUM

    Bacteria do not simply perish in hunger phases fortuitously; rather, the surrounding cells have a say as well. A research team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has now discovered that two factors, above all, decide over life and death: the energy required to continue living and the efficiency with which surviving cells can recycle biomass from dead cells.

  • Gene Taxi with Turbo Drive

    After infection with CD9-containing viruses, human HEK293 cells produce a red fluorescent reporter protein that indicates the successful transmission of viral genetic information into the cells. Photo: Kai Böker

    Scientists at the German Primate Center improve DNA transfer in gene therapy. Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, cystic fibrosis – these and many other fatal hereditary human diseases are genetically transmitted. Many cancers and cardiovascular diseases are also caused by genetic defects. Gene therapy is a promising possibility for the treatment of these diseases. With the help of genetically modified viruses, DNA is introduced into cells in order to repair or replace defective genes. By using this method, scientists from the German Primate Center (DPZ) – Leibniz Institute for Primate Research have discovered a quicker and more efficient treatment for the cells.

  • Genome-based diets maximise growth, fecundity, and lifespan

    Researchers use the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster for their studies on genome-based diet. Dr. Sebastian Grönke / Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing

    A moderate reduction in food intake, known as dietary restriction, protects against multiple ageing-related diseases and extends life span, but can also supress growth and fertility. A research group from the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing in Cologne has now developed a diet based on the model organism’s genome, which enhances growth and fecundity with no costs to lifespan. What is the best path to a long and healthy life? Scientists had a relatively simple answer for many years: less food. But it turned out that this could have unpleasant consequences. Experiments showed that putting flies or mice on diet could impair their development and fecundity. How could we take advantage of the beneficial effects of dieting, and at the same time avoid the damaging effects?

  • Global biophotonics networking platform launched

    Biophotonics - Creating windows into the body. © CNBP

    The largest biophotonics network worldwide gives access to latest news, events and job opportunities in the field and aims to bring the biophotonics community closer together. Biophotonics.World was launched during the International Conference on Biophotonics in Fremantle, Australia, on April 30th 2017. The new and rapidly growing research area of biophotonics makes use of light-matter interaction that allows to view and analyse biomolecules, cells, tissues or whole organisms. Prof. Jürgen Popp, scientific director at the Leibniz Institute of Photonic Technology Jena, co-initiated the network that evolved from Biophotonics4Life, an international consortium of leading scientists in the field of photonic technologies for life sciences.

  • Goettingen Researchers Combine Light and X-ray Microscopy for Comprehensive Insights

    STED image (left) and x-ray imaging (right) of the same cardiac tissue cell from a rat. University of Goettingen

    Researchers at the University of Goettingen have used a novel microscopy method. In doing so they were able to show both the illuminated and the "dark side" of the cell. The results of the study were published in the journal Nature Communications. (pug) The team led by Prof. Dr. Tim Salditt and Prof. Dr. Sarah Köster from the Institute of X-Ray Physics "attached" small fluorescent markers to the molecules of interest, for example proteins or DNA. The controlled switching of the fluorescent dye in the so-called STED (Stimulated Emission Depletion) microscope then enables highest resolution down to a few billionth of a meter.

  • Growing brain cancer in a dish

    Neoplastic cerebral organoid with GFP-positive tumor regions (green), which demonstrates glioblastoma-like cellularity. IMBA

    For the first-time, researchers at IMBA- Institute of Molecular Biotechnology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences – develop organoids, that mimic the onset of brain cancer. This method not only sheds light on the complex biology of human brain tumors but could also pave the way for new medical applications.

     

  • Hannover Messe: Antifouling-Kur für Wärmetauscher

    Das INM stellt neue Nanobeschichtungen vor, die das Anhaften von Keimen und die Biofilmbildung auf Wärmetauschern reduzieren. Damit beschichtete Wärmetauscher müssen deutlich seltener intensiv gereinigt werden.

  • Heilungsverlauf nach Schlaganfall früh vorhersagbar

    Welche Patienten nach einem Schlaganfall langfristig besonders viel Unterstützung benötigen, konnten Forscherinnen und Forscher des Universitätsklinikums Freiburg jetzt bereits in den ersten Tagen nach dem Schlaganfall ermitteln. Mit Hilfe bildgebender Verfahren untersuchten sie die Hirnaktivität bei 34 Patienten mit rechtsseitig schwerem Schlaganfall. Dabei zeigte sich: Je aktiver die Zellen im rechten Aufmerksamkeitszentrum des Gehirns waren, desto besser war auch die langfristige Gesamterholung. Zudem erholten sich Patienten besonders gut von einer als Neglect bezeichneten räumlichen Wahrnehmungsstörung, wenn links das Areal besonders aktiv war, das rechts geschädigt wurde.

  • Highly Sensitive Sensors to Measure the Heart and Brain Activity

    By applying a magnetic field, the bending beam vibrates. A permanently electrically charged electret (blue) pulls the bending beam. This way his vibrance gets stronger. Copyright: Marleen Schweichel

     

    Electrical signals measurements such as the ECG (electrocardiogram) can show how the human brain or heart works. Next to electrical signals magnetic signals also reveal something about the activity of these organs. They could be measured with little effort and without skin contact. But the especially weak signals require highly sensitive sensors. Scientists from the Collaboraive research Center 1261 "Magnetoelectric Sensors" at Kiel University have now developed a new concept for cantilever sensors, with the future aim of measuring these low frequencies of heart and brain activity. The extremely small, energy-efficient sensors are particularly well-suited for medical applications or mobile microelectronics. This is made possible by the use of electrets. Such material is permanently electrically charged, and is also used in microphones for hearing aids or mobile phones. The research team presented its sensor concept in a special edition of the renowned journal Nano Energy.

     

  • How Bacteria Turn off an Antibiotic

    The Gram-negative Klebsiella pneumoniae bacterium often becomes resistant to common antibiotics. NIAID/CC BY 2.0

    Many common antibiotics are increasingly losing their effectiveness against multi-resistant pathogens, which are becoming ever more prevalent. Bacteria use natural means to acquire mechanisms that protect them from harmful substances. For instance against the agent albicidin: Harmful Gram-negative bacteria possess a protein that binds and inactivates albicidin. The underlying resistance mechanism has been investigated at atomic resolution by scientists from the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) and the associated Helmholtz Institute for Pharmaceutical Research Saarland (HIPS).

  • How cancer cells flood the lung

    Cells isolated from a malignant pleural effusion. Mutation of KRAS was identified in the tumor cell clone (bottom right). Source: Helmholtz Zentrum München

    Lung cancer patients are particularly susceptible to malignant pleural effusion, when fluid collects in the space between the lungs and the chest wall. Researchers at the Helmholtz Zentrum München, in partnership with the German Center for Lung Research (DZL), have discovered a novel mechanism that causes this to happen. Their study, published in ‘Nature Communications’, also shows that various active substances could potentially be used to treat this condition.

  • How to brew high-value fatty acids with brewer’s yeast

    A modified fatty acid synthase (illustrated schematically in the blue box on the basis of its synthetic properties) can induce short-chain fatty acid production in a yeast cell. Synthesis can be compared with a multistep industrial process. By means of targeted modifications to the natural synthesis, individual processes are accelerated or slowed down (green and red arrows) in order to trigger premature release of short-chain fatty acids.

    Researchers at Goethe University Frankfurt have succeeded in producing fatty acids in large quantities from sugar or waste containing sugar with the help of yeasts.

    FRANKFURT. Short-chain fatty acids are high-value constituents of cosmetics, active pharmaceutical ingredients, antimicrobial substances, aromas or soap. To date, it has only been possible to extract them from crude oil by chemical means or from certain plants, such as coconut, using a complex process. Research groups led by Professor Martin Grininger and Professor Eckhard Boles at Goethe University Frankfurt have now succeeded in producing such fatty acids in large quantities from sugar or waste containing sugar with the help of yeasts. The process is simple and similar to that of beer brewing.

  • How to Construct a Protein Factory

    Model of the Mitoribosomal small subunit assembly in Trypanosoma brucei. © NCCR RNA & Disease

    The complexity of molecular structures in the cell is amazing. Having achieved great success in elucidating these structures in recent years, biologists are now taking on the next challenge: to find out more about how they are constructed. A joint research project between two groups from the University of Bern and ETH Zurich now provides insight into a very unusual construction process in the unicellular parasite Trypanosoma brucei.

  • How to Generate a Brain of Correct Size and Composition

    Confocal image of the embryonic mouse cortex. Green: stem cells; red: intermediate progenitor stage; white: final neurons; blue: nuclei of all cells. IST Austria/Hippenmeyer Group

    During brain development, stem cells generate neurons of different type and function at distinct points in time. IST Austria researchers contribute key experiment to identify essential protein controlling stem cell behavior. To build the neocortex, a brain area involved in higher cognitive functions, stem cells produce billions of neurons of various types. In a Science study, neuroscientists from Switzerland, Belgium, and the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria) have now shown that, over time, the neocortical stem cells go through various maturation states, each of them leading to a distinct neuron type. Production of the correct neuron type is bound to a specific protein complex.

  • How to Target a Gene

    Moss plants on a Petri dish. Photo: Sigrid Gombert (University of Freiburg)

    Scientists find proteins important for plant development, DNA repair and gene targeting. All living cells have invented mechanisms to protect their DNA against breaks during duplication and against damage by UV-light or chemicals. A team of biologists led by Prof. Dr. Ralf Reski from the Faculty of Biology of the University of Freiburg, Germany has now found that members of the RecQ family function in development, DNA repair and gene targeting in the moss Physcomitrella patens.