Molecular biology

  • A closer look at brain organoid development

    Cerebral organoid flowchart.

    Heidelberg, 10 March 2017 - How close to reality are brain organoids, and which molecular mechanisms underlie the remarkable self-organizing capacities of tissues? Researchers already have succeeded in growing so-called “cerebral organoids” in a dish - clusters of cells that self-organize into small brain-like structures. Juergen Knoblich and colleagues have now further characterized these organoids and publish their results today in The EMBO Journal. They demonstrate that, like in the human brain, so-called forebrain organizing centers orchestrate developmental processes in the organoid, and that organoids recapitulate the timing of neuronal differentiation events found in human brains.

  • A docking site per calcium channel cluster

    Docking site. (c) by Walter Kaufmann and Ryuichi Shigemoto

    In our brain, information is passed from one neuron to the next at a structure called synapse. At a chemical synapse, a chemical is released from the signal-sending neuron or presynaptic neuron. This neurotransmitter then crosses the synaptic cleft to bind to receptors in the target neuron or postsynaptic neuron. An extensive molecular machinery is at work: for example, vesicles filled with neurotransmitter dock at “docking sites” in the pre-synaptic active zone before they fuse and release the neurotransmitter into the synapse.

  • A Molecular Switch May Serve as New Target Point for Cancer and Diabetes Therapies

    Signal receptor-containing vesicles (red) form on the inside of the cell membrane (brown) and bud off into the cell. Visualization: Thomas Splettstößer

    If certain signaling cascades are misregulated, diseases like cancer, obesity and diabetes may occur. A mechanism recently discovered by scientists at the Leibniz- Forschungsinstitut für Molekulare Pharmakologie (FMP) in Berlin and at the University of Geneva has a crucial influence on such signaling cascades and may be an important key for the future development of therapies against these diseases. The results of the study have just been published in the prestigious scientific journal 'Molecular Cell'.

  • Bacterial Pac Man molecule snaps at sugar

    The P domain (yellow) patrols with its mouth open until it encounters a sialic acid molecule (purple). This movement was analyzed with distance measurements using the spin markers shown in blue.  © Dr. Gregor Hagelüken/Uni Bonn

    Many pathogens use certain sugar compounds from their host to help conceal themselves against the immune system. Scientists at the University of Bonn have now, in cooperation with researchers at the University of York in the United Kingdom, analyzed the dynamics of a bacterial molecule that is involved in this process. They demonstrate that the protein grabs onto the sugar molecule with a Pac Man-like chewing motion and holds it until it can be used. Their results could help design therapeutics that could make the protein poorer at grabbing and holding and hence compromise the pathogen in the host. The study has now been published in “Biophysical Journal”.

  • Basel Researchers Succeed in Cultivating Cartilage from Stem Cells

    Development of cartilage tissue from mesenchymal stem cells after eight weeks in vivo: Stable cartilage tissue, indicated by red staining (left), versus development towards bone tissue (right). Image: University of Basel, Department of Biomedicine

    Stable joint cartilage can be produced from adult stem cells originating from bone marrow. This is made possible by inducing specific molecular processes occurring during embryonic cartilage formation, as researchers from the University and University Hospital of Basel report in the scientific journal PNAS. Certain mesenchymal stem/stromal cells from the bone marrow of adults are considered extremely promising for skeletal tissue regeneration.

  • Call for Abstracts – The Molecular Basis of Life

    GBM Conference "Molecular Basis of Life"

    The international fall conference of the German Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (GBM) will take place from Sunday, September 24th to Wednesday, September 27th, 2017 at the Ruhr University Bochum, Germany.

    The (German) Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (Gesellschaft für Biochemie und Molekularbiologie, GBM) is the association of about 5300 scientists working in the field of Molecular Life Sciences. Most members of the GBM are German scientists from universities, industry and other research institutions, covering the entire spectrum of basic and applied Molecular Life Sciences.
    The aim of the GBM is to promote basic and applied research as well as education in the fields of biochemistry, molecular biology and molecular medicine.

  • Chemists Create Clusters of Organelles by Mimicking Nature

    Two polymersomes assemble by DNA hybridization: the single DNA strands on the surface of the compartments interconnect, creating an extremely stable DNA bridge. University of Basel

    Scientists from the University of Basel have succeeded in organizing spherical compartments into clusters mimicking the way natural organelles would create complex structures. They managed to connect the synthetic compartments by creating bridges made of DNA between them. This represents an important step towards the realization of so-called molecular factories. The journal Nano Letters has published their results.

  • Cholesterol important for signal transmission in cells

    CXCR4 receptor which belongs to a group known as G protein-coupled receptors. FAU/Rainer Böckmann

    Cholesterol can bind important molecules into pairs, enabling human cells to react to external signals. Researchers at Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nürnberg’s (FAU) Chair of Biotechnology have studied these processes in more detail using computer simulations. Their findings have now been published in the latest volume of the journal PLOS Computational Biology*. FAU researchers Kristyna Pluhackova and Stefan Gahbauer discovered that cholesterol strongly influences signal transmission in the body. Their study focused on the chemokine receptor CXCR4, which belong to a group known as G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). These receptors sense external stimuli such as light, hormones or sugar and pass these signals on to the interior of the cell which reacts to them. CXCR4 normally supports the human immune system. However, it also plays an important role in the formation of metastases and the penetration of HIV into the cell interior.

  • Designer Cells: Artificial Enzyme can Activate a Gene Switch

    Artificial metalloenzyme penetrates a mammalian cell, where it accelerates the release of a hormone. This activates a gene switch which then leads to the production of a fluorescent indicator protein. University of Basel, Yasunori Okamoto

    Complex reaction cascades can be triggered in artificial molecular systems: Swiss scientists have constructed an enzyme than can penetrate a mammalian cell and accelerate the release of a hormone. This then activates a gene switch that triggers the creation of a fluorescent protein. The findings were reported by researchers from the NCCR Molecular Systems Engineering, led by the University of Basel and ETH Zurich.

  • Easier Diagnosis of Esophageal Cancer

    New imaging technologies allow earlier diagnosis of tumors. Source: Murad Omar/Helmholtz Zentrum München

    The Institute of Biological and Medical Imaging at Helmholtz Zentrum München is heading the ”Hybrid optical and optoacoustic endoscope for esophageal tracking” (ESOTRAC) research project, in which engineers and physicians together develop a novel hybrid endoscopic instrument for early diagnosis and staging of esophageal cancer. The device may reduce the number of unnecessary biopsies and, importantly, facilitate early-disease detection leading to earlier start of therapy, which improves therapeutic efficacy over late-disease treatment and leads to immense cost-savings. ESOTRAC has been awarded four million Euros from Horizon 2020, the EU framework program for research and innovation.

  • Electrical Fields Drive Nano-Machines a 100,000 Times Faster than Previous Methods

    Electric fields drive the rotating nano-crane – 100,000 times faster than previous methods. Enzo Kopperger / TUM

    Scientists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have developed a novel electric propulsion technology for nanorobots. It allows molecular machines to move a hundred thousand times faster than with the biochemical processes used to date. This makes nanobots fast enough to do assembly line work in molecular factories. The new research results will appear as the cover story on 19th January in the renowned scientific journal Science.

  • First Users at European XFEL

    DESY's Anton Barty (left) and Henry Chapman (right), seen at the SPB/SFX instrument, were in one of the first two user groups. Photo: DESY, Lars Berg

    The first users have now started experiments at the new international research facility in Schenefeld. “This is a very important event, and we are very happy that the first users have now arrived at European XFEL so we can do a full scale test of the facility” said European XFEL Managing Director Prof. Dr. Robert Feidenhans’l. ”The instruments and the supporting teams have made great progress in the recent weeks and months. Together with our first users, we will now do the first real commissioning experiments and collect valuable scientific data. At the same time, we will continue to further advance our facility and concentrate on further improving the integration and stability of the instrumentation” he added.

  • Flexible New Method for Early Cancer Diagnosis

    Göran Landberg. Photo: Johan Wingborg

    Earlier discovery of cancer and greater precision in the treatment process are the objectives of a new method developed by researchers at Sahlgrenska Academy and Boston University. Investments are now being made to roll out this innovation across healthcare and broaden the scope of the research in this field.

    “We can screen at-risk patient groups, and we also plan to spot the cancer patients who are relapsing so that we can adapt their treatment,” says Anders Ståhlberg, docent in molecular medicine and corresponding author for two articles about the method.
    The technique was created based on the fact that people with cancer also have DNA from tumor cells circulating in the blood, molecules that can be discovered in a regular blood sample long before the tumor is visible via imaging such as tomography, MRI, X-ray and ultrasound.

  • Flipping the switch to stop tumor development

    Expanding B-cell tumors. Image: Michael Reth

    Freiburg researchers show how a protein prevents the uncontrolled expansion of immune cells.

    The mammalian immune system consists of millions of individual cells that are produced daily from precursor cells in the bone marrow. During their development, immune cells undergo a rapid expansion, which is interrupted by phases of differentiation to more mature lymphocytes. Alternate phases of proliferation and differentiation occur also during the maturation of antibody-producing B cells. Researchers in Prof. Dr. Michael Reth’s laboratory have come one step closer to understand how the proliferation to differentiation switch in B lymphocytes works, thereby providing new insights into the development of the most common types of tumors in children and potential therapies thereof. The team has published its study in the journal Nature Immunology.

  • GBM Call for Abstracts – The Molecular Basis of Life

    Molecular Basis of Life - GBM Fall Conference. GBM

    The international fall conference of the German Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (GBM) will take place from September 24th to 27th, 2017, at the Ruhr University Bochum, Germany. The congress will cover the entire spectrum of molecular biosciences. In addition, there will be sessions on research in the bioscience industry, spectroscopic methods and biomarkers, career development and education, publishing and peer-review as well as activities tailored specifically for scientists in the early stages of their careers.

  • Genregulation: In Form für den richtigen Schnitt

    Bindung der großen Untereinheit von U2AF an die Vorläufer-Boten-mRNA Bild: Christoph Hohmann / NIM

    Bevor genetische Information in Proteine umgesetzt wird, entfernt eine komplexe molekulare Maschine – das Spleißosom – nicht benötigte Sequenzen. Dabei spielt dessen Struktur eine wichtige Rolle, wie LMU-Wissenschaftler zeigen. Ribonukleinsäure – kurz RNA – übermittelt die in den Genen gespeicherten Erbinformationen und damit die Bauanleitung für Proteine. Bei der Genabschrift im Zellkern entsteht zuerst eine Vorläufer-Boten RNA (mRNA), aus der durch eine komplexe molekulare Maschine im Zellkern – das Spleißosom –unterschiedliche nicht benötigte Abschnitte herausgeschnitten und entfernt werden. Dieser Vorgang wird als alternatives Spleißen bezeichnet und spielt für die Genregulation eine wichtige Rolle, denn jeder der zurechtgeschnittenen mRNA-Stränge liefert den Bauplan für ein anderes Protein – ein Gen kann also in mehrere Proteine mit unterschiedlicher Funktion umgesetzt werden.

  • Glycosaminoglycan-based hydrogels for a better treatment of chronic wounds

    Nanofibrillar cellulose hydrogel.

    Researchers from Dresden and Leipzig have jointly developed and tested a set of hydrogel wound dressings based on glycosaminoglycans. The hydrogels allow for the reduction of inflammatory reactions in ways that promise new treatment modalities for patients suffering from chronic cutaneous wounds. Diabetes, a globally prevalent medical condition with more than 420 million affected patients, is often associated with chronic wounds whose treatment remains challenging.

  • How a FAU researcher disassembles molecules

    Prof.Dr. Andreas Hirsch, holder of the Chair of Organic Chemistry II at FAU, has received an ERC Advanced Grant for the second time. FAU/Boris Mijat

    The EU is granting the chemist Andreas Hirsch of Friedrich-Alexander Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) 2.49 million euros to conduct research into black phosphorus on the molecular level. The holder of the Chair of Organic Chemistry II at FAU aims to develop new areas for its application, for instance in the fields of electrical energy storage and solar cells. It could make batteries last longer or enable solar cells to produce more electrical energy. This is the second ERC Advanced Grant to be approved for a research project headed by Hirsch. That makes him the first FAU researcher to achieve this feat.

  • 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.

  • Immune system reactions elucidated by mathematics

    Bacteria of the species Streptococcus pneumoniae colonising an endothelial cell. HZI/M. Rohde

    Using computer-based simulations and mouse experiments, HZI researchers disentangled the effects of proinflammatory signaling molecules on the post-influenza susceptibility to pneumococcal coinfection. A body infected by the influenza virus is particularly susceptible to other pathogens. Bacteria like Streptococcus pneumoniae, i.e. the pathogen causing pneumonia, find it easy to attack an influenza-modulated immune system and to spread widely. This can even be fatal in some cases. The reasons for the bacterial growth in the presence of a coinfection by influenza virus and bacteria is still debatable.