news from the lab 2015
How do molecules involved in activating our immune system discriminate between our own DNA and foreign pathogens? Researchers from the Thomä group, in collaboration with the EPFL, deciphered the structural and functional basis of a DNA-sensing molecule when it comes in contact with the cell's own DNA, providing crucial insights into the recognition of self vs. non-self DNA.
An international team of geologists, headed by members of the University of Bern, has shown for the first time that the Swiss Alps are being lifted faster than they are being lowered through erosion - and are thus growing even higher. To do this, the researchers quantified the erosion of the Alps with the help of isotopes measured in the sand of more than 350 rivers throughout the European Alps. These isotopes are formed by cosmic rays and bear information on the Earth's surface erosion.
Scientists at EPFL and the Friedrich Miescher Institute have used cryo-electron microscopy to explain how a DNA-sensing biomolecule that is key to our innate immunity response is inactivated when it comes in contact with the cell's own DNA.
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From the smallest ever printed colour image and the world's largest plant seeds to the darkest matter in the infinite expanse of the universe - over the past year, ETH research has focussed on all animate and inanimate aspects of the natural world, presenting fascinating results and ingenious inventions.
Entanglement between distant quantum objects is an important ingredient for future information technologies. Researchers at the ETH have now developed a method with which such states can be created a thousand times faster than before. In many future information and telecommunication technologies, a remarkable quantum effect called entanglement will likely play an important role.
21.12.15 - EPFL scientists have found that chronic inflammation can cause regenerating cells to grow into new, aberrant types; this is called metaplasia, and is a disorder linked to prolonged inflammation. The study highlights a new concept of chronic inflammation and could lead to better treatments.
Cells have an infallible sense of smell that tells them which direction to grow in to move closer to the source of a scent. ETH researchers have now learned how this sense of smell works. A frequent problem faced by cells is that they are surrounded by a promising cloud of scent and must determine the direction of its source.
Genetically identical sibling cells do not always behave the same way. So far this has been attributed to random molecular reactions. Now systems biologists of the University of Zurich have discovered an overlooked consequence of the spatial separation of cells into a nucleus and a cytoplasm. Building on top of this insight they could predict with supercomputers the activity of genes in individual human cells.
It has long been known that the protein TOR - Target of Rapamycin - controls cell growth and is involved in the development of diseases such as cancer and diabetes. Through a collaborative effort scientists from the ETH Zürich and from the Biozentrum of the University of Basel have now succeeded in revealing the unique architecture of the mammalian TOR complex 1 (mTORC1) in detail.
18.12.15 - EPFL scientists have discovered a new topological insulator that could be used in future electronic technologies. Topological insulators are recently discovered materials that differ from the familiar insulators and semiconductors in many ways. While topological insulators are fascinating for fundamental physics, they could one day enable electricity with less energy loss, spintronics, and perhaps even quantum computing.
15.12.15 - Scientists at EPFL identify the biological pathway behind the growth of colon cancer, and block it with vitamin A. A leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide, colon cancer is famously resistant to treatment. There are many reasons for this, but one has to do with a group of persisting cancer cells in the colon that cause relapses.
Researchers of ETH Zurich and ETH start-up company Scrona achieve a new world record! They have printed a color picture depicting clown fishes around their sea anemone home.
14.12.15 - SThAR, an EPFL spin-off, draws on large quantities of tele data to identify where and when to deliver a message most effectively.
ETH researchers led by Raffaele Mezzenga have developed a new diagnostic method. It is based on Birefringence, the ability of substances to change the polarisation state of light. With this method, doctors around the world can easily, rapidly and reliably detect malaria, Ebola or HIV to name only a few.
11.12.15 - Upward lightning strikes initiate on the ground and head skyward. These discharges, which usually begin at the top of tall and slender structures, pose a real risk for wind turbines.
Thanks to "big data", researchers have identified new molecules that are instrumental in the replication of the flu virus. If these host proteins are blocked, influenza viruses are unable to multiply as effectively. The international study therefore makes a significant contribution towards the development of new treatments and flu drugs.
EPFL spin-off Nanolive has launched the 3D Cell Explorer, a microscope for observing living cells in 3D.
Statistics show that urbanites travel thousands of miles during their leisure time. Is it an urgent need for greenery?
Technis, an EPFL start-up, is bringing augmented reality to the tennis court. Their newly developed technology could be used for other sports in the future.
After the successful lift-off of the Vega rocket in French Guiana, the LISA Pathfinder satellite uncoupled from its booster rocket at approximately 7.00 a.m. this morning. The satellite will spend the next 9 months floating in space. There it will enable scientists to test key measurement techniques for the detection of gravitational waves, which Albert Einstein predicted about 100 years ago in his general theory of relativity.
ROVéo is a robot whose unique four-wheel design allows it to climb over obstacles up to two-thirds its height.
Out of a 'haystack' of 40,000 genes from three different organisms, scientists at ETH Zurich and a research consortium in Jena have found genes that are involved in physical ageing. If you influence only one of these genes, the healthy lifespan of laboratory animals is extended - and possibly that of humans, too.
Is having a Plan B always a good idea? Or can these "safety nets" actually make you less likely to achieve your goals? Psychologists from the University of Zurich propose a new theoretical framework for studying the effects of backup plans. According to their model, the more effort people put into making backup plans, the more distracting and harmful those backup plans can become.