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Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research


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Health - Life Sciences - 11.05.2022
Thwarting cellular enzyme can fight viral infections
Thwarting cellular enzyme can fight viral infections
Researchers from FMI have identified a synthetic protein that dampens the activity of a cellular pathway involved in viral infection. The findings could help to develop drugs that combat viruses such as influenza A and Zika. Influenza A virus affects millions of people worldwide and can have serious complications, including bacterial pneumonia, ear infections and the worsening of long-term medical conditions.

Life Sciences - Health - 20.04.2022
Structural insights into the assembly of cilia
Cilia, the little "hairs" attached to almost all cells of the human body, play a role in various cellular functions and cause diseases called ciliopathies when they are defective. Researchers from the group of Patrick Matthias and the FMI Structural Biology platform determined the structure, at near atomic resolution, of a protein complex that plays an essential role in the assembly of cilia - and causes ciliopathies when it is mutated.

Life Sciences - Mathematics - 13.04.2022
Enhancer-promoter interactions - distance matters
Enhancer-promoter interactions - distance matters
When and where a gene is transcribed in a living organism often depends on its physical interactions with distal genomic regulatory regions called enhancers. Researchers in the group of Luca Giorgetti have thrown light on how such interactions control transcription thanks to a novel ingenious experimental approach combined with mathematical modelling.

Computer Science - 22.03.2022
Community-based initiative improves reproducibility in microscopy and imaging
Community-based initiative improves reproducibility in microscopy and imaging
Researchers from the FMI Facility for Advanced Imaging and Microscopy (FAIM) are drivers of a large-scale international initiative dedicated to improving quality assessment and quality control in light microscopy. Recently, the workgroup chaired by the Head of FAIM delivered the first protocol for this initiative.

Life Sciences - Psychology - 28.02.2022
Familiar objects can prevent autism-like behaviors in mouse model
Familiar objects can prevent autism-like behaviors in mouse model
The emergence of autism traits can result from different factors, such as a person's environment and genetic background. FMI researchers and their Novartis collaborators showed that exposing mice with an autism mutation to a new environment can trigger autism-like behaviors — through faulty signaling in the brain.

Life Sciences - 10.12.2021
Mechanical forces shape the 'immortal' Hydra
Mechanical forces shape the ’immortal’ Hydra
Hydras are tiny creatures with regenerative superpowers: they can renew their stem cells and replace damaged body parts in only a few days. Now, researchers in the Tsiairis group have found that mechanical forces turn on key genes as the mighty Hydras regenerate their entire bodies from scraps of tissue.

Life Sciences - 07.12.2021
How sound changes sight
How sound changes sight
When we learn to associate an auditory stimulus with a visual stimulus, the perception of that visual stimulus changes, but this phenomenon is not well understood. For the first time, the Keller group has now identified a mechanism in the brain that enables auditory information to influence visual representations.

Health - Chemistry - 02.12.2021
Uterine atlas can lead to better models of the womb, provide insights into diseases
Uterine atlas can lead to better models of the womb, provide insights into diseases
In the quest to study the womb and its role in reproductive health, researchers in the Turco lab and their collaborators have generated a cellular map of the human uterus and of endometrial organoids — lab-grown models of the womb's lining. The atlas, which is the most detailed of its kind, will help scientists to develop better models of the womb.

Life Sciences - Health - 15.11.2021
A histone modification essential for tissue integrity
A histone modification essential for tissue integrity
Chemical modifications of histones, the small proteins around which DNA is wrapped, are known to affect gene expression. In a study conducted in C. elegans , researchers from the Gasser group show that the defining modification of the tightly packed form of DNA called heterochromatin selectively blocks the expression of genes in differentiated tissues.

Health - 08.11.2021
Mini-placentas: promising tools for studying early pregnancy and its complications
Mini-placentas: promising tools for studying early pregnancy and its complications
Despite its crucial role in healthy pregnancies, the placenta is one of the least understood organs in the human body. In a new study, Margherita Yayoi Turco and her colleagues compared the two main experimental models of the human placenta. The findings suggest that 3D clusters of placental cells called trophoblast organoids are best suited for investigating interactions between the mother and the fetus, hormone secretion or pathogens that infect the fetus in the womb.

Computer Science - 05.10.2021
Worm atlas could help crack mysteries in animal evolution
Worm atlas could help crack mysteries in animal evolution
Researchers in the Friedrich group have contributed to create an atlas that links subcellular structures to gene expression in each cell of the sea worm Platynereis dumerilii , a key model organism for the study of development and evolution. The atlas will help researchers to shed light onto molecular and cellular mechanisms at play in our very ancient ancestors.

Life Sciences - Computer Science - 02.08.2021
From imaging neurons to measuring their true activity
From imaging neurons to measuring their true activity
Neuroscientists often use calcium imaging to analyze neuronal activity in the intact brain. But this method provides only an indirect and slow measure of action potential firing, creating the need to reliably reconstruct action potentials from calcium signals. Peter Rupprecht, a former PhD candidate in the Friedrich group, developed a novel algorithm based on machine learning that is very effective, easy to use, and highly robust.

Life Sciences - 12.07.2021
Homing in on how cells keep gene silencing in check
Homing in on how cells keep gene silencing in check
Long considered 'junk', non-coding RNAs have emerged as important regulators of diverse cellular processes, including the silencing of genes. Working in yeast, researchers from the Bühler group have identified more than 20 mutations that enable RNA-mediated gene silencing. The findings could improve our understanding of the factors that keep gene silencing in check.

Life Sciences - Health - 07.07.2021
Researchers identify missing 'switch' that controls essential genes
Researchers identify missing ’switch’ that controls essential genes
Proteins known as transcription factors act as switches that regulate the expression of nearby genes, but the identity of some of these genetic levers has so far remained mysterious. Now, researchers from the Schübeler group have pinpointed a new switch that regulates essential genes in the mouse and the human genome.

Life Sciences - 29.06.2021
How proteins bind 'hidden' DNA
How proteins bind ’hidden’ DNA
How can proteins bind DNA in the cell nucleus, where it is present in form of chromatin, tightly wrapped around histones and therefore mostly inaccessible? Recently, several studies began to uncover the various strategies used by DNA-binding proteins to solve this problem. In a Cell "Leading Edge review", Alicia Michael and Nico Thomä look at these findings and highlight general principles that aim to help predict how a protein recognizes a specific stretch of DNA, even when "hidden" in chromatin.

Life Sciences - 21.06.2021
Mini-guts reveal crucial forces that shape the intestinal lining
Mini-guts reveal crucial forces that shape the intestinal lining
Using miniature guts grown in a dish and 3D biophysical modelling, FMI researchers and their collaborators have uncovered the forces that give the intestinal wall its classic brushlike appearance. The findings can help to understand how the gut takes form during development — and how this process goes awry in disease.

Life Sciences - Chemistry - 19.04.2021
The architect of genome folding
The architect of genome folding
The spatial organization of the genome is fundamental for the regulation of our genes and has to be established de novo during early embryogenesis. By combining powerful Drosophila genetics with 3D chromosome modelling, a collaboration between the Giorgetti group at the FMI and the MPI of Immunobiology and Epigenetics in Freiburg revealed a critical role of the epigenetic regulator HP1 in the establishment of 3D genome organization in the early Drosophila embryo.

Life Sciences - Health - 13.04.2021
When two worlds meet: a protease that controls small RNA activity
When two worlds meet: a protease that controls small RNA activity
The protection of genome integrity of germ cells is essential for animal fertility. Researchers from the Grosshans group characterized a defense mechanism against selfish genetic elements in the C. elegans germline. They identified a protein processing mechanism that controls the activity of small RNAs to achieve specific silencing of transposons while sparing endogenous genes.

Life Sciences - Psychology - 03.03.2021
'Brain state' behind social interaction uncovered
’Brain state’ behind social interaction uncovered
The brain's emotion-processing center — the amygdala — is one of several brain regions involved in social behavior. But the exact role that this almond-shaped structure plays in the so-called 'social brain' remains mysterious. Now, the Lüthi group has found that the activity of different populations of neurons in the amygdala reflects whether mice interact with their peers, or whether they focus on self-centered behaviors such as grooming.

Life Sciences - Chemistry - 18.02.2021
New-found molecular signature keeps key genes ready for action
New-found molecular signature keeps key genes ready for action
During development, scores of molecular signals prod cells to take on specialized identities and functions. In response to some of these signals, the cellular machinery awakens specific genes called 'immediate early genes' within minutes. The Rijli group has now identified a unique molecular signature that keeps immediate early genes quiet yet poised for rapid activation.
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