Climate research undermined

The about-face in US climate policy may amount to little more than a small step backward in fighting climate change, but it is a worrying attack on science itself. A report from the US. The Executive Order signed by US President Donald Trump last week that relaxed environmental regulations came as no surprise: Trump wants to roll back regulations for …

More

Speciose mixed forests against humus loss in alpine forests

Alpine forests will be at great risk should weather phenomena such as droughts and torrential rain become more frequent. As a study by the Technical University of Munich (TUM) shows, the mountain forests of the Bavarian Alps have seen a significant reduction in topsoil organic matter over the past three decades. The study authors’ recommendation is therefore to preserve, or …

More

A peachy defence system for seeds

ETH chemists are developing a new coating method to protect seeds from being eaten by insects. In doing so, they have drawn inspiration from the humble peach and a few of its peers. Don’t eat the core, it’s poisonous: it’s something parents often say to their children before they eat their first peach. Peach pits, which are hidden inside the …

More

Playing tag with sugars in the cornfield

Sugars are usually known as energy storage units in plants and the insects that feed on them. But, sugars may also be part of a deadly game of tag between plant and insect according to scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology. Grasses and crops such as maize attach sugars to chemical defences called benzoxazinoids to protect themselves …

More

Ready for mating at the right time

The exchange of chemical signals between organisms is considered the oldest form of communication. Acting as messenger molecules, pheromones regulate social interactions between conspecifics, for example, the sexual attraction between males and females. Fish rely on pheromones to trigger social responses and to coordinate reproductive behavior in males and females. Scientists at the Marine Science Center at the University of …

More

Potential therapy for incurable Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease

Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease type 1A is the most common inherited disease affecting the peripheral nervous system. Researchers from the Department of Neurogenetics at the Max Planck Institute of Experimental Medicine and University Medical Centre Göttingen have discovered that the maturity of Schwann cells is impaired in rats with the disease. These cells enwrap the nerve fibres with an insulating layer known …

More

500 million year reset for the immune system

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics (MPI-IE) in Freiburg re-activated expression of an ancient gene, which is not normally expressed in the mammalian immune system, and found that the animals developed a fish-like thymus. To the researchers surprise, while the mammalian thymus is utilized exclusively for T cell maturation, the reset thymus produced not only T …

More

New weapon of the immune system discovered

Max Planck researchers have discovered a completely new way in which the immune system recognizes pathogens. The aryl hydrocarbon receptor has long been a focus of research for pharma-cologists and toxicologists, as it recognizes environmental toxins. However, it also plays an important role in the immune system. A team of scientists headed by Stefan H. E. Kaufmann at the Max …

More

Toxic proteins damage nerve cells

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing in Cologne and University College London have now unearthed the way in which a specific genetic mutation leads to neuronal damage in two serious afflictions. In rare cases, patients may even suffer from these two diseases, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and frontotemporal dementia, at the same time. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is …

More

Potential basis for the treatment and prevention of Parkinson’s disease

Parkinson’s disease affects neurons in the Substantia nigra brain region – their mitochondrial activity ceases and the cells die. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics show that supplying D-lactate or glycolate, two products of the gene DJ-1, can stop and even counteract this process: Adding the substances to cultured HeLa cells and to cells …

More

Bats use the evening sky’s polarization pattern for orientation

Animals can use varying sensory modalities for orientation, some of which might be very different from ours. Some bird species for example take the polarization pattern produced by sunlight in the atmosphere to calibrate their orientation systems. Now researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen, Germany, and Queen’s University Belfast have discovered with colleagues from Israel that …

More

Wild genes enhance stress tolerance

Solanum pennellii, a wild tomato species endemic to the Andean region in South America, is characterised by its ability to tolerate extreme stress, such as drought. Solanum pennellii has frequently been crossed to harness this characteristic for cultivated tomatoes. Up until now, scientists did not know which genes were responsible for the stress tolerance. An international team of scientists, headed …

More

HO-1 makes obese individuals sick

Study unravels a link between obesity and diabetes and suggests promising therapeutic strategies. Health and obesity are not mutually exclusive. Freiburg and Vienna scientists identify one key difference separating individuals with healthy versus sick obesity: the enzyme heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1). Humans and mice with high HO-1 levels develop diabetes, those with low levels remain healthy – even when overweight. The …

More

Starting signal for antiviral defense

Protein identified as important trigger of antiviral response. Cells have to protect themselves: against damage in their genetic material for one thing, but also against attack from the outside, by viruses for example. They do this by using different mechanisms: special proteins search out and detect defects in the cell’s own DNA, while the immune system takes action against intruders. …

More

Transfer of a few immune cells can protect immunodeficient patients

When patients have to undergo a bone marrow transplant, the procedure weakens their immune system. Viruses that are usually kept in check in a healthy immune system may then cause potentially fatal infections. Scientists at Technische Universität München (TUM), together with colleagues from Frankfurt, Würzburg and Göttingen, have now developed a method which could offer patients conservative protection against such …

More

Virus infection supports organ acceptance

A question of tolerance: Liver transplants in patients with hepatitis C. Chronic hepatitis C virus infections are among the most common reasons for liver transplants. Because existing viruses also infect the new liver, the immune system is highly active there. Despite this, the new organ is not rejected, as scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum München and the Technische Universität München …

More

First positive results toward a therapeutic vaccine against brain cancer

Tumor vaccines might help the body fight cancer. A prerequisite to the development of such a vaccination is to find protein structures in cancer cells that differ from those of healthy cells. Such differences are often created by gene mutations in tumor cells, which lead to altered proteins that cells of the immune system can potentially recognize. Cancer researchers from …

More

Decoding characteristic food odors

Scientists map molecular olfactory signatures of foodstuffs. How are we able to recognize foodstuffs like strawberries, coffee, barbecued meat or freshly boiled potatoes by smell alone? Foodstuffs contain more than 10,000 different volatile substances. But only around 230 of these determine the odor of the food we eat. Narrowing it down further, between just 3 and 40 of these key …

More

Environmental hormones – tiny amounts, big effects

Empty nets and few species – environmental hormones are believed responsible for the diminishing numbers of fish. How damaging are these substances really, though? Studies that depict a complete picture of the lives of fish provide clues.

We have to get very ill in order to get well more quickly

HZI researchers discover possible reason why the flu takes longer in elderly people. Elderly people get the flu more often and suffer from the symptoms for longer than younger people. Why this is the case was unclear – until now. Researchers at Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) in Braunschweig, Germany, discovered a possible reason: Influenza virus proliferates slowly in …

More