News Article | April 11, 2017
The ability of the brain to respond and adapt to changes is scientifically called brain plasticity. This ability is the basis of all learning processes. New neurons, which can still be generated in the adult brain in specific areas, are instrumental in this process. "But until now it has been unknown which molecular processes translate environmental changes into the production of new neurons," said Hannah Monyer, who leads the Cooperational Division of Clinical Neurobiology of the German Cancer Research Center (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, DKFZ) and Heidelberg University Hospital. "In our current study, we have found a key mediator in this process for the first time." Monyer and her team have revealed in their current study that a small peptide called DBI (short for: diazepam binding inhibitor) is the crucial mediator in this process. The peptide was first identified because it binds to the receptor for a chemical messenger in the brain called GABA, where it replaces a drug called Diazepam (Valium). Recently, Monyer and colleagues already reported that DBI promotes the development of new neurons in an area of the brain called subventricular zone. This brain area is responsible for the supply of new nerve cells in the olfactory system, which is particularly sophisticated in rodents. In her present work, the Heidelberg neuroscientist shows that DBI has the same function in the hippocampus - the portion of the brain where memory formation and learning are located. New neurons that form in the hippocampus improve orientation and learning capacity in the animals. Numerous research studies have already provided proof that in mice physical activity or variations in their environment stimulate neurogenesis in the hippocampus. The researchers in Monyer's team used various genetic methods to turn off the DBI gene in this brain region in mice or, alternatively, to strongly boost it. When DBI was absent, the numbers of neural stem cells in the hippocampus declined. An oversupply of the peptide caused the opposite to happen, i.e., the investigators found more neural stem and progenitor cells. Equipping the cages with toys is an established method to stimulate the generation of new neurons in the hippocampus in rodents. However, in mice whose DBI gene had been silenced using molecular-biological tricks, the stimulating environment failed to have an effect: The quantities of neural stem cells could not be increased. DBI exerts its effect by binding to the receptor for the chemical messenger GABA in the neural stem cells, thus acting as a molecular antagonist of this neurotransmitter. "GABA is responsible for keeping the stem cells dormant in their niche without dividing," explained Monyer. "When DBI enters the scene, they start proliferating, thus enlarging the stem cell pool that is available as a reservoir for young neurons. In DBI, we seem to have found the key mediator. The peptide suppresses the effect of GABA and thus links the environmental stimuli to the production of new neurons that are required for learning."
News Article | April 24, 2017
Plasmonic nanoparticles exhibit properties based on their geometries and relative positions. Researchers have now developed an easy way to manipulate the optical properties of plasmonic nanostructures that strongly depend on their spatial arrangement. The plasmonic nanoparticles can form clusters, plasmonic metamolecules, and then interact with each other. Changing the geometry of the nanoparticles can be used to control the properties of the metamolecules. “The challenge is to make the structures change their geometry in a controlled way in response to external stimuli. In this study, structures were programmed to modify their shape by altering the pH,” tells Assistant Professor Anton Kuzyk from Aalto University. Utilization of Programmable DNA Locks In this study plasmonic metamolecules were functionalized with pH-sensitive DNA locks. DNA locks can be easily programmed to operate at a specific pH range. Metamolecules can be either in a “locked” state at low pH or in relaxed state at high pH. Both states have very distinct optical responses. This in fact allows creating assemblies of several types of plasmonic metamolecules, with each type designed to switch at different a pH value. The ability to program nanostructures to perform a specific function only within a certain pH window could have applications in the field of nanomachines and smart nanomaterials with tailored optical functionalities. This active control of plasmonic metamolecules is promising for the development of sensors, optical switches, transducers and phase shifters at different wavelengths. In the future, pH-responsive nanostructures could also be useful in the development of controlled drug delivery. The study was carried out by Anton Kuzyk from Aalto University, Maximilian Urban and Na Liu from Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems and the Heidelberg University, and Andrea Idili and Francesco Ricci from the University of Rome Tor Vergata.
News Article | April 28, 2017
Shown is the activity of the SMXL4 gene (yellow) in very early phloem cells of the root tip of Arabidopsis thaliana. Credit: Eva-Sophie Wallner In experiments on transport tissues in plants, researchers from Heidelberg University were able to identify factors of crucial importance for the formation of the plant tissue known as phloem. According to Prof. Dr Thomas Greb of the Centre for Organismal Studies (COS), these factors differ from all previously known factors that trigger the specification of cells. The findings of the Heidelberg researchers substantially expand our understanding of the metabolic processes in plants. Their results were published in the journal Current Biology. Phloem, also called bast, is a vascular tissue that runs through all the organs of plants. It transports sugars formed in the leaves during photosynthesis. "In the course of our research on plant development, we discovered three main factors that are critical for the formation of phloem," states Thomas Greb. These factors are the proteins SMXL3, SMXL4, and SMXL5. They act in the nuclei of cells that develop into phloem tissue, and from there alter the cells to specialise in transport. The researcher explains that the factors are similar to others involved in hormonal signal transmission – but they do not react to these hormones. This unresponsiveness is crucial for building robust phloem tissue and therefore for the growth of the plant in general. "Until now, we understood very little about phloem formation, which is why our results open up new areas of research in a number of ways," explains the Heidelberg biologist. The researchers hope to gain new insights into the regulation of long-distance transport of sugars and metabolic products. How plants react to their environment through the formation of bast could also be studied in greater detail. "That gives us vital clues about the evolution of plants," says Prof. Greb, who directs the Developmental Physiology working group at the COS. Explore further: Sieving for genes: Developmental regulation of important plant phloem components discovered More information: Eva-Sophie Wallner et al. Strigolactone- and Karrikin-Independent SMXL Proteins Are Central Regulators of Phloem Formation, Current Biology (2017). DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.03.014
News Article | May 5, 2017
Many specialized cells, such as in the skin, gut or blood, have a lifespan of only a few days. Therefore, steady replenishment of these cells is indispensable. They arise from so-called "adult" stem cells that divide continuously. In addition, there is a group of very special stem cells in the bone marrow that were first discovered in 2008 by a research team led by Andreas Trumpp, who is a division head at the DKFZ and director of HI-STEM. These cells remain in a kind of dormancy most of the time and only become active in an emergency such as bacterial or viral infections, heavy blood loss, or in the wake of chemotherapy. Once their work is done, the body sends its most potent stem cells back to sleep. The scientists assume that this protects them from dangerous mutations that may lead to leukemia. The mechanisms that activate these special stem cells or make them go back to sleep after their work is done have remained elusive until now. The scientists have now identified retinoic acid, a vitamin A metabolite, as a crucial factor in this process. If this substance is absent, active stem cells are unable to return to a dormant state and mature into specialized blood cells instead. This means that they are lost as a reservoir. This was shown in studies with specially bred mice whose dormant stem cells are green fluorescent. "If we feed these mice on a vitamin A deficient diet for some time, this leads to a loss of the stem cells," said Nina Cabezas-Wallscheid, who is the first author of the publication. "Thus, we can prove for the first time that vitamin A has a direct impact on blood stem cells." This finding not only enhances our understanding of the development of blood cells, it also sheds new light on prior studies that demonstrate that vitamin A deficiency impairs the immune system. "This shows how vitally important it is to have a sufficient intake of vitamin A from a balanced diet," Cabezas-Wallscheid emphasized. The body cannot produce its own vitamin A. The scientists also have hopes for new prospects in cancer treatment. There is evidence that cancer cells, like healthy stem cells, also rest in a state of dormancy. When dormant, their metabolism is almost completely shut down -- and this makes them resistant to chemotherapy. "Once we understand in detail how vitamin A or retinoic acid, respectively, sends normal and malignant stem cells into dormancy, we can try to turn the tables," explained Trumpp. "If we could make cancer cells temporarily enter an active state, we could thus make them vulnerable to modern therapies." In addition, in collaboration with colleagues from the European Bioinformatics Institute in Cambridge, the team performed genome-wide analyses of single cells and discovered that the transition from dormant to active stem cells and then on to progenitor cells is a continuous one and follows a different path for each individual cell. So far, scientists had assumed that specific cell types develop step by step in a defined pattern. This finding revolutionizes the previous concept of how cell differentiation in the body takes place. The Heidelberg Institute of Stem Cell Research and Experimental Medicine (HI-STEM) is a partnership of the DKFZ and the Dietmar Hopp Foundation. An image for this press release is available at: http://www. Caption: Vitamin A, which is contained in foods like carrots, broccoli and fish, regulates hematopoietic stem cells. Note on use of images related to press releases Use is free of charge. The German Cancer Research Center (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, DKFZ) permits one-time use in the context of reporting about the topic covered in the press release. Images have to be cited as follows: "Source: Iris Joval/DKFZ". Distribution of images to third parties is not permitted unless prior consent has been obtained from DKFZ's Press Office (phone: ++49-(0)6221 42 2854, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org). Any commercial use is prohibited. The German Cancer Research Center (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, DKFZ) with its more than 3,000 employees is the largest biomedical research institute in Germany. At DKFZ, more than 1,000 scientists investigate how cancer develops, identify cancer risk factors and endeavor to find new strategies to prevent people from getting cancer. They develop novel approaches to make tumor diagnosis more precise and treatment of cancer patients more successful. The staff of the Cancer Information Service (KID) offers information about the widespread disease of cancer for patients, their families, and the general public. Jointly with Heidelberg University Hospital, DKFZ has established the National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT) Heidelberg, where promising approaches from cancer research are translated into the clinic. In the German Consortium for Translational Cancer Research (DKTK), one of six German Centers for Health Research, DKFZ maintains translational centers at seven university partnering sites. Combining excellent university hospitals with high-profile research at a Helmholtz Center is an important contribution to improving the chances of cancer patients. DKFZ is a member of the Helmholtz Association of National Research Centers, with ninety percent of its funding coming from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the remaining ten percent from the State of Baden-Württemberg.
News Article | February 15, 2017
Shinichiro Michizono from KEK has been appointed as associate director for the International Linear Collider (ILC), taking over from Mike Harrison, while Jim Brau of the University of Oregon has replaced Hitoshi Yamamoto as associate director for physics and detectors. The Linear Collider collaboration, which encompasses the ILC and CLIC, has recently been granted a further three-year mandate by the International Committee for Future Accelerators. The council of the European Southern Observatory (ESO), which builds and operates some of the world’s most powerful ground-based telescopes, has appointed Xavier Barcons as its next director general. The 57 year-old astronomer will take up his new position on 1 September 2017, when the current director general Tim de Zeeuw completes his mandate. He began his career as a physicist, completing a PhD on hot plasmas. In October 2016, Jianwei Qiu joined the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility as its new associate director for theoretical and computational physics. Qiu, whose research focus is QCD and its applications in both high-energy particle and nuclear physics, will oversee a broad programme of theoretical research in support of the physics studied with the Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility (CEBAF). Rende Steerenberg has been appointed head of operations in CERN’s Beams Department, effective from 1 January 2017. He takes over from Mike Lamont, who has been in the role since 2009 and oversaw operations from the LHC’s rollercoaster start-up to its latest record performance. Lamont remains deputy group leader of the Beams Department. Former CERN Director-General Rolf-Dieter Heuer has been appointed Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur (Knight of the Legion of Honour), one of the highest recognitions of achievement in France. Heuer, who is currently president of the German Physical Society (DPG) and president-elect of the SESAME Council, among other roles, was presented with the medal on 22 November at the residence of the French permanent representative in Geneva. The 2017 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics has been awarded to Joseph Polchinski, University of California at Santa Barbara, and Andrew Strominger and Cumrun Vafa of Harvard University. The three winners, who received the $3 million award at a glitzy ceremony in San Francisco on 4 December, have made important contributions to fundamental physics including quantum gravity and string theory. Polchinski was recognised in particular for his discovery of D-branes, while the citation for Strominger and Vafa included their derivation of the Bekenstein–Hawking area-entropy relation, which unified the laws of thermodynamics and black-hole dynamics. Recipients of the previously announced Special Prize in Fundamental Physics – Ronald Drever and Kip Thorne of Caltech and Rainer Weiss of MIT, who were recognised in May along with the entire LIGO team for the discovery of gravitational waves – were also present. A further prize, the $100,000 New Horizons in Physics Prize, went to six early-career physicists: Asimina Arvanitaki (Perimeter Institute), Peter Graham (Stanford University) and Surjeet Rajendran (University of California, Berkeley); Simone Giombi (Princeton University) and Xi Yin (Harvard University); and Frans Pretorius (Princeton). This year’s Breakthrough Prize, which was founded in 2012 by Sergey Brin, Anne Wojcicki, Yuri and Julia Milner, Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, saw $25 million in prizes awarded for achievements in the life sciences, fundamental physics and mathematics. On 30 November, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Bonn, Germany, granted a Humboldt Research Award to Raju Venugopalan, a senior physicist at Brookhaven National Laboratory and Stony Brook University. The €60,000 award recognises Venugopalan’s achievements in theoretical nuclear physics, and comes with the opportunity to collaborate with German researchers at Heidelberg University and elsewhere. US physicist and science policy adviser to the US government, Richard Garwin, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom at a White House ceremony on 22 November. The award is the highest honour that the US government can confer to civilians. Garwin was recognised for his long career in research and invention, which saw him play a leading role in the development of the hydrogen bomb, and for his advice to policy makers. Introducing Garwin, President Obama remarked: “Dick’s not only an architect of the atomic age. Reconnaissance satellites, the MRI, GPS technology, the touchscreen all bear his fingerprints – he even patented a mussel washer for shellfish. Dick has advised nearly every president since Eisenhower, often rather bluntly. Enrico Fermi, also a pretty smart guy, is said to have called Dick the only true genius he ever met.” Fumihiko Suekane of Tohoku University, Japan, has been awarded a 2016 Blaise Pascal Chair to further his research into neutrinos. Established in 1996, and named after the 17th-century French polymath Blaise Pascal, the €200,000 grant allows researchers from abroad to work on a scientific project in an institution in the Ile-de-France region. Suekane will spend a year working at the Astroparticle and Cosmology Laboratory in Paris, where he will focus on R&D for novel neutrino detectors and measurements of reactor neutrinos. In late 2016, theorists Mikhail Danilov, from the Lebedev Institute in Moscow, Sergio Ferrara from CERN and David Gross from the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics and the University of California in Santa Barbara were elected as members of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Established in 1724, the body has more than 2000 members. President of the Republic of Poland, Andrzej Duda, visited CERN on 15 November and toured the CERN Control Centre. Chi-Chang Kao, signed the guestbook with CERN Director-General Fabiola Gianotti on 23 November. From 28 November to 2 December, more than 200 flavour physicists gathered at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai for the 9th International Workshop on the Cabibbo–Kobayashi–Maskawa Unitarity Triangle (CKM2016). The workshop focuses on weak transitions of quarks from one flavour to another, as described by the CKM matrix, and on the charge–parity (CP) violation present in these transitions, as visualised by the unitarity triangle (UT). Input from theory, particularly lattice QCD, is vital to fully leverage the power of such measurements. It is an exciting time for flavour physics. The mass scales potentially involved in such weak processes are much higher than those that can be directly probed at the LHC, due to the presence of quantum loops that mediate many of the processes of interest, such as B0 – B0 mixing. Compared with the absence of new particles so far at the energy frontier, LHCb and other B factories already have significant hints of deviations between measurements and Standard Model (SM) predictions. An example is the persistent discrepancy in the measured differential distributions of the decay products of the rare flavour-changing neutral-current process B0 → K*0 μ+ μ–, first reported by the LHCb collaboration in 2015. A highlight of CKM2016 was the presentation of first results of the same distributions from the Belle experiment in Japan, which also included the related but previously unmeasured process B0 → K*0 e+ e–. The Belle results are more compatible with those of LHCb than the SM, further supporting the idea that new physics may be manifesting itself, via interference effects, in these observables. Progress on measuring CP violation in B decays was also reported, with LHCb presenting the first evidence for time-dependent CP violation in the decay of B0 mesons in two separate final states, D+ K– and K+ K–. The latter involves loop diagrams allowing a new-physics-sensitive determination of a UT angle (γ) that can be compared to a tree-level SM determination in the decay B– → D0 K–. For the first time, LHCb also presented results with data from LHC Run 2, which is ultimately expected to increase the size of the LHCb data samples by approximately a factor four. Longer term, the Belle II experiment based at the SuperKEKB collider recently enjoyed its first beam, and will begin its full physics programme in 2018. By 2024, Belle II should have collected 50 times more data than Belle, allowing unprecedented tests of rare B-meson decays and precision CP-violation measurements. On the same timescale, the LHCb upgrade will also be in full swing, with the goal of increasing the data size by least a factor 10 compared to Run 1 and Run 2. Plans for a second LHCb upgrade presented at the meeting would allow LHCb, given the long-term future of the LHC, to run at much higher instantaneous luminosities to yield an enormous data set by 2035. With more data the puzzles of flavour physics will be resolved thanks to the ongoing programme of LHCb, imminent results from rare-kaon-decay experiments (KOTO and NA62), and the Belle II/LHCb upgrade projects. No doubt there will be more revealing results by the time of the next CKM workshop, to be held in Heidelberg in September 2018. While there are many conferences focusing on physics at the high-energy frontier, the triennial PSI workshop at the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) in Switzerland concerns searches for new phenomena at non-collider experiments. These are complementary to direct searches at the LHC and often cover a parameter space that is beyond the reach of the LHC or even future colliders. The fourth workshop in this series, PSI2016, took place from 16–21 October and attracted more than 170 physicists. Theoretical overviews covered: precision QED calculations; beyond-the-Standard-Model implications of electric-dipole-moment (EDM) searches; axions and other light exotic particles; flavour symmetries; the muon g-2 problem; NLO calculations of the rare muon decay μ → eeeνν; and possible models to explain the exciting flavour anomalies presently seen in B decays. On the experimental side, several new results were presented. Fundamental neutron physics featured prominently, ranging from cold-neutron-beam experiments to those with stored ultracold neutrons at facilities such as ILL, PSI, LANL, TRIUMF and Mainz. Key experiments are measurements of the neutron lifetime, searches for a permanent EDM, measurements of beta-decay correlations and searches for exotic interactions. The future European Spallation Source in Sweden will also allow a new and much improved search for neutron–antineutron oscillations. Atomic physics and related methods offer unprecedented sensitivity to fundamental-physics aspects ranging from QED tests, parity violation in weak interactions, EDM and exotic physics to dark-matter (DM) and dark-energy searches. With the absence of signals from direct DM searches so far, light and ultralight DM is a focus of several upcoming experiments. Atomic physics also comprises precision spectroscopy of exotic atoms, and several highlight talks included the ongoing efforts at CERN’s Antiproton Decelerator with antihydrogen and with light muonic atoms at J-PARC and at PSI. For antiprotons and nuclei, impressive results from recent Penning-trap mass and g-factor measurements were presented with impacts on CPT tests, bound-state QED tests and more. Major international efforts are under way at PSI (μ → eγ, μ → eee), FNAL and J-PARC (μ → e conversion) devoted to muons and their lepton-flavour violating decays, and the upcoming muon g-2 experiments at FNAL and J-PARC have reported impressive progress. Last but not least, rare kaon decays (at CERN and J-PARC), new long-baseline neutrino oscillation results, developments towards direct neutrino-mass measurements, and CP and CPT tests with B mesons were reported. The field of low-energy precision physics has grown fast over the past few years, and participants plan to meet again at PSI in 2019. The fields of nanomaterials and nanotechnology are quickly evolving, with discoveries frequently reported across a wide range of applications including nanoelectronics, sensor technologies, drug delivery and robotics, in addition to the energy and healthcare sectors. At an academia–industry event on 20–21 October at GSI in Darmstadt, Germany, co-organised by the technology-transfer network HEPTech, delegates explored novel connections between nanotechnology and high-energy physics (HEP). The forum included an overview of the recent experiments at DESY’s hard X-ray source PETRA III, which allows the investigation of physical and chemical processes in situ and under working conditions and serves a large user community in many fields including nanotechnology. Thermal-scanning probe lithography, an increasingly reliable method for rapid and low-cost prototyping of 2D and quasi-3D structures, was also discussed. Much attention was paid to the production and application of nanostructures, where the achievements of the Ion Beam Center at Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf in surface nanostructuring and nanopatterning were introduced. UK firm Hardide Coatings Ltd presented its advanced surface-coating technology, the core of which are nano-structured tungsten-carbide-based coatings that have promising applications in HEP and vacuum engineering. Industry also presented ion-track technology, which is being used to synthesise 3D interconnected nanowire networks in micro-batteries or gas sensors, among other applications. Neutron-research infrastructures and large-scale synchrotrons are emerging as highly suitable platforms for the advanced characterisation of micro- and nano-electronic devices, and the audience heard the latest developments from the IRT Nanoelec Platform for Advanced Characterisation of Grenoble. The meeting addressed how collaboration between academia and industry in the nanotechnology arena can best serve the needs of HEP, with CERN presenting applications in gaseous detectors using the charge-transfer properties of graphene. The technology-transfer office at DESY also shared its experience in developing a marketing strategy for promoting the services of the DESY NanoLab to companies. Both academia and industry representatives left the event with a set of contacts and collaboration arrangements. On 24–25 November, academics and leading companies in the field of superconductivity met in Madrid, Spain, to explore the technical challenges of applying new accelerator technology to medicine. Organised by CIEMAT in collaboration with HEPTech, EUCARD2, CDTI, GSI and the Enterprise Europe Network, the event brought together 120 participants from 19 countries to focus on radioisotope production, particle therapy and gantries. Superconductivity has a range of applications in energy, medicine, fusion and high-energy physics (HEP). The latter are illustrated by CERN’s high-luminosity LHC (HL-LHC), now near construction with superconducting magnets made from advanced Nb Sn technology capable of 12 T fields. The HL-LHC demands greatly advanced superconducting cavities with more efficient and higher-gradient RF systems, plus the development of new devices such as crab cavities that can deflect or rotate single bunches of protons. On the industry side, new superconducting technology is ready to go into production for medical applications. A dedicated session presented novel developments in cyclotron production, illustrated by the AMIT project of CIEMAT (based on a cyclotron with a compact superconducting design that will be able to produce low-to-moderate rates of dose-on-demand 11C and 18F) and the French industry–academia LOTUS project system, which features a compact 12 MeV superconducting helium-free magnet cyclotron suitable for the production of these isotopes in addition to 68Ga. Antaya Science and Technology, meanwhile, reported on the development of a portable high-field superconducting cyclotron for the production of ammonia-13N in near proximity to the PET cameras. The meeting also heard from MEDICIS, the new facility under construction at CERN that will extend the capabilities of the ISOLDE radioactive ion-beam facility for production of radiopharmaceuticals and develop new accelerator technologies for medical applications (CERN Courier October 2016 p28). Concerning particle therapy, industry presented medical accelerators such as the MEVION S250 – a proton-therapy system based on a gantry-mounted 250 MeV superconducting synchrocyclotron that weighs less than 15 tonnes and generates magnetic fields in excess of 10 T. Global medical-technology company IBA described its two main superconducting cyclotrons for particle therapy: the Cyclone 400 for proton/carbon therapy and the S2C2 dedicated to proton therapy, with a particular emphasis on their superconducting coil systems. IBA also introduced the latest developments concerning ProteusONE – a single-room system that delivers the most clinically advanced form of proton-radiation therapy. Researchers from MIT in the US presented a novel compact superconducting synchrocyclotron based on an ironless magnet with a much reduced weight, while the TERA Foundation in Italy is developing superconducting technology for “cyclinacs” – accelerators that combine a cyclotron injector and a linac booster. Finally, the session on gantries covered developments such as a superconducting bending-magnet section for future compact isocentric gantries by researchers at the Paul Scherrer Institute, and a superconducting rotating gantry for carbon radiotherapy designed by the Japanese National Institute of Radiological Sciences. With demand for medical isotopes and advanced cancer therapy rising, we can look forward to rich collaborations between accelerator physics and the medical community in the coming years. The fifth in the series of Higgs Couplings workshops, which began just after the Higgs-boson discovery in 2012 to bring together theorists and experimentalists, was held at SLAC on 9–12 November and drew 148 participants from five continents. Discussions focused on lessons from the current round of LHC analyses that could be applied to future data. Modelling of signal and background is already limiting for some measurements, and new theoretical results and strategies were presented. Other key issues were the use of vector-boson fusion production as a tool, and the power and complementarity of diverse searches for heavy Higgs bosons. Two new themes emerged at the meeting. The first was the possibility of exotic decays of the 125 GeV Higgs boson. These include not only Higgs decays to invisible particles but also decays to lighter Higgs particles, light quarks and leptons (possibly with flavour violation) and new, long-lived particles. A number of searches from ATLAS and CMS reported their first results. The workshop also debated the application of effective field theory as a framework for parametrising precise Higgs measurements. The 6th Higgs Couplings meeting will be held in Heidelberg on 6–10 November 2017. We look forward to new ideas for the creative use of the large data samples of Higgs bosons that will become available as the LHC programme continues. The 8th International Conference on Hard and Electromagnetic Probes of High-energy Nuclear Collisions (Hard Probes 2016) was held in Wuhan, China, on 23–27 September. Hard and electromagnetic probes are powerful tools for the study of the novel properties of hot and dense QCD matter created in high-energy nucleus–nucleus collisions, and have provided much important evidence for the formation of quark–gluon plasma (QGP) in heavy-ion collisions at RHIC and the LHC. Hard Probe 2016 attracted close to 300 participants from 28 countries. The main topics discussed were: jet production and modification in QCD matter; high transverse-momentum hadron spectra and correlations; jet-induced medium excitations; jet properties in small systems; heavy flavour hadrons and quarkonia; photons and dileptons and initial states and related topics. The most recent experimental progress on hard and electromagnetic probes from the ALICE, ATLAS, CMS, LHCb, PHENIX and STAR collaborations, together with many new exciting theoretical and phenomenological developments, were discussed. The next Hard Probe conference will be held in Aix Les Bains, France, in 2018. The International Symposium on EXOtic Nuclei (EXON-2016), took place from 5–9 September in Kazan, Russia, attracting around 170 nuclear experts from 20 countries. The scientific programme focused on recent experiments on the synthesis and study of new super-heavy elements, the discovery of which demonstrates the efficiency of international co-operation. Interesting results were obtained in joint experiments on chemical identification of elements 112 and 114 performed at JINR (Russia), the GSI (Germany) and the Paul Scherrer Institute (Switzerland). A vivid example of co-operation with US scientists is an experiment on the synthesis of element 117 held at the cyclotron of JINR. Recently, the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry approved the discovery of the new elements with atomic numbers 113 (“nihonian”), 115 (“moscovium”), 117 (“tennessine”) and 118 (“oganesson”). Five laboratories, which are the co-founders of the symposium, are now creating a new generation of accelerators for the synthesis and study of new exotic nuclei. Projects such as SPIRAL2, RIKEN RI Beam Factory, FAIR, DRIBs, NICA and FRIB will allow us to delve further into the upper limits of the periodic table. The CERN Accelerator School (CAS) and the Wigner Research Centre for Physics jointly organised an introduction-to-accelerator-physics course in Budapest, Hungary, from 2–14 October, attended by more than 120 participants spanning 28 nationalities. This year, CAS will organise a specialised course on beam injection, extraction and transfer (to be held in Erice, Sicily, from 10–19 March) and a second specialised course on vacuum for particle accelerators (near Lund, Sweden, from 6–16 June). The next course on advanced-accelerator physics will be held in the UK in early September, and a Joint International Accelerator School on RF technology will be held in Hayama, Japan, from 16–26 October (www.cern.ch/schools/CAS).
News Article | February 16, 2017
Lectures, workshops and panel discussions embolden scientifically driven debate, while various social events encourage the participants to pursue their discourse outside the lecture halls and to get to know each other. Embedded once again into the program is the Hot Topic session, which is especially interesting for the media. At the 4th HLF in 2016, the focus revolved around Artificial Intelligence (AI) and a panel of experts addressed the costs and benefits created by developments brought on by AI. The theme for the session in 2017 at the 5th HLF will delve into quantum computing, more information will be available soon on the HLF homepage: heidelberg-laureate-forum.org The Heidelberg Laureate Forum Foundation (HLFF) offers 15 travel grants of up to 3,000 euros to enable journalists to report on this compelling networking event for the pinnacle in computer science and mathematics. Grants cover the travel costs as well as board and accommodation during the stay in Heidelberg (starting with a media get-together on the evening of September 23). Until May 15, 2017, journalists from all over the world are invited to apply, irrespective of their media affiliation (print, TV, online, radio). The applications must include the following: a short CV, three samples of work (indicating respective medium), a synopsis of publications to date (indicating respective medium), planned contributions regarding the HLF as well as a preliminary travel itinerary including estimated costs. Please send your travel grant applications to: email@example.com All journalists who wish to cover the 5th HLF are requested to register using the following link: (regardless of whether or not they choose to apply for a travel grant) https:/ The Heidelberg Laureate Forum Foundation (HLFF) annually organizes the Heidelberg Laureate Forum (HLF), which is a networking event for mathematicians and computer scientists from all over the world. The 5th Heidelberg Laureate Forum will take place from September 24-29, 2017. The HLFF was established and is funded by the German foundation Klaus Tschira Stiftung (KTS), which promotes natural sciences, mathematics and computer science. The Scientific Partners of the HLFF are the Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies (HITS) and Heidelberg University. The HLF is strongly supported by the award-granting institutions, the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), the International Mathematical Union (IMU), and the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters (DNVA).
News Article | February 15, 2017
Diagenode, a leading global provider for complete solutions for sample preparation and epigenetics research, recently announced a collaboration with the Heidelberg University Hospital and the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) to develop a high-sensitivity DNA amplification method for library preparation, following the company’s successful launch of its CATS (Capture and Amplification by Tailing and Switching) RNA sequencing library preparation solutions. CATS, a ligation-independent method for generating DNA libraries for next generation sequencing from low input amounts of DNA or RNA, does not require adaptor ligation, increasing the overall efficiency and yields of the protocol. Diagenode’s initial product launch focused on CATS-based RNA-sequencing library preparation with kits to quickly and accurately generate RNA-seq libraries from picogram amounts. In addition, CATS is beneficial in RNA-sequencing studies given the ability to identify more small RNAs from better template capture and lower bias due to reduced amplification requirements. “Our focus is to now develop a CATS protocol for DNA sequencing which will have similar benefits to the CATS RNA-sequencing library preparation solutions,” said Raphael Werding, Senior Product Manager at Diagenode. “A ligation-free assay for DNA library preparation eliminates preliminary sample amplification, reduces bias, and allows sequencing from very low picogram inputs. Our collaboration with the Heidelberg University Hospital and the DKFZ solidifies our efforts, as they have been instrumental in providing expertise and research behind CATS-based methods.” “We are quite pleased to be working with Diagenode in developing a low input DNA library preparation method”, stated Barbara Burwinkel, the head of the Molecular Biology of Breast Cancer Group at the University Women`s Clinic Heidelberg and the Molecular Epidemiology Group at the DKFZ, “Our joint goal is to improve the quality and diversity of sequencing libraries. Working together with Diagenode allows us to capitalize on our years of research and provide unique solutions to the RNA and DNA research community”. About Diagenode: Diagenode is a leading provider of complete solutions for epigenetics research and sample preparation. The company has developed both shearing solutions for a number of applications as well as a comprehensive approach to gain new insights into epigenetics studies. The company offers innovative DNA and chromatin shearing and automation instruments, reagent kits, and high quality antibodies to streamline DNA methylation, ChIP, and ChIP-seq workflows. The company’s latest innovations include the industry’s most validated ChIP antibodies, CATS-based RNA sequencing, and epigenetics assay services. For more information about Diagenode, please visit the company’s website at http://www.diagenode.com
News Article | February 28, 2017
The Zika virus taking hold of the inner organelles of human liver and neural stem cells has been captured via light and electron microscopy. In Cell Reports on February 28, researchers in Germany show how the African and Asian strains of Zika rearrange the endoplasmic reticulum and cytoskeletal architecture of host cells so that they can build factories where they make daughter viruses. The study reveals that targeting cytoskeleton dynamics could be a previously unexplored strategy to suppress Zika replication. "Cytoskeleton elements control cellular shape, growth, and movement, provide mechanical support and stress-resilience, and coordinate organelle anchoring and vesicular transport," says senior author Ralf Bartenschlager, a virologist at Heidelberg University. "Zika virus infections cause a drastic perturbation of the cytoskeletal network, re-organizing both intermediate filaments and microtubules into a cage-like structure that surrounds the replication machinery." His group, led by first author and Heidelberg postdoctoral fellow Mirko Cortese, also found that Zika and dengue, both flaviviruses, use similar strategies to infect host cells. Once inside of a cell, viral particles latch onto the rough endoplasmic reticulum -- the ribosome-rich membranes outside the nucleus where RNA is translated into proteins. The viruses then remodel the endoplasmic reticulum to form a protective cage with small holes where RNA and newly made viral particles can travel in or out. The difference with Zika is that it has unique ways of rearranging structures within the cell. For example, there are an abundance of microtubules -- proteins that build the cellular cytoskeleton -- surrounding its protective cage. There were also slight variations between how Zika establishes itself in human liver cells versus neural stem cells, where it is more physiologically relevant. This suggests there are yet-unknown cell-type-specific factors that affect how the virus replicates. "The cytoskeleton has a crucial role in neurogenesis," Cortese says. "Thus, it is tempting to speculate that the alterations induced by Zika virus on the host cytoskeleton might be connected to the underlying physio-pathological mechanisms that link congenital Zika virus infections to microcephaly and neurodegenerative disorders." Seeing Zika's reliance on the microtubules for its replication, the researchers now want to explore whether these drugs, including taxanes routinely used during chemotherapy, can have potential anti-viral activity against Zika in animal models. These, and similar drugs, have been declared safe to use during the second and third trimester of pregnancy, as well as during breastfeeding. "Having identified a link between cytoskeleton dynamics and Zika virus replication, together with the plethora of available cytoskeleton-targeting compounds, might contribute to gain mechanistic insight into the ZIKV replication cycle and identify new avenues for treatment," Bartenschlager says. This work was supported by grants from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft. Cell Reports (@CellReports), published by Cell Press, is a weekly open-access journal that publishes high-quality papers across the entire life sciences spectrum. The journal features reports, articles, and resources that provide new biological insights, are thought-provoking, and/or are examples of cutting-edge research. Visit: http://www. . To receive Cell Press media alerts, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kueckelhaus M.,Heidelberg University
Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery | Year: 2014
BACKGROUND:: Skin biopsies are critical for histological evaluation of rejection and proper treatment after facial allotransplantation (FAT). Many facial allografts provide only limited skin area and frequent biopsies may additionally compromise aesthetic outcome. Sentinel flaps (SFs), recovered as free fasciocutanous radial forearm flaps, have been employed for remote site rejection monitoring. They maintain their axial blood supply similar to facial allografts. The correlation between FAT and SF in cases of rejection is presented.METHODS:: We analyzed the experience of the Boston team’s employment of 4 SFs. Rejection was evaluated and the results compared for each time point. The SFs where used as functional flap whenever possible.RESULTS:: The results show a reliable correlation between biopsies taken from the facial allograft (FA) and SF. During severe rejection episodes in 100% of the biopsy pairs both sites displayed a similar grade of rejection. In one case the clinical findings suggested rejection in the FA but were unraveled as Rosacea, since clinically there was no rejection displayed in the SF.CONCLUSIONS:: The SF shows a reliable correlation to the FA in cases of severe rejection and therefore provides a valuable tool for rejection monitoring in FAT. Advantages of SF employment include the avoidance of further surgical procedures to the primary VCA, additional utilization of the SF to repair damaged non-facial sites, and its utility as both a clinical and histopathological barometer of rejection and predictor of the potential existence of facial dermatitis unrelated to rejection.Level of evidence: III ©2014American Society of Plastic Surgeons
News Article | February 6, 2017
Scientists from the Heidelberg University Hospital and the German Center for Infection Research (DZIF) have developed a new substance that has cured severe malaria in humanized mice. Severe malaria, caused by the Plasmodium falciparum parasite, causes dangerous circulatory disorders and neurological complications. If the affected person is not treated immediately, the disease will inevitably lead to death. On the one hand, the currently used drugs artesunate and quinine have unwanted side effects and, on the other, more and more plasmodia are becoming resistant to them. Developing new drugs with other mechanisms of action is therefore essential. “New drugs for treating severe malaria are indeed urgently needed,” emphasizes Prof Michael Lanzer, DZIF scientist at the Heidelberg University Hospital. In a DZIF project, he developed the first promising candidate together with his research team: SC83288, the promising substance with a somewhat prosaic name has the required properties, and has already been successfully used to treat severe malaria in humanised mice. The starting point of the drug development was benzamidine derivatives, which had been effective against different parasites in veterinary medicine but were not used as they have severe side effects. The scientists have now tried to modify these substances so that they become suitable to treat severe malaria. The substance was chemically modified to make it more tolerable without forfeiting its effect against parasites. “The new chemical structure is very well tolerated, is metabolised rapidly in the body and the crucial factor: in animal models, it can kill the severe malaria parasites in a short period of time,” explains Lanzer. For their tests, the scientists used mice with human blood cells and that had been infected with severe malaria. In this model system, SC83288 was effective in the late stages of malaria, during which the parasites are in the blood cells where they cause severe damage. Detailed preclinical studies on pharmacokinetics and toxicology showed consistent positive results for the substance which is to be administered intravenously. “We are now in the process of conducting the regulatory preclinical procedures and hope to initiate the clinical trials in 2018,” says Lanzer.