Number of breaks: 5

The cutting EDGE: Bringing genomics to everyone

Diabetes, infertility, cancer, allergies, Alzheimer's disease - the key to one day preventing or even curing such afflictions and diseases (both infectious and genetically driven) may be locked in our own genetic code and the code of microorganisms that inhabit our bodies. Genomics, the study of this DNA code, has recently become much more promising as a result of two things: (1) vast improvements in quality and quantity of DNA-sequencing, and (2) an exponential decrease in the cost of such DNA-sequencing. For example, what originally cost $3 billion for the human genome sequence is now less than $1000 to resequence it. However, two key problems cause a significant bottleneck for data interpretation: (1) the sheer volume of genomic data and (...)

· Patrick Chain | Professor at Los Alamos National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy's NNSA, USA

Published on June 14, 2017Reading time: 3.5 min

Invisible allies for healthy juvenile growth

Maybe you remember it from your childhood. There was a doorframe in your parents' house, marked by a ladder of small horizontal lines, with dates and your name written next to each line: the more recent the date, the higher the position of the line. This simple growth chart recorded your height at a given age, and how much you grew from the last time. And probably you took it completely for granted that as the time passed, each line was drawn above the last, never wondering how this all works. Nowadays we know that the gain in body size during the infant growth period is a result of the interactions between nutrition and the organism's hormonal cues. In mammals, post-natal (...)

· Martin Schwarzer | Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Institut de génomique fonctionnelle de Lyon, Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon, CNRS and Université Claude Bernard Lyon, Lyon

Published on October 12, 2016Reading time: 4 min

Cold adaptation: gut bacteria can make the difference

If someone told you that in our body we harbour billions of bacteria, surely you would feel mocked, but it's true! There is evidence showing that microbes colonize all the part of our body that are exposed to the external environment (like mouth and skin), with the greater portion of them residing in the gut. All the microorganisms, which are resident in our intestinal tract, are defined by scientists as gut microbiota. Importantly, gut microbiota is not a fixed group of microorganisms, but it may vary in its composition according to several factors e.g. food, age, health, antibiotic use (read also the Break: Collateral damage: antibiotics disrupt the balance in the gut). In the past twenty years, interest has increased in (...)

· Daniele Guido | PhD student at Department of Cell Physiology and Metabolism, University of Geneva, Switzerland

Published on September 7, 2016Reading time: 3 min

Collateral damage: antibiotics disrupt the balance in the gut

Bacteria are present everywhere, also on our body surfaces. The intestine provides optimal living conditions to a diverse microbial ecosystem, termed the gut microbiota. In the intestine, the microbes live in very close connection and constant interaction with the host, us. The connection between bacteria and humans has a long evolutionary history and the microbes and their activities have become an integral part of how our bodies work. Microbial products act directly on the cells in the intestine, for example by providing energy to the cells lining the intestine and by stimulating the intestinal immune system. Many microbial products enter the bloodstream and influence different organ systems and tissues. It is becoming increasingly recognised that these microbes are part of (...)

· Katri Korpela | PhD student at Department of Bacteriology and Immunology, Immunobiology Research Program, University of Helsinki, Finland

Published on June 2, 2016Reading time: 3.5 min

Fighting back antibiotic resistance: a new hope from the soil

Bacteria live in a hectic world. They need to find food and a happy place to live all while dividing every 20 or so minutes. To complicate things further, they must also outcompete the other bacteria they share a space with. In the human gut, for example, there may be up to 1,000 different species of bacteria5. That's a lot of competition! In order to outcompete each other for nutrients, some bacteria produce molecules that seek out and destroy other species of bacteria. This is one of the ways that antibiotics are created. Most of the antibiotics that humans use are derived from different bacterial strains, or other small organisms like fungi. Because bacteria grow and divide very fast, they can (...)

· Dan Kramer | PhD student at Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, University of Berkley, California, USA

Published on February 24, 2016Reading time: 4 min