News

At the University of Zurich and at ETH Zurich, Life Science research covers a huge range of different topics. There is plenty of new information about all these research activities is every day and you easily lose track of what is really important. Under “News”, we have selected some of the reports and articles on new and relevant findings in the Life Science research for you. If you are looking for more detailed knowledge of a specific subject you might find an answer here. If you miss your favorite research topic, please let us know.

  • First map of immune system connections reveals new therapeutic opportunities

    Researchers of the Wellcome Sanger Institute and ETH Zurich have created the first full connectivity map of the human immune system, showing how immune cells communicate with each other and ways to modulate these pathways in disease.

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  • Global Spread of Powdery Mildew through Migration and Trade

    The worldwide distribution of one of the most important cereal pathogens is the result of human activity. Researchers at the University of Zurich have traced the history and spread of wheat powdery mildew along wheat trade routes and found that mixing of genetic ancestries of related powdery mildew species played a central role in the evolution and adaptation of the pathogen.

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  • Resistance to mosaic disease in cassava explained

    Researchers from ETH Zurich, the United States and Uganda have identified the gene responsible for resistance in certain cassava cultivars against the devastating cassava mosaic disease. This is an important step for breeding virus-​resistant cassava varieties.

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  • Individual Cells Are Smarter Than Thought

    Humans make decisions based on various sensory information which is integrated into a holistic percept by the brain. But how do single cells make decisions? Much more autonomously than previously thought, as researchers from the University of Zurich have now shown. Cells base their decisions not only on outside signals like growth factors, but also on information they receive from inside the cell. This can even lead to treatment-resistant cancer cells.

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  • Social Development of Infants Unaffected by Covid-19 Pandemic

    Health issues and loss, social isolation and mental health problems – the pandemic has had a drastic effect on our society. But how have the youngest members of society been coping with these changes? Researchers at the University of Zurich have found that the presence of parents and caregivers is enough to mitigate the pandemic’s negative effects on the social development of infants.

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  • Wonderful World of Wheat

    Green genetic engineering will help secure our food supply, believes plant biologist Beat Keller. One possible approach involves genetically modifying wheat to make it more resistant to powdery mildew.

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  • Severe flu risk as immune cells swap with age

    ETH researchers found that in mice, long-​lived embryonic macrophages in the lungs die upon aging and during infection and are replaced by inflammatory bone marrow-​derived macrophages. This causes severe disease progression when infected with viral flu.

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  • Dangerous Bites

    Mosquitoes are responsible for transmitting many disease-causing pathogens. In Switzerland, biting midges in particular make life difficult for sheep and horses. Entomologist Niels Verhulst researches methods to keep the unwanted insects away.

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  • Tapping the ocean as a source of natural products

    Using DNA data, ETH researchers have examined seawater to find not only new species of bacteria, but also previously unknown natural products that may one day prove beneficial.

     

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  • Breast cancer spreads at night

    A new study shows that breast cancer metastases form more efficiently while patients are sleeping. This finding, in a study led by researchers at ETH Zur-​ich, could significantly change the way cancer is diagnosed and treated in future.

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  • In the Beginning Was the Popcorn

    Genetically modified crops could contribute to making agriculture more sustainable and productive, says Ueli Grossniklaus. This new green genetic engineering has so far met with skepticism – but the challenges of climate change and the global grain crisis may change people’s views.

     

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  • Diverse Forests Outyield Monocultures

    Multispecies tree plantations are more productive than monocultures, according to a new study carried out in China. UZH environmental scientist Bernhard Schmid was involved in the research.

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  • World Premiere: Successful Transplant of Human Liver Treated in Machine

    The multidisciplinary Zurich research team Liver4Life has succeeded in doing something during a treatment attempt that had never been achieved in the history of medicine until now: it treated an originally damaged human liver in a machine for three days outside of a body and then implanted the recovered organ into a cancer patient. One year later, the patient is doing well.

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  • Dolphins Self-Medicate Skin Ailments at Coral “Clinics”

    If a human comes down with a rash, they might go to the doctor and come away with some ointment to put on it. Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins get skin conditions, too, but they come about their medication by queuing up nose-to-tail to rub themselves against corals. In the journal iScience on 19 May, researchers show that these corals have medicinal properties, suggesting that the dolphins are using the marine invertebrates to medicate skin conditions.

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  • Bacteria with recording function capture gut health status

    Researchers from ETH Zurich, University Hospital of Bern and the University of Bern have equipped gut bacteria with data logger functionality as a way of monitoring which genes are active in the bacteria. These microorganisms could one day offer a noninvasive means of diagnosing disease or assessing the impact of a diet on health.

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  • Environmental DNA reveals secret reef inhabitants

    An international research team use a global sampling of seawater to reveal which tropical reef fish occur where. To identify species and families, they successfully used the residual DNA shed by the animals present in the water. But not all fish can be traced in this way.

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  • Astrocyte Networks in the Mouse Brain Control Spatial Learning and Memory

    Astrocytes form large networks of interconnected cells in the central nervous system. When these cell-to-cell couplings are disrupted in the brain of adult mice, the animals are no longer able to store spatial information. The astrocytes network is thus essential for spatial learning and memory formation, as neuroscientists of the University of Zurich now show.

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  • Like bacteria firing spearguns

    Biologists from ETH Zurich have discovered speargun-​like molecular injection systems in two types of bacteria and have described their structure for the first time. The special nanomachines are used by the microbes for the interaction between cells and could one day be useful as tools in biomedicine.

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  • New drug candidates identified in bacteria

    Bacteria show great promise as a source of active ingredients. Using computer-​based genome analysis, researchers at ETH Zurich have now discovered a new class of natural products that might one day serve as antibiotics.

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  • Immunological Memory Provides Long-Term Protection against Coronavirus

    Exposure to SARS-CoV-2 by infection or vaccination generates immune cells that provide long-term immunity. These long-lived memory T cells play a key role in preventing severe cases of Covid-19. Researchers at the University of Zurich have now discovered how these memory T cells form.

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  • “Animal experiments will remain indispensable in the foreseeable future”

    Research involving animals is crucial when it comes to achieving scientific and medical progress, and is also very important for UZH, emphasizes Elisabeth Stark. The Vice President Research believes maintaining exemplary standards of animal welfare and an open dialogue with society is key.

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  • Agents between good and evil

    Viruses that infect bacteria could one day replace antibiotics because they precisely attack only specific pathogens. Researchers at ETH Zurich are now showing that this is not always the case. This new finding is important because bacterial viruses can transfer antibiotic resistance genes.

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  • “We have created a stable active ingredient”

    Molecular Partners, a spin-off from the University of Zurich, has developed a drug against Covid-19 and is applying for approval, together with Novartis, in Switzerland and the US. Phase 2 clinical trials have already demonstrated efficacy in Covid patients. Andreas Plückthun of the UZH Department of Biochemistry was involved from the start.

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  • AI offers a faster way to predict antibiotic resistance

    A study under co-​leadership of the ETH Zurich has shown that computer algorithms can determine antimicrobial resistance of bacteria faster than previous methods. This could help treat serious infections more efficiently in the future.

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  • Evidence-​Based Contribution of Mechano-​Biological Descriptors of Resistance Exercise

    Resistance exercise is medicine as it is associated with multiple health promoting benefits. A recent review in “Frontiers in Physiology” by Claudio Viecelli (IMSB) in collaboration with David Aguayo (Kieser Training AG) examined the contribution of mechano-​biological descriptors of resistance exercise.

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  • Mechanism for DNA Invasion of Adenoviral Covid-19 Vaccines Discovered

    Adenoviruses have a linchpin protein that stabilizes their DNA until it reaches the infected cell’s nucleus. The protein then detaches from the viral genome, and the virus uncoats. Only then are the genes released into the nucleus, which is necessary for the production of new viruses. This process, discovered by researchers at the University of Zurich, is a key for effective functioning of various Covid-19 vaccines.

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  • Saving infants' lives with iron

    ETH pharmaceutical sciences graduate Nicole Stoffel has shown that iron deficiency reduces vaccine efficacy. Her research is now helping to improve the health of children in developing countries – yet becoming a researcher was not originally part of her plans.

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  • Rapid PCR tests at the touch of a button

    ETH researchers Michele Gregorini and Philippe Bechtold have developed a PCR testing device that can easily be used outside the lab – and that takes less than 30 minutes to deliver results. Now the two young entrepreneurs are focusing their efforts on getting the device approved for medical use.

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  • When Resistant Germs Travel

    Resistance to antibiotics is increasing and can be found all over – in humans, animals, plants and the environment. To stop the spread of antibiotic resistance, we need to understand how it is transmitted and how we can prevent this from happening.

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  • When Stress Makes You Sick

    Chronic stress can decrease the quality of our lives, and have long-term negative effects on our health that may be irreversible. The new «Hochschulmedizin Zürich (HMZ)» flagship project STRESS aims to explore the causes of stress and highlight possible treatments.

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  • Healthy People, Healthy Animals

    Bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and pathogens that spread from animals to humans are posing major problems for medicine. To combat them, researchers from various fields need to work hand in hand. This approach has become known as One Health.

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  • We are less sceptical of genetic engineering than assumed

    We often hear that Swiss consumers want their agriculture to be free from genetic engineering. But consumer acceptance of genetically modified crops is likely to be higher than the media leads us to believe, Angela Bearth says.

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  • Humans and Chimps

    Human communication is much more complex than all other forms of animal communication. And yet, monkeys and meerkats are also able to use language. Research into animal languages can help us understand how human language evolved.

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  • Computer algorithms are currently revolutionising biology

    Artificial intelligence can help predict the three-​dimensional structure of proteins. Beat Christen describes how such algorithms should soon help to develop tailored artificial proteins.

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  • Toxicity testing on the placenta and embryo

    Researchers at ETH Zurich have developed a cell culture test to detect substances that are directly or indirectly harmful to embryos. Based on an existing test used for developing new drugs and chemicals, the augmented version is designed to help reduce the number of animal experiments.

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  • Courting Females

    In the animal kingdom, it’s the ladies who get to pick their partners. So if males want to mate, they have to woo females and outshine their rivals. UZH biologist Stefan Lüpold examines what gives male animals the edge when it comes to sexual selection.

     

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  • Eating Our Way Through the Pandemic

    Increased stress, lack of exercise and frequent snacking: The effects of the pandemic are visible on our waistlines. For endocrinologist Philipp Gerber, the weight gain is not just a short-term side effect, but is storing up problems for the future and needs to be taken seriously.

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  • Optimising nature

    Today, molecular genetic methods can be used to breed sustainable crops - such as multinutrient rice. Researchers are calling for the risk of new plant varieties to be assessed not on the basis of the breeding method, but on the basis of their characteristics.

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  • Luring bacteria into a trap

    Researchers at ETH Zurich and the University of Basel have developed a vaccine that protects animals from Salmonella. These bacteria often escape the effects of vaccination by genetically modifying their protective coat. The researchers have succeeded in manipulating this process to lure the bacteria into an evolutionary trap.

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  • A deep dive into the brain

    Researchers from ETH Zurich and University of Zurich have developed a new microscopy technique that lights up the brain with high resolution imagery. This allows neuroscientists to study brain functions and ailments more closely and non-​invasively.

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  • How tendons become stiffer and stronger

    Researchers from ETH Zurich and the University of Zurich deciphered the cellular mechanisms through which tendons can adapt to mechanical stresses. People who carry a certain variant of a gene that is key to this mechanism show improved jumping performance.

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  • The African Wild Dog: An Ambassador for the World’s Largest Terrestrial Conservation Area

    The world’s largest terrestrial conservation area is located in southern Africa and covers 520,000 square kilometers spanning five countries. A study from the University of Zurich now shows that the endangered African wild dog mostly remains within the boundaries of the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA) when dispersing, thus highlighting the relevance of such a large-scale conservation initiative for maintaining key wildlife corridors of threatened species.

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  • The Achilles heel of the Coronavirus

    SARS-​CoV-2 is critically dependent on a special mechanism for the production of its proteins. A collaborative team led by a research group at ETH Zurich obtained molecular insights into this process and demonstrated that it can be inhibited by chemical compounds, thereby significantly reducing viral replication in infected cells.

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  • A simple exterior – but complex interior

    ETH Fellow Serina Robinson is devoted to microorganisms. She is particularly interested in the enzymes they use to produce and break down chemical substances. The young scientist is also especially fascinated by as yet uncultivated microbes.

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  • Brain Tumors under Attack

    Is Marian Neidert taking a saw to the branch he’s sitting on? As a neurosurgeon, he operates on brain tumors; as a researcher he’s trying to teach the immune system to fight them itself. But it might be some time before immunotherapies make surgery superfluous

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  • Planting Underpants

    Biologist Marcel van der Heijden aims to increase agricultural yields – not just with artificial fertilizers, pesticides, and GM technology, but also fungi and other microorganisms. He's not afraid to resort to less conventional research methods, either.

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  • How bacteria sleep through antibiotic attacks

    Bacteria can survive antibiotic treatment even without antibiotic resistance by slowing down their metabolism and going into a type of deep sleep. A research team reveals the changes bacteria undergo to reach this "persister" state. Annelies Zinkernagel, an infectiologist at UZH, is main author of the publication in the scientific journal PNAS.

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  • Synchronization of Brain Hemispheres Changes What We Hear

    Most of the time, our brain receives different input from each of our ears, but we nevertheless perceive speech as unified sounds. This process takes place through synchronization of the areas of the brain involved with the help of gamma waves, neurolinguists at the University of Zurich have now discovered. Their findings may lead to new treatment approaches for tinnitus.

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  • Unusual mutation causes defective sperm in boars

    ETH researchers have found a gene mutation that causes the sperm of boars to immobilize. Their discovery will help pig breeders to exclude animals with this genetic defect from breeding in future.

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  • Detailed tumour profiling

    As part of a clinical study involving patients from the University Hospitals in Zurich and Basel, researchers are conducting a thorough and highly precise investigation into the molecular and functional properties of tumours. Their goal is to help physicians to better determine which treatment will best match every patient’s cancer and thus be most effective.

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  • How a large protein complex assembles in a cell

    A team of ETH researchers led by Karsten Weis has developed a method that allows them to study the assembly process for large protein complexes in detail for the first time. As their case study, the biologists chose one of the largest cellular complexes: the nuclear pore complex in yeast cells.

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  • What immune cells reveal about sleep disorders

    Daniela Latorre wanted to be a scientist since she was a child. At the Institute for Research in Biomedicine, affiliated to the USI in Bellinzona and the Institute of Microbiology, she is finding evidence that narcolepsy is an autoimmune disease. She has now received the Pfizer Prize for Research 2020 for her pioneering work.

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  • Depression therapy: Adrift on the Ocean

    Psilocybin, the active ingredient found in certain mushrooms, expands the boundaries of the self and reduces anxiety. Psychiatrist Franz X. Vollenweider wants to harness this effect to treat patients suffering from depression.

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  • Which factors trigger leaf die-off in autumn?

    Researchers at ETH Zurich have identified a self-​regulating mechanism in European deciduous trees that limits their growing-​season length: Trees that photosynthesise more in spring and summer lose their leaves earlier in autumn.

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  • Medical microrobots score the Breakthrough of the Year

    through of the Year in the category “Engineering & Technology” at this year’s Falling Walls Conference in Berlin. The ETH Zurich-​affiliated researcher’s microrobots open up new possibilities for non-​invasive medical diagnosis and treatment.

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  • Understanding mutations at different levels of the cell