THE LIVING WORLD

The life science revolution

The advent of new technologies combined with pluridisciplinary approaches has enabled spectacular progress in the knowledge of the life sciences. From the microbial world and the discovery of new forms of life to the elucidation of the brain mechanisms, the discipline is undergoing profound changes.


Research


A protein can regulate the immune response

Tuberculosis remains the most deadly infectious disease in the world, with over 1.5 million fatalities recorded each year. The main cause of death in infected individuals is an excessive immune reaction, which causes the progressive destruction of lung tissue. To decipher the molecular mechanisms of this intense inflammatory reaction, researchers1CNRS/Université Toulouse III – Paul Sabatier became interested in a membrane protein located on dendritic cells, one category of the immune system cells. They first studied the mechanisms of the inflammatory reaction in mice that cannot express the DCIR protein, after having injected them with the tuberculosis bacillus.

The team observed that these mice then generated more interferon-gamma-producing T lymphocytes—interferon-gamma being a substance responsible for activating macrophages, the cells infected by the bacillus. Yet, whilst this cascade of reactions reduces the proliferation of the pathogen within the organism, it also increases inflammation at the level of the lungs, which deteriorate irremediably. These results are in line with previous research, which demonstrated that auto-immune diseases in healthy mice devoid of DCIR proteins tend to rise as these mice age. They strengthen the hypothesis that the receptors in question are targeted by molecules transmitted by the host upon an inflammatory reaction.

Taken together, the sum of these studies provides a glimpse of the possibility that the immune response could be controlled via chemical substances acting directly on DCIR receptors. It could therefore be possible to stimulate the immune reaction whenever it proves incapable of defeating a disease, or on the contrary slow down inflammation before it becomes uncontrollable.

PNAS, January 2017

Source : DCIR : une molécule qui régule l’immunité contre la tuberculose

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SAVAGE disentangles the viral jungle


By establishing the genomic map of the main variants of a single viral population, this bio-computing tool enables the rapid identification of their characteristics—a technical feat that could help contain some epidemics.

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A molecular Trojan Horse to eliminate tumours


Researchers have succeeded in bringing a drug to the centre of its cellular target using a lipid present in blood. This novel procedure has made it possible to enhance the effectiveness of a molecule used in the treatment of numerous cancers.

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Tara sounds the Pacific coral beds


Since the spring of 2016, the famous schooner has been trawling the Pacific Ocean from East to West to review the situation of its coral reefs.

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Medical implants will soon be autonomous in terms of energy


Researchers have developed a miniature enzymatic bio-battery capable of driving an electronic chip. The perspective of being able to operate miniaturized medical sensors using our own body fluids seems to be within reach.

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The hypothesis of a geochemical origin of life is gaining ground


Researchers have been able to recreate most of the steps of the reverse Krebs cycle in the absence of enzymes.

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Revealing the evolution of an aquatic bug against the current


The study of a semi-aquatic insect connects the emergence of a morphological trait with the apparition of new genes in this species. This discovery sheds light on evolutionary processes.

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Magnetized cells to repair organs


For the first time, researchers have been able to fashion and stimulate tissue structures using simple magnets. This research, carried out on preliminarily magnetized embryonic stem cells, could contribute to improving the efficacy of organ grafts.

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Could sexual life be viral?


Researchers have identified a protein that is responsible for the fusion between two sexual cells, one male and one female.

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A novel memory control mechanism is revealed


To fix a memory, neurones add neurotransmitter receptors to their synapses. This form of regulation is notably involved in the learning process.

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The spatial structure of the genome is involved in the construction of the brain


Researchers have been able to draw up an accurate map of the neuronal genome during differentiation.


NEWS IN BRIEF



Innovation



In brIef


Momentum selects 19 projects


The Momentum programme announced its laureates, having selected 19 projects out of the 430 eligible applications. Launched in 2016, this programme supports scientists of any nationality, who obtained their PhD less than eight years ago. It backs innovative research in emerging and cross-disciplinary fields. The researchers receive funding of up to 60,000 euros per year for a period of three years.