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Our soils are inhabited by millions of microorganisms; however, the majority of them lay dormant. In her ERC project, Prof. Dagmar Woebken explores the mechanisms that allow soil microorganisms to go into dormancy and thus survive unfavorable conditions. It is further the goal to reveal the environmental signals that lead to their resuscitation to perform important ecosystems functions.
Being able to generate human tissue in vitro in a dish is expected to revolutionise biomedical research. European researchers generated brain organoids to study the mechanisms of various neurological disorders and discover novel drugs to treat them.
Prof. Giulio Superti-Furga and his team work on understanding the movement of molecules across human cells. In a paper recently published on Cell Host & Microbe, they outline the significance of a single protein, SLC4A7, in phagocytosis, the body's first line of defence against infection. These results, however, go beyond the context of infectious diseases, with repercussions on our knowledge of processes like inflammation and cancer.
Fascinated by clouds and planes since childhood, she became a meteorologist and aerosol scientist. Prof. Bernadett Weinzierl looks at the atmosphere but she also flies through it, aiming to understand what happens in the upper layers of the sky. Using an ERC starting grant for her A-LIFE project, she chases aerosols, those tiny particles suspended in the air which are critically important to the global climate system.
Two newly-discovered security flaws in computer processors, named Meltdown and Spectre, could allow unauthorised users to gain direct access to the heart of computer systems and steal personal data. The vulnerabilities were discovered by an international research team, in which Graz University of Technology’s Institute of Applied Information Processing and Communications (TU Graz, Austria) played a central role. The EU's European Research Council (ERC) has been supporting this research project since 2016, to the tune of two-million euro.
All cancers carry epigenetic alterations. But the biological function of these alterations is not well understood. In his ERC project, Prof. Christoph Bock explores their functional role by introducing these alterations into cancer and normal cells. Successful engineering of an epigenetic leukaemia could challenge the idea that all cancers are driven by genetic alterations.
Jeremy O’Brien is Professor of Physics and Electrical Engineering at the University of Bristol. His current work focuses on bringing quantum computing into reality, with the potential to transform healthcare, energy, finance and the internet. Professor O’Brien is pursuing a photonic approach to manufacturing a large-scale universal quantum computer, exploiting the extraordinary silicon fabrication capability developed by the silicon chip industry.
Originally published in March 2017 as part of the multimedia campaign "ERC - 10 years – 10 portraits."
Cellular regeneration allows wound healing in humans but in other vertebrates such as salamanders, it goes a step further: they can regenerate their limbs in their full complexity of bones, nerves, muscle and skin and can do it over and over again. Prof. Elly Tanaka studies these amazing capacities and, mirroring the process, has successfully grown a piece of mouse spinal cord in vitro.
Major floods around the world have raised questions about the frequency and magnitude of such phenomena. Although changes in climate and land use are known to play a critical role in river floods, how they actually translate into considerable variations in intensity remains unknown. Prof. Günter Blöschl addresses this issue.