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On a clear summer night, look up to the sky and what do you see? Ordinary matter such as planets, stars maybe even an asteroid. Millions of little specks, as far as the eyes can reach. This ordinary matter, also known as baryonic matter, is the primary observable component of our universe. But is what we see all that is out there?
If you raise your eyes to the sky, you won't see it but you might sense it passing by. On 12 January just before sunrise in Europe, PicSat, a cube satellite as big as a shoebox and barely as heavy as a brick, will be launched from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, India. Supported with a grant from the European Research Council, it is the first nanosatellite to embark on one of the greatest space adventures: exploring, from afar, an exoplanet.
While women inherit two X chromosomes, the expressions of one of them is shut down during embryonic development. Men have one X chromosome and one Y chromosome. The switching off of women’s second X chromosome is thought to compensate for the presence of only one X in males versus two in females, to balance for X-linked gene products between the sexes. X-chromosome inactivation is also one of the clearest examples of what epigenetic mechanisms do to our genetic material: the DNA of the genes on the X is still present but not actively expressed or needed. Prof. Edith Heard was awarded ERC grants to understand the intricate processes behind the phenomenon, with unexpected results that changed the way gene regulation is now looked at.