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Effective treatment for obesity remains a challenge and the only intervention proven to maintain weight loss is bariatric surgery. Intrigued by the beneficial effect that this procedure has on the composition of gut microbiota, Dr Fredrik Bäckhed explores the possibility of mimicking these changes to develop a treatment for obesity that won’t require going under the knife.
Severe traffic jams not only have an impact on mobility, they also raise environmental and health issues linked to fuel consumption and air and noise pollution. Prof. Ludovic Leclercq is developing new traffic control models that could tackle road congestion while integrating a green dimension.
Could migration lead to more respect for ethnic and cultural diversity not only in receiving communities but also in sending countries? By observing the effects of Polish migration to the UK and Germany, as a result of the country’s entry in the EU in 2004, Prof. Magdalena Nowicka explores possible answers to this question.
European researchers have designed brain-like artificial neural networks capable of numerical and spatial cognition and written language processing without any explicit training or pre-programming. Their work, based on the machine-learning approach of generative models, significantly advances the development of self-learning artificial intelligence, while also deepening understanding of human cognition.
For the first time ever, two ERC grantees, Prof. Luca G. Guidotti and Dr Matteo Iannacone, have observed in vivo how specific white blood cells, so-called cytotoxic T lymphocytes, identify, target and attack liver cells that are infected with the hepatitis B virus. To witness these immune cells in action in real time, the two scientists developed advanced, dynamic imaging techniques. An estimated 240 million people are chronically infected with hepatitis B worldwide. This discovery, published today in the scientific journal Cell, opens new horizons for the development of novel therapies.
In 2012, 2.8 million people in the EU were diagnosed with cancer. It is the second most common cause of death in the Union – three out of 10 deaths for men, and two out of 10 deaths for women – a figure that is expected to rise due to the ageing European population. Dr Danijela Matic Vignjevic’s STARLIN project is using ERC funding to understand how normal cells become cancerous and spread.
The ability to fine-tune the functioning of blood vessels and the circulatory system is essential for combating the remodelling of the arteries that leads to heart attacks and strokes. It is also needed for the controlled repair of blood vessels after injury – which may otherwise result in a number of serious conditions. ERC grantee Professor Stefanie Dimmeler and her team at Frankfurt University are studying the role ribonucleic acid (RNA) plays in fine-tuning vascular functions – with the aim of developing new therapies for cardiovascular diseases, which are the most prevalent in Europe, due to growing obesity and longer lifespans.
The genetic heredity a person is born with isn't as impossible to change as one might think. In a study published in Cell Metabolism on 7 March 2012 Juleen Zierath, an ERC Advanced grantee 2008, and her team of researchers from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden showed that when healthy but inactive men and women are made to exercise it actually alters chemical marks on their DNA - in a matter of minutes.