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Honey bees are an important species for ecology and economy, but their population has shrank worryingly. Prof. Philipp Engel focuses on gut microbiota, a critical factor for bee health, to understand how it evolved and diversified over time. His study addresses timely questions about evolution, ecology, microbiology and could eventually contribute to new strategies for managing bee colonies’ health.
EU-funded researchers planted, harvested, processed and analysed the life cycle of woody crops to establish how efficient and environmentally friendly they are as a source of fuel for electricity and heat.
The abundant presence of a certain bacteria in our intestine, Akkermansia muciniphila, to give it its full name, is an excellent sign according to metabolism and nutrition specialist prof. Patrice Cani. With his team, they discovered the role of these bacteria in reducing cardiometabolic risk factors - like insulin resistance or hypertension – that are leading causes in the development of cardiovascular diseases and type-2 diabetes.
ELECTION SERIES #1
There is now more information circulating than at any other time in history. Every day mind-boggling amounts of data are produced, reaching over 2.5 quintillion bytes. With the European elections just around the corner, we take a look at an ERC funded project on how politicians stay knowledgeable amidst this information overload. The research by grantee Prof. Stefaan Walgrave from the University of Antwerp compares how different politicians process information and then act on it in three western, post-industrialist parliamentary democracies - Israel, Belgium and Canada. An original study, which unveils some optimistic findings just as voters prepare to head to the polls.
Teaching is certainly one of the most important professions in our society, yet its status and attractiveness have been systematically diminishing in the last decades. At the Université catholique de Louvain, Prof. Xavier Dumay is using his ERC Starting Grant to investigate the cultural and institutional transformations that have led to this "teaching profession crisis".
More than 100 million people worldwide suffer from valvular heart disease, affecting one or more of the heart’s four valves and causing breathlessness, chest pain, dizziness and fainting. If severe valvular heart disease is not properly treated, chances of surviving decrease, especially in the elderly. The only effective therapy is heart valve replacement, which may entail some risks and lead to revision surgeries. What can be done to improve safety and durability of artificial heart valves?
Originally published in May 2015
Updated in July 2018
With an aging population, Europe sees a rapid increase in the number of people affected by visual disorders requiring surgical intervention. Building on the recent advances in robotic assistance in surgery as well as in precisely targeted drug delivery therapies, Prof. Bradley Nelson has designed innovative microrobotics tools to overcome the particular difficulty of manual-performed eye surgery.
The human brain is a remarkable organ, but how did it evolve to give us such unprecedented cognitive abilities? ERC grantee Pierre Vanderhaeghen and his team from ULB, VIB-KU Leuven turned to the genome for answers: a specific set of genes, found only in humans, could play a determinant role on the size of our brain. Published today in Cell, Vanderhaeghen's EU-funded research helps to unlock the secrets of human evolution.
'Silent killers'. This is how liver diseases are often described. But, are they really that silent? ERC grantee Mathieu Vinken, a pharmacist by training and worldwide expert in toxicology based at Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), has just proven the contrary.
Prof. Gregoire Courtine believes paralysed patients will be able to walk again. This belief has represented the focus of years of work aimed at regenerating the functions of the spinal cord after injury. Thanks to his ERC funding in both 2010 and 2015, Prof. Courtine and his team have been able to develop so-called “personalised neuroprosthetics” that have led immobile rats, and more recently monkeys, to overcome their paralysis.