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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.
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.
An ERC-funded project is conducting groundbreaking research into a rare form of leukaemia, proving the effectiveness in patients of non-chemotherapy-based treatments that target the genetic cause of the disease. The Hairy Cell Leukemia project, launched by the Institute of Hematology at the University of Perugia in Italy with funding from the European Research Council, is one of the world’s foremost initiatives to develop a targeted therapy for hairy cell leukaemia (HCL), a rare form of blood cancer.
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.
If Darwin could have scuba dived, he would have enjoyed the East African lakes: Victoria, Malawi and Tanganyika. Here live the cichlids – a colourful fish which has evolved rapidly into thousands of species, emulating and surpassing Darwin's finches in the Galapagos. Prof. Walter Salzburger, an Austrian researcher, is using his ERC grants to study the diversity of cichlids from ecological, morphological and genetic viewpoints. He believes these unique fish provide an ideal model system to understand the "how" and the "why" in questions of evolutionary biology: questions that relate to all life on earth.
Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) is increasingly used to help women become pregnant. The most common technique is in vitro fertilisation, i.e. the transfer of fertilised human eggs into a woman's uterus. However, ART can imply risks for the embryo during the pregnancy or even later in life. With a grant of the European Research Council (ERC), Polish researcher Dr Grazyna Ewa Ptak has analysed sheeps embryos. With her team at the University of Teramo, she has discovered the precise timing and nature of placental disorders consequent to ART. Her findings can greatly improve reproductive technologies and lead to safer pregnancies for both women and animals.
Many of the electronic gadgets we currently take for granted already use ‘spintronics’ – for instance, the high-capacity hard disks that we find in today’s laptops. With the help of her ERC funding, Professor Roberta Sessoli is advancing our knowledge of the fundamental properties of molecular magnets and quantum spin, research which may lead to new molecular spin-based technologies. Prof Sessoli will attend the conference ERC – 5 years of achievement and the Italian National Information Day on the ERC funding schemes in Rome on 25 June 2012.