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This 8 March, the ERC celebrates the achievements of grantee Dr Mariana Graña, a determined researcher in a branch of physics where women are still noticeably underrepresented. She reflects on how far women have come in Theoretical Physics and what is still needed to overcome the gender-role stereotypes associated with this appealing but abstract field of science.
Tamoxifen, a drug used in breast cancer treatment, may be repositioned to treat pancreatic cancer
Pancreatic cancer is the 4th leading cause of death by cancer in Europe. It has a very low survival rate with less than 1 per cent of sufferers surviving for 10 or more years. Over the last 40 years the survival rate has not significantly changed and finding an effective therapy has become a pressing challenge in cancer research. A team based at Imperial College London led by Armando Del Río Hernández, has now demonstrated that a well-known drug could be effective to fight this deadly and other forms of cancer, such as liver cancer.
CRISPR is a widely used molecular biology tool exploiting an immune process discovered in bacteria. Dr David Bikard studies CRISPR in bacterial cells, in conjunction with different DNA repair systems, to create even newer tools. He hopes to gain insight into bacterial genetics, and develop increasingly effective medical treatments.
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.
Scientists led by ERC grantee Emma Teeling have identified part of the molecular mechanism that gives bat species Myotis their extraordinary long and healthy lifespans. The longest-lived bats can live over 41 years of age while weighing only 7g, which is the human equivalent of some 234 years. They also maintain good health longer than many other mammals. The findings, published in the journal Science Advances, focus on the protective structures at the end of chromosomes, called telomeres. Bats may have evolved unique telomere maintenance mechanisms which allow them to repair age-related cell damage.
Our immune system recognizes and fights infections in a constantly changing environment, where new pathogenic threats emerge. At the crossroad between physics and biology, Prof. Aleksandra Walczak investigates the fascinating process that allows the immune system to be always ready to adapt and evolve to face new dangers.
ERC grantee Prof. Maria Antonietta De Matteis studies membrane trafficking in cells and how its components interact and are regulated to guarantee a healthy cell function. Her work could revolutionise our understanding of this key biological process.
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."
European researchers have identified a novel approach to prevent the growth of cancer tumours and inhibit them from spreading, potentially leading to highly effective treatments with fewer side effects.
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.