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A European biologist has pioneered a new way of looking at biodiversity change, with the help of the European Research Council (ERC). A key result of this work has been the launch of an open-access biodiversity database, which will help researchers and conservation managers find sustainable solutions to protect wildlife.
About the size of a big cherry, the first-of-its-kind 3D printed heart has cells, blood vessels, ventricles and chambers. This feat is the work of Prof. Tal Dvir and his team at Tel Aviv University. They managed to engineer such miniature organs using cells and biological materials that are originated from human patients. Besides the remarkable technical achievement, this breakthrough could potentially be the answer to the shortage of organ donors in the future.
Bacteria fight big. When they meet competitors, they are as aggressive and bloodthirsty as they come. ERC grantee Kevin Foster studies how bacteria wage war against each other. His aim is to understand what led to the evolution of such extreme competitive behaviours, and how to exploit them for our own health.
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.
Our soils are inhabited by millions of microorganisms; however, the majority of them lay dormant. In her ERC project, Prof. Dagmar Woebken explores the mechanisms that allow soil microorganisms to go into dormancy and thus survive unfavorable conditions. It is further the goal to reveal the environmental signals that lead to their resuscitation to perform important ecosystems functions.
The deep seafloor covers around 70% of our planet’s surface and is home to a diverse community of microorganisms, mostly bacteria. These single-cell life forms inhabit some of the most extreme places in the world, with freezing waters, permanent darkness, high pressure and little food. ERC grantee Antje Boetius studies these microbes in the abyss and their important role for the Earth’s nutrient cycles.
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.
Until recently, lungs were believed to be sterile, but today we know that they are inhabited by microbes migrating from the mouth. Dr Randi Bertelsen has been awarded an ERC grant to investigate the role played by the oral microbiome in lung disease.
Diseases affecting the retina cause one quarter of worldwide blindness. To date, there are no treatments to restore lost retinal cells and visual function, making it urgent to find new therapeutic approaches. Can stem cells be the solution? Prof. Majlinda Lako aims at growing artificial replicas of the human retina using stem cells.
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.