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Water is a peculiar liquid. In fact, it's thanks to some of its peculiarities that our "blue" planet looks the way it does, and that life has evolved most of the characteristics we recognise today. ERC grantee Prof. Anders Nilsson has made his career out of studying water, in particular trying to understand the secret double life water leads at extremely cold temperatures.
Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths. European researchers developed novel ex vivo three-dimensional organoid cultures that replicate genetic events in CRC, as tools to test novel therapeutics.
After the birth of quantum mechanics in the early 20th century, this branch of physics evolved from being primarily the conceptual framework for the description of subatomic particle phenomena to providing inspiration for new technological applications. New hybrid architecture of quantum systems is now being developed in order to foster the implementation of cutting-edge quantum technologies.
Maria Brandão de Vasconcelos, together with her colleague Filipa Matos Baptista, Henrique Veiga-Fernandes (ERC grantee), Diogo Fonseca Pereira and Sílvia Arroz Madeira, founded StemCell2MAX in 2015. The company is a biotechnology start-up, specialised in cell based therapies, including novel solutions to multiply the scarcely available blood stem cells, addressing an enormous demand for research and cancer treatment. StemCell2MAX technology is based on Prof. Veiga-Fernandes's ground-breaking discoveries in hematopoietic stem cell biology.
Originally published in March 2017 as part of the multimedia campaign "ERC - 10 years – 10 portraits."
An ERC-funded project has significantly increased understanding of the crucial role that microorganisms in the gut play in maintaining health. The findings have since led to a patent, as well as a follow-on project that could one day steer the way to new targeted treatments for diseases, including cancer.
Through her work with the fruit fly Drosophila santomea, Dr Virginie Orgogozo aims to answer one of the most challenging questions of modern evolutionary biology: how do observable characteristics change between species and yet remain stable in a given species?
Haematopoietic Stem Cells (HSCs) are blood cells located in the bone marrow. These cells are extensively used in research to develop treatments for many severe diseases, including HIV and multiple sclerosis, and their transplant is a key therapy for certain types of cancer like leukemia and multiple myeloma. However, the use of HSCs is seriously constrained by their limited availability since growing them in the lab does not produce very large quantities. There is therefore an urgent need for methods allowing scientists to multiply HSCs, without losing any of their properties.
In physics, scientists can predict the existence of a particle which is eventually, soon after or considerably later, observed experimentally. The Higgs boson is one of the most striking recent examples. ERC grantee Leo Kouwenhoven has recently made such a demonstration proving the existence of the “Majorana fermion”, a particle theorised in the 1930s. Detecting Majorana’s particles is not only exciting for particle physicists; thanks to their properties they could prove useful as stable “quantum bits” of information that could make quantum computers a reality.
With her degree in biology, Dr Maria-Elena Torres-Padilla left Mexico and embarked on an international career in epigenetics. She completed her PhD at the Pasteur Institute in Paris and then moved to Cambridge University. In 2006 she joined IGBMC in Strasbourg working as a group leader. She has just been appointed Director of the Institute of Epigenetics and Stem Cells of the Helmholtz Zentrum in Munich. Supported by an ERC grant, she studies the mechanisms controlling embryonic cellular plasticity with the aim of shedding new light on today's fertility issues. In this interview she shares her story as a non-European scientist in Europe.
Cellular regeneration allows wound healing in humans but in other vertebrates such as salamanders, it goes a step further: they can regenerate their limbs in their full complexity of bones, nerves, muscle and skin and can do it over and over again. Prof. Elly Tanaka studies these amazing capacities and, mirroring the process, has successfully grown a piece of mouse spinal cord in vitro.