news 2023


Life Sciences

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Health - Life Sciences - 20.12.2023
Discoveries about our cells: the ability to feel relief
Discoveries about our cells: the ability to feel relief
How are our cells able to detect tiny asperities in their support, the extracellular matrix, which bind them together - By what mechanism - Do they manage to modify their behavior in response to these small reliefs - These are the questions to which a team of cell biology researchers from UNamur and UCLouvain have provided major answers, which have just been published in the prestigious scientific journal Science Advances.

Life Sciences - Health - 14.12.2023
Crack in the wall of WHO’s top priority pathogens
In a breakthrough discovery, scientists from VIB-VUB Center for Structural Biology unraveled the mysteries of SlyB, a tiny but mighty protein found in the outer membrane of certain bacteria. When bacteria face stress, SlyB acts as a crucial guardian to protect the bacterial cell from dying. This discovery not only deepens our understanding of bacterial survival mechanisms but also paves the way for potential applications in antimicrobial research.

Life Sciences - Social Sciences - 13.12.2023
Babies' brains prioritize human voices
Babies’ brains prioritize human voices
The voice is the most important sound for human beings, providing information about the identity, gender, age and emotional state of the speaker, as well as being the basis of our communication through language and other non-linguistic cues. Adults have a specific brain area that responds preferentially to voice among all other sounds.

Life Sciences - Environment - 06.12.2023
Arctic vs Antarctic lake microbes: new research reveals unique evolutionary tales
High Arctic (left) and Continental Antarctic (right) lake bottoms, covered by dense microbial mats. Credits: David Velazquez An international research team of scientists led by biologists from Ghent University investigated the biodiversity and evolutionary history of microorganisms in Arctic, sub-Antarctic and Antarctic lakes in the first large scale study using DNA.

Life Sciences - 23.11.2023
Rotifers: what explains the exceptional resistance of these microorganisms?
Rotifers: what explains the exceptional resistance of these microorganisms?
Bedeloid rotifers, those mysterious microorganisms, display remarkable resistance to desiccation, ionizing radiation and even freezing. Under the direction of Karine Van Doninck - Faculty of Science, a team of researchers is investigating the molecular basis of this exceptional resistance, making rotifers model animals for research .

Life Sciences - 20.11.2023
Thanks to KU Leuven, we now have better understanding of the worldwide diversity in cranial shape, and how deformations occur
Peter Claes has successfully identified the genetic factor that accounts for the large variation in the shape of human skulls and faces, before subsequently identifying which of these genes play an important role in the risk of craniosynostosis, a condition where the fibrous sutures of a baby's skull join together too early, preventing the skull from expanding as the brain develops and grows in the first two years of life.

Life Sciences - 17.11.2023
VUB researcher develops three-dimensional model of the testis
VUB researcher develops three-dimensional model of the testis
Male fertility and reduced sperm quality plays a role in half of the cases of couples who cannot conceive. Research into the various causes of reduced sperm quality is hampered by incomplete knowledge of male reproductive biology. Therefore, Guillaume Richer of the Biology of the Testis research group at the Free University of Brussels developed a 3D model of the testis or testicle for his PhD study.

Life Sciences - Health - 15.11.2023
First wireless map of worm’s nervous system revealed
Researchers have built the first ever map showing how every single neuron in the nervous system of a tiny worm communicates wirelessly. This huge step forward in understanding how neurons communicate through extremely short proteins called neuropeptides will help scientists understand how our emotions and mental states are controlled, as well as widespread neuropsychiatric conditions like eating disorders, OCD and PSTD.

Health - Life Sciences - 08.11.2023
Next generation of fluorescent medical imaging
Next generation of fluorescent medical imaging
Researchers Maarten Kuijk and Hans Ingelberts of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel are leading the international European consortium CoDaFlight (Colouring the Dark in Fluorescent light). The consortium's aim is to lay the foundation for the use of fluorescence lifetime imaging in medical procedures such as image-guided surgery and monitoring disease-related processes.

Health - Life Sciences - 27.10.2023
Intercellular messengers start revealing themselves 
The cells in our body continuously keep each other informed. They do this by exchanging, among other things, virus-like vesicles. Pascale Zimmermann's group, from the Department of Human Genetics, has been studying these vesicles for many years. Her fundamental research is necessary to use these intercellular messengers in medicine.

Life Sciences - Research Management - 19.10.2023
New insights into the genetics of the common octopus
New insights into the genetics of the common octopus
Octopuses are fascinating animals - and serve as important model organisms in neuroscience, cognition research and developmental biology. To gain a deeper understanding of their biology and evolutionary history, validated data on the composition of their genome is needed, which has been lacking until now.

Life Sciences - Health - 22.09.2023
VUB increases commitment to 3Rs principle in animal testing policy
Participation in regional action plan motivates university in ambition to replace, reduce and refine animal testing As a humanist university, the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) believes that science and empathy go hand in hand. In research that involves animals, respect and welfare are paramount. VUB recently committed to be part of the regional action plan of Flemish Animal Welfare minister Ben Weyts to reduce animal testing.

Life Sciences - 06.09.2023
Models of complete, day 14 human embryos grown from stem cells
Models of complete, day 14 human embryos grown from stem cells
A research team headed by Prof. Jacob Hanna at the Weizmann Institute of Science has created complete models of human embryos from stem cells cultured in the lab - and managed to grow them outside the womb up to day 14. As reported in Nature , these stem-cell embryo models had all the structures and compartments characteristic of this stage, including the placenta, yolk sac, chorionic sac and other external tissues that ensure the models' dynamic and adequate growth.

Life Sciences - 28.07.2023
Underground amphibians evolved worldwide immunity to snake venom
Frogs, toads and salamanders are fairly common sight in our gardens, forests and ponds. However, the chance that you ever encountered a caecilian is much smaller. These mysterious animals only live in tropical regions such as Southeast Asia, Africa and the Amazon rainforest. Like other amphibians, amphibians are vertebrates.

Life Sciences - Health - 28.07.2023
A key to detecting Alzheimer’s with certainty
For years, scientists trying to gain a better understanding of Alzheimer's disease or other neurodegenerative disorders - tauopathies, since they involve the tau protein - have come up against one difficulty: how to diagnose the disease - beforehand - in a completely reliable way, since only autopsy today enables us to describe the tau protein aggregates in the brain, and thus to know with certainty what type of neurodegenerative disease the person was suffering from.

Life Sciences - Health - 03.07.2023
KU Leuven research generates new insights into the development and care for ’the little brain’ of the gut
Loss of nerve cells is a process that can take place not only in the brain, but also in the (less well-known) nervous system in the gut. A new study, carried out at KU Leuven and published in Nature , shows that specialised immune cells shape this nervous system, enabling the gut to make the transition to solid food early in life.

Health - Life Sciences - 04.05.2023
Researcher monitors antibiotic resistance using a smartphone
Researcher monitors antibiotic resistance using a smartphone
Researchers from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and the EPFL in Lausanne, Switzerland, have developed a highly efficient method for rapid testing the sensitivity of bacteria to antibiotics. The technique, optical nanomotion detection (ONMD), is extremely fast, precise to a single cell and requires only a traditional microscope equipped with a camera or a mobile phone.

Life Sciences - Environment - 04.04.2023
VUB PhD research: early microbial ancestor of humans loved extremes and can teach us about origin of life on Earth
Archaea, representing a group of primordial microbes which were recently found to be very related to humans, often grow best in extreme environments. While many bacteria (which are standing very far from us from a evolutionary point of view) can withstand only small fluctuations in temperature and acidity, Archaea are true survival champions.

Life Sciences - 04.04.2023
How genes, brain characteristics and intelligence are connected
Genes influence different structures and the function of the brain. These in turn explain differences in behaviour. Analysing all three aspects at once is a challenge - and has been achieved for the first time. Intelligence is partly heritable. There are studies that show that certain genetic variations are linked to better performance in intelligence tests.

Life Sciences - 29.03.2023
A pain is coming? Uncertainty intensifies brain activity and influences perception
A pain is coming? Uncertainty intensifies brain activity and influences perception
The perception of pain is a crucial signal that allows us to protect our body integrity. On the other hand, when a pain persists over time, the brain must learn to predict its evolution in order to limit the risk of injury. A team of scientists from the Institute of Neuroscience of the UCLouvain (IoNS), Prof. André Mouraux and Dounia Mulders , FNRS research fellow, together with their colleagues Ben Seymour (University of Oxford, UK) and Flavia Mancini (University of Cambridge, UK) are trying to understand these prediction mechanisms.