Tumours need a steady supply of sufficient nutrients to be able to grow. So they stimulate neighbouring blood vessels to proliferate and sprout using messenger compounds. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Neurological Research have now figured out the role of the Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF) and its receptor ‘VEGFR-2’ in human lung adenocarcinoma. When VEGF binds to VEGFR-2 on cancer cells, secretion of the growth-factor itself is boosted consequently accelerating tumour growth. In experiments the scientists switched off the growth-factor and proteins responsible for this signalling thereby slowing down tumour growth. The tumours were even reduced in size by employing other inhibitors in combination. Furthermore they also learnt from examinations of lung cancer patients that therapy with these inhibitors only makes sense if the cancer cells express large numbers of VEGFR2. These results can contribute to developing new cancer therapies.
Picture: The feedback loop of the tumour: The cancer cells secrete the growth-factor VEGF (yellow) in order to stimulate nearby blood vessels to introduce small sprouts into the tumour. At the same time, the cells also express VEGFR-2 on their surface, which the VEGF binds to. In this way, the cancer cells are stimulated to produce even more VEGF. © MPI for Neurological Research
The Life Science Inkubator in Bonn promotes new research team: Scientists from the Life Science Inkubator (LSI), which was established by the technology transfer organisation Max Planck Innovation with the aim of facilitating spin-offs in the field of the life sciences, want to explore new directions in the area of pain therapy. The aim is to suppress pain using weak electric and mechanical stimuli. The stimulation will be generated using special bandages with integrated high-tech chips. Preliminary studies indicate that this process is particularly suited to the alleviation of chronic pain.
Picture: The caesar resarch center in Bonn, residence of the LSI (©caesar)
A previously unknown serine protease forms part of the antibacterial defence arsenal of neutrophil granulocytes: Neutrophil granulocytes comprise important defences for the immune system. When pathogenic bacteria penetrate the body, they are the first on the scene to mobilise other immune cells via signal molecules, thereby containing the risk. To this end, they release serine proteases – enzymes that cut up other proteins to activate signal molecules. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology in Martinsried have now discovered a new serine protease: neutrophil serine protease 4, or NSP4. This enzyme could provide a new target for the treatment of diseases that involve an overactive immune system, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
About 130,000 people throughout the world suffer spinal cord injuries every year, often as a result of sports or motorcycle accidents. Around half of those affected by such injuries can no longer move their legs, and many are paralyzed from the cervical vertebrae down. Special proteins hinder the renewed growth of the severed nerve cell fibers, the axons. A research team from the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology discovered that the injection of the drug Taxol makes the axons grow again. These basic research findings now have to be developed further and could be the basis for future treatment of spinal cord injuries.
Picture: A damaged axon with the microtubules arranged in an orderly
manner continues to grow (top) –unlike one with its cytoskeleton
in disarray (bottom).
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Neurobiology have succeeded in making the spinal cord transparent. The new method is a breakthrough for regeneration research. It enables researchers to both examine nerve cells in intact tissue and portray it in all three dimensions. So they can see if these nerve cells recommence their growth after a spinal cord injury – an essential prerequisite for future research like for searching new ways to stimulate these cells to resume their growth.
Picture: A spinal cord as if made of glass – The new method enables scientists to see nerve cell in the intact cellular network.
© MPI of Neurobiology / Ertürk
A stroke leads to the loss of brain functions due to a lack of blood in the brain. Reasons can be ischemia, a lack of blood flow due to e.g. thrombosis, or leakage of blood. The loss of brain function often results in the inability to move the limbs on one side of the body. Also the thinking power or speech can be affected in a negative way. Now researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Neurological Research and the Department of Neurology at the University Hospital of Cologne found out that not only cell death in the actual stroke area plays a role in the inability of stroke patients to fully regain their original motor capacities. Moreover, the regeneration after a stroke requires intact communication channels between the two halves of the brain. The team is currently examining whether they can regenerate the communication between the brain hemispheres through early and regular stimulation treatment. The long-term aim is to improve motor deficits in stroke patients.
Picture: Stroke damage (white circle) can destroy the communication channels within the brain. This depiction of stretches of fibres show that the damage can also affect fibres between the hemispheres (red) which whither in the course of the illness, thus hindering the exchange of information between the hemispheres. © MPI for Neurological Research.
MPI for Neurobiology: Intestinal flora could trigger multiple sclerosis with special genetic predisposition
Beneficial intestinal bacteria are involved in the emergence of multiple sclerosis. The microorganisms of the intestine can activate immune cells and trigger the overreaction of the immune system. The researchers from the Max Planck institute discovered that genetically modified mice develop an inflammation in the brain similar to the human disease if they have normal bacterial intestinal flora. The findings suggest that in humans with the corresponding genetic predisposition, the essentially beneficial intestinal flora could act as a trigger for the development of multiple sclerosis.
Picture: Autoaggressive B-cells (green) in a lymph node close to the brain. The activation of the B-cells takes place in the germinal centres (blue) of the lymph node. The activated cells produce antibodies against the myelin layer in the brain, thus contributing to the occurrence of inflammatory reactions. © MPI f. Neurobiology Continue reading
Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology discovered special signalling substances in the larval nervous system regulating swimming depth of the larvae. Since the swimming behaviour of plankton is crucial for the survival and prevalence of thousands of marine animal species the research results could be of great importance for marine ecology.
Picture: Light microscope image of the larva of the marine annelid Platynereis. The larvae swim freely in the sea, moved by activity of their thousands of tiny hair-like structures, which form a band along the larval body (ciliary band), beating coordinately. © Markus Conzelmann, MPI for Developmental Biology