Gut bacteria influence brain development

Extremely premature infants are at a high risk for brain damage. Researchers at the University of Vienna and the Medical University of Vienna have now found possible targets for the early treatment of such damage outside the brain: Bacteria in the gut of premature infants may play a key role. The research team found that the overgrowth of the gastrointestinal tract with the bacterium Klebsiella is associated with an increased presence of certain immune cells and the development of neurological damage in premature babies. The study is now published in journal Cell Host & Microbe.

Emergent magnetic monopoles controlled at room temperature

Three dimensional (3D) nano-network promise a new era in modern solid state physics with numerous applications in photonics, bio-medicine, and spintronics. The realization of 3D magnetic nano-architectures could enable ultra-fast and low-energy data storage devices. Due to competing magnetic interactions in these systems magnetic charges or magnetic monopoles can emerge, which can be utilized as mobile, binary information carriers.

Attachment style secures your love during lockdowns

What constitutes good relationship quality in times of crisisRelationships are crucial for our health and well-being. But which factors help to sustain a satisfying relationship, and can we predict which relationships make it through a crisis? An international team led by Stephanie Eder of the University of Vienna set out to investigate these questions during a time when ‘hard lockdowns’ were introduced throughout Europe.

Bacterial survival kit to endure in soil

Soils are one of the most diverse habitats on the planet. There are more than thousand microbial species per gram that significantly influence numerous environmental processes. However, the majority of these organisms are believed to be in a state of ‘dormancy’ due to environmental stress, such as nutrient-poor conditions. An international team of scientists led by Dagmar Woebken and Stephanie A. Eichorst from the University of Vienna investigated how acidobacteria, which are widespread in soils, can survive under adverse conditions. Two recent studies published in “The ISME Journal” and “mSystems” describe these survival strategies.

The evolution of axial patterning

Body axes are molecular coordinate systems along which regulatory genes are activated. These genes then activate the development of anatomical structures in correct locations in the embryo. Thus, the body ensures that we do not develop arms on our heads or ears on our backs. In many organisms, the main body axis is regulated by the β-catenin signaling pathway. In a new article in Nature Communications, a research group led by Grigory Genikhovich at the University of Vienna has found that the way the main body axis of sea anemones is patterned by different intensities of β-catenin signaling is similar to that of sea urchins and vertebrates. This suggests that this axial patterning mechanism already existed about 650 million years ago.

Atomic-scale tailoring of graphene approaches macroscopic world

Properties of materials are often defined by imperfections in their atomic structure, especially when the material itself is just one atom thick, such as graphene. Researchers at the University of Vienna have now developed a method for controlled creation of such imperfections into graphene at length scales approaching the macroscopic world. These results, confirmed by atomically resolved microscope images and published in the journal Nano Letters, serve as an essential starting point both for tailoring graphene for applications and for the development of new materials.

Quantum-nonlocality at all speeds

The phenomenon of quantum nonlocality defies our everyday intuition. It shows the strong correlations between several quantum particles some of which change their state instantaneously when the others are measured, regardless of the distance between them. While this phenomenon has been confirmed for slow moving particles, it has been debated whether nonlocality is preserved when particles move very fast at velocities close to the speed of light, and even more so when those velocities are quantum mechanically indefinite.

Bacteria hijack latent phage of competitor

Bacteriophages are still a relatively unknown component of the human microbiome. However, they can play a powerful role in the life cycles of bacteria. Biochemist Thomas Böttcher from the University of Vienna and PhD student Magdalena Jancheva were able to show for the first time how Pseudomonas bacteria use a self-produced signal molecule to selectively manipulate phages in a competing bacterial strain to defeat their enemy. This targeted control of phages provides entirely new biotechnological and therapeutic approaches, e.g. for phage therapies. The results produced in the context of an ERC grant have been published in the “Journal of the American Chemical Society”.

Meiosis: Mind the gap

Meiosis is a specialized cell division process required to generate gametes, the reproductive cells of an organism. During meiosis, paternal and maternal chromosomes duplicate, pair, and exchange parts of their DNA in a process called meiotic recombination. In order to mediate this exchange of genetic material, cells introduce double strand breaks (DSBs) into their chromosomal DNA. Scientists from the lab of Franz Klein from the Department of Chromosome Biology at the Max Perutz Labs, a joint venture of the University of Vienna and the Medical University of Vienna, have now discovered that cells sometimes liberate DNA fragments at sites of paired, or double, DSBs. Whilst this presents an obvious risk of germline mutations as a consequence of erroneous repair or of integration of fragments from elsewhere at break sites, it may also be a source of evolutionary diversity. The study is published as a research article in Nature.

DNA-based material with tunable properties

While DNA is often idealised as the molecule of life, it is also a highly sophisticated polymer that can be used for next-generation materials. Beyond the fact that it can store information, further fascinating aspects of DNA are its geometric and topological properties, such as knotting and super-coiling. Indeed, very much like a twisted telephone cord, DNA is often found coiled up inside bacteria and other cells and even knotted in viruses.

Crystalline supermirrors for trace gas detection in environmental science and medicine

In an international cooperation with partners from industry and research, physicists from the University of Vienna, together with Thorlabs, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the University of Kansas, have now succeeded for the first time in demonstrating high-performance laser mirrors in the sensing-relevant mid-infrared wavelength range that absorb less than ten out of a million photons.

New ancient shark discovered

In a new study, an international team led by Sebastian Stumpf from the University of Vienna describes a fossil skeleton of an ancient shark, which is assigned to a new, previously unknown genus and species. This rare fossil find comes from the Kimmeridge Clay Formation in England, a series of sedimentary rocks that was formed in a shallow, tropical-subtropical sea during the Upper Jurassic, about 150 million years ago. The fossil shark skeleton was found more than 20 years ago on the southern coast of England and is now held in the Etches Collection. Additional fossil shark specimens from it will be investigated in the years to come.

Where do the gender differences in the human pelvis come from?

The pelvis is the part of the human skeleton with the largest differences between females and males. The female birth canal is on average more spacious and exhibits shape features that enable birth of a large baby with a big brain. In forensics, these pelvic differences are used for sex identification of human skeletons. Thus far it was unclear when these pelvic differences first appeared in human evolution. Barbara Fischer from the University of Vienna and her coauthors have published a study in Nature Ecology & Evolution presenting new insights into the evolutionary origin of pelvic sex differences.

Agricultural biodiversity:

To minimize negative impacts of agriculture on biodiversity and related ecosystem services, “biodiversity-friendly” management is needed. Why scientific results are rarely translated into agricultural practice could be explained by their different perceptions of agricultural biodiversity, according to the results of a recent survey of European scientists and farmers.

Fossilized feeding frenzy:

An international team of scientists with Fridgeir Grímsson from the University of Vienna has found a previously unknown fossil fly species in old lake sediments of the Messel Pit, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Germany. In the stomach of the fossil insect, pollen from various plants could be detected, which allows rare insights into the feeding behavior, the ecology and the role of the fly as a pollinator.

How a ladybug warps space-time

Researchers at the University of Vienna and the Austrian Academy of Sciences, led by Markus Aspelmeyer have succeeded in measuring the gravitational field of a gold sphere, just 2 mm in diameter, using a highly sensitive pendulum – and thus the smallest gravitational force. The experiment opens up new possibilities for testing the laws of gravity on previously unattained small scales. The results are published in the journal Nature.

Promising metallodrug candidate for tumour therapy

BOLD-100/KP1339 is a ruthenium-based anticancer agent that has been decisively co-developed at the University of Vienna and which has shown promising results in clinical trials in cancer patients. However, the mode of action of this metal compound has not yet been fully elucidated. Researchers from the University of Vienna and the Medical University of Vienna have now been able to demonstrate that BOLD-100 binds to ribosomal proteins in tumour cells. The study now published with a cover in “Angewandte Chemie” can support a more targeted application of BOLD-100 as tumour-inhibiting active agent.

Lack of diversity in science

Women and the Global South are strikingly underrepresented
Most publications in leading scientific journals are by male authors from English-speaking countries. This changes only slowly, according to a recent study on diversity in top authorship, concludes Bea Maas from the University of Vienna. Her new study examines the (non-existent) diversity in top authorship in science.

Life of a pure Martian design

Experimental microbially assisted chemolithotrophy provides an opportunity to trace the putative bioalteration processes of the Martian crust. A study on the Noachian Martian breccia Northwest Africa (NWA) 7034 composed of ancient (ca. 4.5 Gyr old) crustal materials from Mars, led by ERC grantee Tetyana Milojevic from the Faculty of Chemistry of the University of Vienna, now delivered a unique prototype of microbial life experimentally designed on a real Martian material. As the researchers show in the current issue of “Nature Communications Earth and Environment”, this life of a pure Martian design is a rich source of Martian-relevant biosignatures.

Quantum effects help minimise communication flaws

Noise limits the performance of modern quantum technologies. However, particles traveling in a superposition of paths can bypass noise in communication. A collaboration between the Universities of Hong-Kong, Grenoble and Vienna, as well as the Austrian Academy of Sciences, under the lead of Philip Walther, reveals novel techniques to reduce noise in quantum communication.

Marmoset monkeys have personalities too

In humans, differences in personalities have been evident since the ancient times. Personality in animals has long been ignored, but recently this question has received increasing research interest as it has been realized that personality has evolutionary and ecological significance. An international team of behavioral biologists from Austria, Brazil and the Netherlands, with Vedrana Šlipogor from the University of Vienna as leading author of the study, designed a set of tasks to assess personality of common marmosets.

Spectacular fossil discovery: 150 million-year-old shark was one of the largest of its time

In a new study, an international research team led by Sebastian Stumpf from the University of Vienna describes an exceptionally well-preserved skeleton of the ancient shark Asteracanthus. This extremely rare fossil find comes from the famous Solnhofen limestones in Bavaria, which was formed in a tropical-subtropical lagoon landscape during the Late Jurassic, about 150 million years ago.

More than just a sun tan: ultraviolet light helps marine animals to tell the time of year

Changes in daylength are a well-established annual timing cue for animal behavior and physiology. An international collaboration of scientists led by Kristin Tessmar-Raible at the Max Perutz Labs, a joint venture of the University of Vienna and the Medical University of Vienna, now shows that, in addition to daylength, marine bristle worms sense seasonal intensity changes of UVA/deep violet light to adjust the levels of important neurohormones and their behavior.

Sweet taste reduces appetite?

The sweet taste of sugar, energy intake and the regulatory process of hunger and satietyTo date, very little is known about how sweetness perception contributes to satiety. This study, conducted by an Austrian-German team led by chemists Veronika Somoza and Barbara Lieder, provides new insights into the relationship between the sweet taste of sugar, energy intake and the regulatory process of hunger and satiety.

Producing leather-like materials from fungi

Leather is used as a durable and flexible material in many aspects of everyday life including furniture and clothing. Leather substitutes derived from fungi are considered to be an ethical and environmentally friendly alternative to traditional bovine leather. An international team led by material chemists Alexander Bismarck and Mitchell Jones from the University of Vienna demonstrate the considerable potential of these renewable sustainable fabrics derived from fungi in their latest review article in “Nature Sustainability”.

Searching for stress-resistant potatoes

Plant Biologist Markus Teige at the Faculty of Life Sciences of the University of Vienna has received a €5 million grant from the Horizon 2020 EU Program to study mechanisms how potato’s adapt to multiple environmental stresses. He coordinates a consortium of 17 European leading academic research institutions, potato breeders, a non-profit EU association, a government agency and a screening technology developer.

When learning on your own is not enough

We make decisions based on not only our own learning experience, but also learning from others. But with the presence of other people’s choices, how do we learn from them to better inform our own learning? Is social learning processed differently from direct learning? In a new study, published in “Science Advances”, neuroscientist Lei Zhang of the University of Vienna provides empirical evidence that there are parallel computations for direct learning and social learning and they are carried out in distinct but interacting regions in the brain.

Evolution in real-time: How bacteria adapt to their hosts

Some bacteria become increasingly infectious when they have to move from cell to cell in order to survive. Bacteria that invade animal cells in order to multiply are widespread in nature. Some of these are  pathogens of humans and animals. In the environment, they are often found inside unicellular organisms. A research team led by Matthias Horn at the Centre for Microbiology and Environmental Systems Science at the University of Vienna has made use of  laboratory experiments to gain a better understanding of how these bacteria adapt to their host cell over time and become increasingly infectious under certain conditions.

Between shark and ray: The evolutionary advantage of the sea angels

Angel sharks are sharks, but with their peculiarly flat body they rather resemble rays. An international research team led by Faviel A. López-Romero and Jürgen Kriwet of the Institute of Palaeontology has now investigated the origin of this body shape. The results illustrate how these sharks evolved into highly specialised, exclusively bottom-dwelling ambush predators and thus also contribute to a better understanding of their threat from environmental changes.

Material and genetic resemblance in the Bronze Age Southern Levant

Different “Canaanite” people from the Bronze Age Southern Levant not only culturally, but also genetically resemble each other more than other populations. A team around Ron Pinhasi from the Department of Evolutionary Anthropology found in a recent study that their DNA is a mixture of two populations: The Chalcolithic Zagros and Early Bronze Age Caucasus. The results have been published in “Cell”.

First fossil nursery of the great white shark discovered

An international research team led by Jaime A. Villafaña from the Institute of Palaeontology at the University of Vienna discovered the first fossil nursery area of the great white shark, Carcharodon carcharias in Chile. This discovery provides a better understanding of the evolutionary success of the largest top predator in today’s oceans in the past and could contribute to the protection of these endangered animals. The study is published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Nature Unveiling Herself Before Science

21st century societal challenges such as demographic developments and an ageing population demand for new functional materials, such as for bone prostheses. Nature often serves as inspiration when designing these materials. In a recent study published in Analytical Chemistry, a team led by ERC awardee Dennis Kurzbach of the Faculty of Chemistry at the University of Vienna reports an innovative approach for high-resolution real-time monitoring of calcium phosphate mineralisation, which is an important natural process for the formation of, e.g., bone, carapace and teeth. They showed how next generation NMR technology allows to create new knowledge about the efficiency of natural materials.

Atomic fingerprint identifies emission sources of uranium

Uranium is not always the same: depending on whether this chemical element is released by the civil nuclear industry or as fallout from nuclear weapon tests, the ratio of the two anthropogenic, i.e. man-made, uranium isotopes 233U and 236U varies. These results were lately found by an international team grouped around physicists from the University of Vienna and provides a promising new “fingerprint” for the identification of radioactive emission sources.

Each Mediterranean island has its own genetic pattern

A Team around Anthropologist Ron Pinhasi from the University of Vienna – together with researchers from the University of Florence and Harvard University – found out that prehistoric migration from Africa, Asia and Europe to the Mediterranean islands took place long before the era of the Mediterranean seafaring civilizations.

Dancing Matter: New form of movement of cyclic macromolecules discovered

Physicists show unique polymer behavior using computer simulationsEmploying a computer simulation, physicists Maximilian Liebetreu and Christos Likos have shown a unique dynamic behavior of cyclic polymers. Their motion can be distinguished into phases, and the scientists were able to observe the so-called “inflation phase” for the first time.