Yale News: “New Yale-led project looks at the microbiome-social network connection”

Nicholas Christakis (Photo: Yale University)

Nicholas Christakis, Yale’s Sterling Professor of Social and Natural Science, will lead a new project that explores the relationship between face-to-face social networks and the human microbiome.

The Microbiome Biology and Social Networks in the Developing World project, which began Jan. 1 and will continue through December 2022, is funded by a $3.54 million grant from the Zurich-based NOMIS Foundation. Collaborators on the project include Edo Airoldi of Temple University and Ilana Brito of Cornell University.

The project will merge human genomic, microbiome, and social network data to examine important relationships among our own genes, the organisms living in our bodies, and our social connections to one another. In addition, conducting this study within an existing research project will enable further inquiry into how these phenomena are related to the socioeconomic and health data of thousands of people within a social network in rural Honduras.

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Christian Haass’ research, “Loss of TREM2 function increases amyloid seeding but reduces plaque-associated ApoE,” appears in Nature Neuroscience

Christian Haass


Coding variants in the triggering receptor expressed on myeloid cells 2 (TREM2) are associated with late-onset Alzheimer’s disease (AD). We demonstrate that amyloid plaque seeding is increased in the absence of functional Trem2. Increased seeding is accompanied by decreased microglial clustering around newly seeded plaques and reduced plaque-associated apolipoprotein E (ApoE). Reduced ApoE deposition in plaques is also observed in brains of AD patients carrying TREM2 coding variants. Proteomic analyses and microglia depletion experiments revealed microglia as one origin of plaque-associated ApoE. Longitudinal amyloid small animal positron emission tomography demonstrates accelerated amyloidogenesis in Trem2 loss-of-function mutants at early stages, which progressed at a lower rate with aging. These findings suggest that in the absence of functional Trem2, early amyloidogenesis is accelerated due to reduced phagocytic clearance of amyloid seeds despite reduced plaque-associated ApoE.

Caroline Maake is “Turning up the heat on cancer”

Caroline Maake (photo: Nathalie Huber)

A new kind of heat treatment could be an effective way of supporting cancer therapy. UZH’s Nathalie Huber describes in her article “Turning up the heat on cancer” how NOMIS scientist and professor of anatomy Caroline Maake is heating up tumors using naturally occurring nanoparticles, which has shown to eliminate cancer cells in animal models. Thanks to two funding projects, the UZH professor can continue to develop this promising approach and use it on horses suffering from tumors of the connective tissue.

Extended and repeated exposure to high temperatures, or hyperthermia, results in the cells activating stress proteins, which tell the body’s immune cells to target the sick cells. Even only a minor temperature increase, for example to 43 to 45°C, is enough to kill off cancer cells. The elevated temperature spreads through the tumor and sensitizes the tissue so that it better absorbs drugs or radiation.

Maake is co-leading with Edouard Alphandéry the project Mechanisms of the Anti-Cancer Activity Generated by Magnetosomes at UZH in Zurich, Switzerland. The project is exploring the therapeutic potential of magnetosome-based hyperthermia as an efficient, safe and cost-effective treatment strategy for difficult-to-treat malignant diseases, such as sarcoma and glioblastoma, in animal and human patients.

An interview with Nilüfer Göle: “Europe’s homegrown Turkish ethno-nationalists”

Nilüfer Göle (photo: Picture Alliance)

According to sociologist Nilüfer Göle, many European countries have failed to integrate their Muslim and Turkish citizens. In an interview published on qantara.de, an internet portal dedicated to promoting dialogue with the Islamic world, Göle argues that this has served to deepen social polarization in Europe. The interview, titled “Europe’s homegrown Turkish ethno-nationalists,” was conducted by Luca Steinmann.

Göle is professor of sociology at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (School of Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences, or EHESS) in Paris and a NOMIS board member. She is leading the project Public Space Democracy.

The project Qantara.de is run by Deutsche Welle and involves the Goethe-Institut, the Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen (Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations), and the Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung (Federal Center for Political Education) as members of the project advisory committee. The project is funded by the German Foreign Office.

Johannes Fink honored with Fritz Kohlrausch Award

Johannes Fink (photo by Wolfgang Ernst)

NOMIS scientist Johannes Fink has received the Fritz Kohlrausch Award of the Austrian Physical Society (Fritz Kohlrausch Preis der Österreichischen Physikalischen Gesellschaft, ÖPG). APA-Science reported on the award in the article “Johannes Fink vom IST Austria mit Fritz Kohlrausch Preis geehrt” (in English, “Johannes Fink from IST Austria honored with Fritz Kohlrausch Award”). The prize was established in 1955 and is awarded every two years to honor outstanding achievements in experimental physics. In his award-winning work, Fink and his research team succeeded in developing an important electrical component — a circulator — that is about 100 times smaller than what was previously possible. This breakthrough could help in the future to realize quantum computers with a large number of quantum bits.

Fink is co-leader of the Hybrid Semiconductor — Superconductor Quantum Devices project at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST).

NOMIS awardee Wyss-Coray and Salk Institute, a NOMIS partner, selected to lead studies on brain aging, better treatments for neurodegenerative diseases

Tony Wyss-Coray

Three new large-scale, multidisciplinary research teams have just been assembled to answer questions related to the aging brain and Alzheimer’s disease. Today, the American Heart Association, the world’s leading voluntary organization focused on heart and brain health, and the Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group, a division of the Allen Institute, announced awardees of the American Heart Association-Allen Initiative in Brain Health and Cognitive Impairment, a new collaborative funding initiative launched earlier this year. The teams, which include NOMIS Distinguished Scientist Awardee Tony Wyss-Coray and Rusty Gage of the Salk Institute, a NOMIS partner, will combine research of the brain and the blood vessels to develop a new understanding of — and ultimately better preventions and treatments for — age-related brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Rusty Gage (photo: Salk Institute)

The three teams, headquartered at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, CAStanford University School of Medicine in Stanford, CA and University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center in Cleveland, OH, respectively, will work to develop new solutions to the urgent problem of age-related cognitive decline. As people live longer in many parts of the world, Alzheimer’s and other age-related dementias are on the rise, projected to reach more than 75 million people worldwide by 2030. To date, no effective therapy has been developed for these disorders, which are not only deadly, but also exact a high financial and emotional toll on society.

“The questions we are asking in this project are on a frontier that’s really unknown,” said Rusty Gage, Ph.D., neuroscience researcher and president of Salk, who will lead one of the new research teams. “How do we age, and why do some people age differently? I’m hopeful that we will reach a coherent answer to that question. We’re all going to age, and through our work we want to provide a map for healthy aging.”

Gage will lead an interdisciplinary group of professors at Salk that believe that Alzheimer’s disease and other age-related brain disorders are triggered not by a single event, but by a failure of complex interwoven biological systems in our body that start to break down as we age.

Wyss-Coray will lead a research team on a four-year project to unlock the biological secrets of youth and rejuvenation in young blood. They will search for the damaging proteins and molecules that accumulate in blood with aging, obesity and vascular disease, with the goal to neutralize these factors and protect against age-related diseases. The research team hopes to ultimately figure out how to mimic the beneficial effects of young blood to create new therapeutics for vascular dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and other aging-related brain disorders.

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Salk awarded $19.2 million by the American Heart Association-Allen Initiative to study Alzheimer’s and aging in the brain