A mini-brain has been created from reprogrammed human skin cells. It allows studying brain development as well as pharmacological and toxicological effects of new drugs. Combined with machine learning algorithms – some of which are able to predict toxicities with a 90 % accuracy –, this strategy has become a credible alternative to animal testing.

Continuous interaction between hosts and parasites is a force that drives evolution. It forces its enemies to adapt. For mankind, this competition has shaped our immune system, modifying our key genes according to the parasites encountered. Today, scientists are studying the impact of two major infectious diseases: malaria and HIV.

The anti-inflammatory role of the bacteria Faecalibacterium prausnitizii, present in the gut, has now been identified. We created a start-up to test the effects of this bacteria in patients suffering from chronic inflammatory bowel disease. This microorganism could give rise to a new type of probiotic.

Fragments of fetal DNA float in maternal blood. This discovery of circulating fetal DNA opened the way for non-invasive prenatal testing which, for instance, makes it easier to detect Down syndrome, also known as trisomy 21. It might also be replicated to other fields like cancer detection, tells Dennis Lo, who pioneered this research.

Disturbance in the brain’s cholesterol metabolism is one of the factors responsible for Alzheimer’s disease. The gene therapy that we have developed inserts a specific gene into the neurons of the hippocampus and can correct the part of the brain involved in memory.

“Destroying neurons in the zona incerta leads to weight reduction”. The aim of this chronicle is not to propose solutions for losing weight before the holidays, but to share with you the latest knowledge on the brain mechanisms that govern our desire to eat.

Following archaeological digs, analysis of the lead pollution in sediments in the antique port of Naples proves that the region’s vast water supply network, based on the Augustan Aqueduct, was profoundly affected by the infamous eruption of Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeii.

In the year 79, the eruption of Vesuvius buried a large swathe of the Bay of Naples in a cloud of ash. It entirely destroyed Pompeii and Herculanum, and killed more than 3,000 people. Historians and archaeologists have long wondered about the consequences of the eruption on the water supply of the bay, a popular holiday destination for the Roman aristocracy.

Towns on the Bay of Naples were supplied with fresh water by the Aqua Augusta, a network of galleries, canals, r...

Binge drinking, or the massive and rapid consumption of alcohol, affects the adolescent brain. Studies in humans and rodents reveal the mechanisms at play.

In brief

  • Alcohol consumption alters the brains of adolescents and young adults differently depending on whether the subjects are so-called “social” drinkers or fans of “binge drinking”.

  • Binge drinking is associated with damage to white matter (neuronal wiring) accompanied by alteration to the medium-term memory.

  • In rodents, it causes a long-term alteration of the function of one synaptic receptor essential for memory.

“The odd episode of binge drinking leaves no traces!” This statement, collected from secondary school pupils during visits to schools was the starting po...

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Photo Bernard Martinez

DR. DOMINIQUE LEGLU

Managing Editor

 

La Recherche, founded in 1970, is a major source of science information in France for science-interested citizens, leading universities and research institutions. The site Researchinfrance.com publishes the English version of a series of articles about the most advanced achievements appearing in our printed French version.

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November 11, 2018

November 11, 2018

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