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.

Françoise Barré-Sinoussi won the Nobel Prize for medicine in 2008 for jointly discovering the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). She looks back at the many strategies to eliminate the cells that carry it and talks about the search for a vaccine against AIDS and her progress towards other vaccines in the future.

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.

“Cracking” the code to our genome, understanding the external factors that control gene expression, determining the mechanisms responsible for causing genetic diseases; this is delicate and laborious work that could soon be automated thanks to new techniques in artificial intelligence. Bringing genomics into a whole new era.

Thanks to genomics and bioinformatics, we brought together about thirty enzymes from a wide variety of different organisms, creating anticancer drugs and painkillers in baker’s yeast. This strategy paves the way for wide-scale production of these plant-inspired medicines.

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.

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With my head resting against the window inside a high-speed train, I enjoy watching the vegetation along the tracks forming lines moving far faster than the mountains on the horizon. What in our vision system manages to estimate speed of movement like this? Our brain probably has complex neuronal networks responsible for this task. Recent studies in fact have shown that pre-processing movement-related visual information occurs well before the brain - in the retina!

Contrary to what we were told in school, the retina is not just a light sensor. The layer of neurons that covers the back of our eyes and translates light into electrical impulses does not...

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


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 publishes the English version of a series of articles about the most advanced achievements appearing in our printed French version.


November 11, 2018

November 11, 2018

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