Research News

Effort clarifies major branch of insect tree of life

A team of international researchers just published a new study on Hemiptera, using a vast amount molecular data to investigate their evolutionary history of more than 350 million years. An important part of the study was the reconstruction of the phylogenetic trees with a tool developed in the Scientific Computing group at HITS, Heidelberg. The reconstruction was performed on the supercomputer SuperMUC in Garching near Munich.

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New insights into the regulation of haemostasis

German Scientists investigate the structure of the von Willebrand factor (VWF), a key protein involved in blood clotting. HITS researchers from the Molecular Biomechanics group simulated the dynamics of the platelet integrin-binding VWF C4 domain to better understand disease mutations of this protein. The project was supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG).

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ESCAPE: Launch of the European Project for Data Management in Astronomy

2019 marks the beginning of one of the biggest projects for data management in astronomy. The „European Science Cluster for Astronomy & Particle physics ESFRI research infrastructures” (short: ESCAPE) is a consortium of more than 30 European partners that is now developing different strategies to facilitate the management of data-driven research. The project aims, among other things, to make the European science cloud reality and to create infrastructures and methods to deal with the increasing amount of data in astronomy.

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Parasites discovered in fossil fly pupae

Parasitic wasps existed as early as several million years ago. Within a project coordinated by Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), researchers of various disciplines for the first time definitively discovered fossil parasites inside their hosts. The scientists studied fly pupae from old collections using ultrafast X-ray imaging. They found 55 cases of parasitation and described four extinct wasp species that were unknown until now. The project was managed by the KIT. Researchers from HITS and Heidelberg University developed the algorithms and software for the digital reconstruction. Their findings are reported in Nature Communications.

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The need for speed: Why malaria parasites are faster than human immune cells

Elementary cytoskeleton protein is different in parasites and represents a starting point for a possible new therapy against malaria infections. Researchers from the Heidelberg University Hospital, the Centre for Molecular Biology at the University of Heidelberg (ZMBH), and the Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies (HITS) have published these findings in the journal “PLOS Biology”.

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New computational method for drug discovery

HITS researchers developed tauRAMD, a tool to predict drug-target residence times from short simulations. The method is illustrated on the cover page of July 2018 issue of the Journal of Chemical Theory and Computation, software is freely available.

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Accelerated reactions in condensed bio-matter?

HITS researcher Dr. Kashif Sadiq explores ribonucleoprotein granules, a condensed form of bio-matter found inside cells. He investigates whether the rate of enzymatic reactions in these membrane-less granules is accelerated. If true, this would lead to new insights in how cells regulate their biochemistry and may shed light on the origins of life on Earth. The project is funded by the Volkswagen Stiftung with an “Experiment!” grant.

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Protein analysis: Less is more

CONAN to the rescue! The new software-package for molecular dynamic simulations compresses 3D data to contact maps and helps to analyze protein structures. The tool CONAN (CONtact ANalysis), developed at HITS, has now been presented in the latest issue of „Biophysical Journal“.

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EuroNeurotrophin project starts

14 Early Stage Researchers to be trained in a European training network for the discovery of small molecule neurotrophin mimetics as candidate therapeutic agents for neurodegeneration and neuro-inflammation. HITS will host two young scientists who will work on the computer-aided design of neurotrophin mimetics.

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Better Weather Forecasts for Africa: Development Assistance 2.0

Precipitation forecasts are very useful for agricultural areas such as the Sahel. However, while there are reliable models and measurements for Europe, a targeted use of weather information for Africa remains a vision for the future. Scientists from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and the Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies (HITS) are therefore researching methods to improve precipitation forecasts for Africa.

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How black holes shape the cosmos

Astrophysicists from Heidelberg, Garching, and the USA gained new insights into the formation and evolution of galaxies. They calculated how black holes influence the distribution of dark matter, how heavy elements are produced and distributed throughout the cosmos, and where magnetic fields originate. This was possible by developing and programming a new simulation model for the universe, which created the most extensive simulations of this kind to date. First results of the “IllustrisTNG” project have now been published in three articles in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. These findings should help to answer fundamental questions in cosmology.

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The Mexican axolotl Ambystoma mexicanum (Copyright: IMP)

The largest genome ever: Decoding the Axolotl

A team of researchers led by scientists in Vienna, Dresden and Heidelberg has decoded the entire genetic information of the Mexican salamander axolotl. The axolotl genome, which is the largest genome ever to be sequenced, will be a powerful tool to study the molecular basis for re-growing limbs and other forms of regeneration. The journal NATURE publishes the news in its current issue.

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