The social amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum is used widely in the laboratory as a convenient ‘model organism’ to help discover, among other things, how cells move, and how they fight bacterial infection. In the soil under your feet and in forest leaf litter, where it normally lives, this organism also goes through an enigmatic sexual cycle.
Landmark research led by Dr Leo James from the LMB’s PNAC Division has discovered that antibodies can fight viruses from within infected cells. This finding transforms the previous scientific understanding of our immunity to viral diseases like the common cold, ‘winter vomiting’ and gastroenteritis. It also gives scientists a different set of rules that pave the way to the next generation of antiviral drugs.
Dr Venki Ramakrishnan’s lab from the LMB’s Structural Studies Division have uncovered the molecular mechanism by which toxins such as ricin and alpha-sarcin inhibit protein synthesis in cells. It was known that these toxins act on a highly conserved RNA loop in the ribosome, the molecular machinery which synthesises proteins in both prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells.
Researchers led by Dr Bazbek Davletov at the LMB have developed a new method of joining and rebuilding molecules in the laboratory and have used it to refine Clostridium botulinum neurotoxin type A (more commonly known as botox). This new approach will enable researchers to improve its use as a treatment for diseases such as Parkinson’s, cerebral palsy and chronic migraine. It also opens up new avenues to develop new forms of the toxin which could be used as a method of long-term pain relief.
Sexual attraction between males and females could be down to differences in the way the brain is wired up, according to work from the lab of Dr Greg Jefferis at LMB. The research was carried out in fruit flies in collaboration with colleagues at the Research Institute of Molecular Pathology (IMP) in Vienna.
Fruit flies share many genes with mammals, and are at the forefront of research into the neural basis of behaviour.
A collaborative research group based at the LMB and the University of Manchester have successfully used a drug to reset and restart the natural 24-hour body clock of mice in the lab. The ability to do this in a mammal opens up the possibility of dealing with a range of human difficulties including some psychiatric disorders, jet lag and the health impacts of shift work.
A team of scientists led by LMB’s Brad Amos has engineered a microscope with a giant lens, known as the ‘Mesolens’, that can examine thousands of cells and the detail inside each cell at the same time. The microscope has been heralded as revolutionary by scientists and could transform how researchers observe living cells in the lab.
The microscope is now being displayed at the Royal Society’s Summer Science Exhibition, opening today at the South Bank Centre, London.
Researchers at LMB, lead by Dr Andrew McKenzie, have discovered a novel cell type that could lead to the development of new treatments for asthma, a disease that affects the lives of 5.4 million people in the UK.
The new cells, named nuocytes, are a key early source of Interleukin 13 (IL-13), a crucial immune chemical in the asthma response. Thus, nuocytes represent a previously missing link in the critical immune pathway that is turned on during asthma attacks.