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Most recent news releases

Apr 18, 2014 University of Zurich tests immune cells on the International Space Station

The human body is fine-tuned to Earth’s gravity. A team headed by Professor Oliver Ullrich from the University of Zurich’s Institute of Anatomy is now conducting an experiment on the International Space Station (ISS) to study whether this also applies to human cells. On the evening of April 18, the transporter spaceship Dragon lifted off from the Cape Canaveral launch center in Florida with a cargo of UZH immune cells on board.

Apr 14, 2014 Beneficial organisms react differently to parasite drug

The drug ivermectin is used around the world to combat parasites in humans and animals. The active ingredient is also known to harm dung-degrading beneficial organisms. An international research team headed up by evolutionary biologists at the University of Zurich have now demonstrated that certain dung organisms react more sensitively to ivermectin than previously assumed. Hence there is a need for more sophisticated field tests.

Apr 10, 2014 Camels emit less methane than cows or sheep

When digesting ruminants exhale methane. Their contribution to this global greenhouse gas is considerable. So far the assumption had been that camels with similar digestion produce the same amount of the climate-damaging gas. However, researchers at the University of Zurich and ETH Zurich have now shown camels release less methane than ruminants.

Apr 9, 2014 Brain Size Influences Development of Individual Cranial Bones

abstract

In mammals, embryonic cranial development is modular and step-wise: The individual cranial bones form according to a defined, coordinated schedule. The typical increase in the size of the brain in mammals in the course of evolution ultimately triggered changes in this developmental plan, as a study conducted on embryos of 134 species of animal headed by palaeontologists from the University of Zurich reveals.

Mar 31, 2014 Using different scents to attract or repel insects

abstract

Flowering plants are able to make flexible use of their scents. If the focus is on pollination they attract insects with the scent of their flowers. If they are infested with parasites, they reduce the release of floral scents which then attracts more beneficial partner insects for their defence. This has been demonstrated by a Swiss-Italian team led by evolutionary biologists from the University of Zurich using a plant that is closely related to rapeseed.

Mar 24, 2014 Unfolded proteins collapse when exposed to heat and crowded environments

Not only folded proteins fulfil important functions in the human body; unfolded or intrinsically disordered proteins (IDPs) likewise assume major tasks. Researchers at the University of Zurich have observed how molecular forces influence protein structure. The unfolded proteins become smaller when exposed to elevated temperatures and density stress.

Mar 20, 2014 Amphibians and dinosaurs were the new large predators after the mass extinction

Abstract

Immediately after the biggest extinction event of all time there were once again functioning and complete food webs in the oceans of the Early Triassic. Contrary to previous assumptions there were large predators, too. Large predatory fish and amphibians, and later dinosaurs too, were the last link in the food chain. This is demonstrated in new studies by palaeontologists at the Universities of Zurich and Utah, USA.

Mar 12, 2014 Parasites in humans influence each other via shared food sources

Humans are often infected by parasites, sometimes even several species at a time. Such co-infections are more difficult to treat if the parasites interact with each other. An ecologist from the University of Zurich and his international team have compiled a list of the numerous possibilities as to how parasites can interact: They are most likely to do so indirectly via the food source they share.

Mar 3, 2014 Homing in on cancer with a comprehensive measurement method

Whether a tumour develops from individual cancer cells and whether metastases are formed depends on many factors in the affected tissue. A greater understanding of a tumour’s complex switch and control circuits could help to combat cancer in a more targeted fashion. Researchers at the University of Zurich have come up with an imaging method that is able to simultaneously visualize a previously unachieved number of factors involved in cancer.

Feb 25, 2014 Brainstem discovered as important relay site after stroke

After a stroke, sufferers are often faced with the problem of severe movement impairment. Researchers at the Brain Research Institute of the University of Zurich have now discovered that the brainstem could play a major role in the recovery of motor functions. The projection of neurons from this ancient part of the brain into the spinal cord leads to the neural impulses needed for motion being rerouted.

Feb 5, 2014 Attractive professional cyclists are faster

A study by the University of Zurich demonstrates a link between attractiveness and endurance performance, showing that successful Tour de France cyclists are more attractive. This preference for faster riders is particularly strong in women who are not using a hormonal contraceptive.

Jan 30, 2014 Blood and lymphatic capillaries grown for the first time in the lab

Researchers at the University Children’s Hospital Zurich and the University of Zurich have engineered skin cells for the very first time containing blood and lymphatic capillaries. They succeeded in isolating all the necessary types of skin cells from human skin tissue and engineering a skin graft that is similar to full-thickness skin.

Jan 29, 2014 Zebrafish use sunscreen also for camouflage

Abstract

Zebrafish embryos camouflage themselves against predators by adapting to the surface. Neurobiologists from the University of Zurich have discovered that this camouflage mechanism actually started out as sunscreen to protect the fish against DNA damaging shortwave solar radiation at embryonic stages.

Jan 23, 2014 Central Europeans already digested milk as well as us 1,000 years ago

Abstract

Back in the Middle Ages, Central Europeans were already capable of digesting milk, yoghurt and cheese just as well as us today. Researchers at the University of Zurich’s Centre for Evolutionary Medicine have discovered that the population of the medieval town of Dalheim had a similar genetic predisposition for milk digestion to present-day Germans and Austrians. Moreover, the study reveals that lactose tolerance was more widespread than previously believed.

Jan 20, 2014 Cocaine users enjoy social interactions less

Regular cocaine users have difficulties in feeling empathy for others and they exhibit less prosocial behavior. A study at the Psychiatric Hospital of the University of Zurich now suggests that cocaine users have social deficits because social contacts are less rewarding for them. Social skills should therefore be trained during the treatment of cocaine addiction.

Jan 16, 2014 Meltwater from Tibetan glaciers floods pastures

Abstract

The earth is warming up, the glaciers are shrinking. However, not all meltwater is causing sea-level rise as feared. In Tibet, as measurements taken by an international team of researchers including the University of Zurich reveal, a significant proportion of the meltwater remains on land. The consequences are, however, equally negative: it can cause lakes without an outlet to overflow and flood valuable pastureland.

Dec 19, 2013 Young killer cells protect against infectious mononucleosis

Most people are carriers of the Epstein-Barr Virus, which can trigger infectious mononucleosis. Those who become infected as adults are more at risk of becoming ill from it. By contrast, children who become infected are protected by their innate immune system. This is because young «natural killer cells» fight off infectious mononucleosis, as immunologists from the University of Zurich have now shown. The researchers are now testing vaccinations that could protect young people from the illness.

Dec 10, 2013 One in two users accepts a lack of privacy on the internet

85 out of every 100 people in Switzerland have access to the internet. Internet usage is on the rise, with even 70 percent of senior citizens going online. However, the concerns about using the internet are still substantial ─ for example with regard to companies monitoring the data. In general, young people are less worried and women are more concerned about protecting their privacy. These are the results of a study carried out by the Institute of Mass Communication and Media Research (IPMZ) at the University of Zurich.

Dec 2, 2013 Congenital heart defects affects long-term developmental outcome

Babies born with a congenital heart defect may face long-term neurodevelopmental impairments. Researchers from the Children’s Hospital Zurich revealed that adolescents may exhibit a smaller brain volume many years after cardiac surgery compared to their peers. Moreover, they are also more likely to have learning or motor difficulties.

Nov 25, 2013 New immuno-therapy for malignant brain tumors

Glioblastoma is one of the most ominous brain tumors. Despite aggressive surgery, radiation and chemotherapy the outcome of this disease is almost always fatal. A UZH research team has now achieved success with a novel form of treatment that involves encouraging the body’s own immune system to recognise and eliminate cancer cells in the brain.