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  • richardmitnick 7:55 am on November 28, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Max Planck Gesellschaft, Max-Planck-Princeton partnership in fusion research confirmed, Plasmas in astrophysics are being investigated at Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Göttingen and of Astrophysics in Garching and at the Faculty of Astrophysics of Princeton Universit,   

    From Max Planck Gesellschaft: “Max-Planck-Princeton partnership in fusion research confirmed” 

    Max Planck Gesellschaft

    November 28, 2017

    Isabella Milch
    Press Officer, Head of Public Relations and Press Department
    Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics, Garching
    +49 89 3299-1288
    isabella.milch@ipp.mpg.de

    Investigation of plasmas in astrophysics and fusion research / funding for another two to five years.

    The scientific performance of Max-Planck-Princeton Center for Plasma Physics, established in 2012 by the Max Planck Society and Princeton University, USA, has been evaluated and awarded top grade. The Max Planck Society has now decided to continue its support for another two to maximum five years with 250,000 euros annually. The center’s objective is to link up the hitherto less coordinated research on fusion, laboratory and space plasmas and utilise synergies.

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    Turbulence in solar wind plasma. The simulation shows the magnetic field fluctuations due to turbulence. Their spatial and temporal structures can be compared with space probe measurements
    © MPI for Plasma Physics / Daniel Told

    The center’s partners in fusion research are Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics (IPP) at Garching and Greifswald and Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) in the USA. Plasmas in astrophysics are being investigated at Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Göttingen and of Astrophysics in Garching and at the Faculty of Astrophysics of Princeton University. Primarily through exchange of scientists, particularly junior scientists, computer codes have been jointly developed in the past five years and experimentation has been pursued on the devices MRX at Princeton, Vineta at Greifswald and ASDEX Upgrade at Garching. “For the evaluation the center presented a total of 150 publications, accounting for significant progress in central areas of plasma physics and astrophysics”, states Professor Per Helander, head of IPP’s Stellarator Theory division and, alongside Professor Amitava Bhattacharjee from PPPL, Deputy Director of Max-Planck-Princeton Center since 2017.

    For example, the old question in astrophysics why solar wind is much hotter than the sun’s surface can now be treated with a computer code developed to describe turbulence in fusion plasmas. This enabled plasma theoreticians from IPP along with US colleagues to investigate in detail the heating mechanism in solar wind plasma – with hitherto unattained accuracy – and compare their results with space probe measurements.

    Another puzzle whose solution has been approached at Max-Planck-Princeton Center: Why is it that in outer space and in the laboratory magnetic reconnection, i.e. rupture and relinking of magnetic field lines, is much faster than theory predicts? Whether solar corona or fusion plasma, the rearrangement of the field lines is always accompanied by fast conversion of magnetic energy to thermal and kinetic energy of plasma particles. Physicists from Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research and from the University of Princeton have described a fast mechanism that could describe the observations in the solar corona: formation of unstable plasmoids. Also the sawtooth instability in fusion plasmas, i.e. continual ejection of particles from the plasma core, derives from instantaneous reconnection of magnetic field lines. In the framework of the Max-Planck-Princeton cooperation IPP scientists have now come up with the first realistic simulation that can explain the superfast velocity.

    Last but not least, a new theory ansatz for calculating magnetic equilibria, first developed at Princeton, led to a very fast computer code. With the new algorithm, equilibrium calculations for the complex magnetic fields of future stellarator fusion devices no longer take months, but just a few minutes.

    “As hoped, the center has created new cooperations and built sturdy bridges, on the one hand between research on plasmas in fusion devices, in the laboratory and in outer space, and on the other hand between US and German plasma physicists”, as IPP’s Scientific Director Professor Sibylle Günter sums up the past five years of Max-Planck-Princeton Center. Along with Professor Stewart Prager of PPPL she is one of the two Co-directors of the center. The successful cooperation has meanwhile attracted further partners. In July 2017, a Memorandum of Understanding for admission of Japan’s National Institutes of Natural Sciences was signed: “We look forward to the next years of joint research”, states Sibylle Günter, “made possible by the present confirmation by the Max Planck Society”.

    Max Planck Princeton Research Center for Plasma Physics

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    Welcome to the Max-Planck-Princeton Center for Fusion and Astro Plasma Physics

    The center fosters collaboration between scientific institutes in both Germany and the USA. By leveraging the skills and expertise of scientists and engineers in both countries, and by promoting collaboration between astrophysicists and fusion scientists generally, the center hopes to accelerate discovery in fundamental areas of plasma physics.

    An equally important mission of the center is to support education and outreach to train the next generation of scientists. In the USA, this includes hosting training workshops for K-12 science teachers, and sponsoring summer research experiences for undergraduates.

    In Germany, the host institutions are the Max-Planck-Institut für Plasmaphysik (IPP), the Max-Planck-Institut for Solar System Research (MPS), and the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics (MPA). In the USA, the host institutions are the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), and the Department of Astrophysical Sciences at Princeton University.

    To find out more about the Center, follow the links here.

    Funding for the Center is generously provided by the DoE Office of Science, the National Science Foundation, the Max-Planck Society, NASA’s Heliophysics Division, and Princeton University.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    The Max Planck Society is Germany’s most successful research organization. Since its establishment in 1948, no fewer than 18 Nobel laureates have emerged from the ranks of its scientists, putting it on a par with the best and most prestigious research institutions worldwide. The more than 15,000 publications each year in internationally renowned scientific journals are proof of the outstanding research work conducted at Max Planck Institutes – and many of those articles are among the most-cited publications in the relevant field.

    What is the basis of this success? The scientific attractiveness of the Max Planck Society is based on its understanding of research: Max Planck Institutes are built up solely around the world’s leading researchers. They themselves define their research subjects and are given the best working conditions, as well as free reign in selecting their staff. This is the core of the Harnack principle, which dates back to Adolph von Harnack, the first president of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society, which was established in 1911. This principle has been successfully applied for nearly one hundred years. The Max Planck Society continues the tradition of its predecessor institution with this structural principle of the person-centered research organization.

    The currently 83 Max Planck Institutes and facilities conduct basic research in the service of the general public in the natural sciences, life sciences, social sciences, and the humanities. Max Planck Institutes focus on research fields that are particularly innovative, or that are especially demanding in terms of funding or time requirements. And their research spectrum is continually evolving: new institutes are established to find answers to seminal, forward-looking scientific questions, while others are closed when, for example, their research field has been widely established at universities. This continuous renewal preserves the scope the Max Planck Society needs to react quickly to pioneering scientific developments.

     
  • richardmitnick 5:57 pm on November 25, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , KOTTE.ORG, Max Planck Gesellschaft, The Periodic Table of Endangered Elements   

    From KOTTE.ORG via Max Planck: “The Periodic Table of Endangered Elements” 

    Max Planck Gesellschaft

    KOTTE.ORG

    Nov 20, 2017
    Jason Kottke

    1

    Until recently, humanity has treated the Earth as an infinite resource. As the Earth’s population has exploded over the past century however, we’ve learned in many different ways that that’s untrue. We’ve overfished the ocean, pumped too much carbon into the atmosphere and oceans, driven thousands of species into extinction, and terraformed much of the planet’s land. This periodic table produced by the American Chemical Society shows that there are also 44 chemical elements that will face supply limitations in the coming decades. Among those under a “serious threat in the next 100 years” are silver, helium, zinc, and gallium. Robert Silverberg wrote about The Death of Gallium back in 2008:

    ” Gallium’s atomic number is 31. It’s a blue-white metal first discovered in 1831, and has certain unusual properties, like a very low melting point and an unwillingness to oxidize, that make it useful as a coating for optical mirrors, a liquid seal in strongly heated apparatus, and a substitute for mercury in ultraviolet lamps. It’s also quite important in making the liquid-crystal displays used in flat-screen television sets and computer monitors.

    As it happens, we are building a lot of flat-screen TV sets and computer monitors these days. Gallium is thought to make up 0.0015 percent of the Earth’s crust and there are no concentrated supplies of it. We get it by extracting it from zinc or aluminum ore or by smelting the dust of furnace flues. Dr. Reller says that by 2017 or so there’ll be none left to use. Indium, another endangered element-number 49 in the periodic table-is similar to gallium in many ways, has many of the same uses (plus some others-it’s a gasoline additive, for example, and a component of the control rods used in nuclear reactors) and is being consumed much faster than we are finding it. Dr. Reller gives it about another decade. Hafnium, element 72, is in only slightly better shape. There aren’t any hafnium mines around; it lurks hidden in minute quantities in minerals that contain zirconium, from which it is extracted by a complicated process that would take me three or four pages to explain. We use a lot of it in computer chips and, like indium, in the control rods of nuclear reactors, but the problem is that we don’t have a lot of it. Dr. Reller thinks it’ll be gone somewhere around 2017. Even zinc, commonplace old zinc that is alloyed with copper to make brass, and which the United States used for ordinary one-cent coins when copper was in short supply in World War II, has a Reller extinction date of 2037. (How does a novel called The Death of Brass grab you?)

    Zinc was never rare. We mine millions of tons a year of it. But the supply is finite and the demand is infinite, and that’s bad news. Even copper, as I noted above, is deemed to be at risk. We humans move to and fro upon the earth, gobbling up everything in sight, and some things aren’t replaceable.”

    As with many such predictions, the 2017 dates didn’t pan out, but the point that these resources are finite still holds. Eventually, we will run out.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    The Max Planck Society is Germany’s most successful research organization. Since its establishment in 1948, no fewer than 18 Nobel laureates have emerged from the ranks of its scientists, putting it on a par with the best and most prestigious research institutions worldwide. The more than 15,000 publications each year in internationally renowned scientific journals are proof of the outstanding research work conducted at Max Planck Institutes – and many of those articles are among the most-cited publications in the relevant field.

    What is the basis of this success? The scientific attractiveness of the Max Planck Society is based on its understanding of research: Max Planck Institutes are built up solely around the world’s leading researchers. They themselves define their research subjects and are given the best working conditions, as well as free reign in selecting their staff. This is the core of the Harnack principle, which dates back to Adolph von Harnack, the first president of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society, which was established in 1911. This principle has been successfully applied for nearly one hundred years. The Max Planck Society continues the tradition of its predecessor institution with this structural principle of the person-centered research organization.

    The currently 83 Max Planck Institutes and facilities conduct basic research in the service of the general public in the natural sciences, life sciences, social sciences, and the humanities. Max Planck Institutes focus on research fields that are particularly innovative, or that are especially demanding in terms of funding or time requirements. And their research spectrum is continually evolving: new institutes are established to find answers to seminal, forward-looking scientific questions, while others are closed when, for example, their research field has been widely established at universities. This continuous renewal preserves the scope the Max Planck Society needs to react quickly to pioneering scientific developments.

     
  • richardmitnick 4:46 pm on July 15, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Laser communication to the orbit, Max Planck Gesellschaft, , , Quantum cryptography,   

    From Max Planck Gesellschaft: “Quantum communication with a satellite” 

    Max Planck Gesellschaft

    July 10, 2017
    Prof. Dr. Gerd Leuchs
    Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light, Erlangen
    Phone:+49 9131 7133-100
    Fax:+49 9131 7133-109
    gerd.leuchs@mpl.mpg.de

    What started out as exotic research in physics laboratories could soon change the global communication of sensitive data: quantum cryptography. Interest in this technique has grown rapidly over the last two years or so. The most recent work in this field, which a team headed by Christoph Marquardt and Gerd Leuchs at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light in Erlangen is now presenting, is set to heighten the interest of telecommunications companies, banks and governmental institutions even further. This is due to the fact that the physicists collaborating with the company Tesat-Spacecom and the German Aerospace Center have now created one precondition for using quantum cryptography to communicate over large distances as well without any risk of interception. They measured the quantum states of light signals which were transmitted from a geostationary communication satellite 38,000 kilometres away from Earth. The physicists are therefore confident that a global interception-proof communications network based on established satellite technology could be set up within only a few years.

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    More versatile than originally thought: A part of the Alphasat I-XL was actually developed to demonstrate data transmission between the Earth observation satellites of the European Copernicus project and Earth, but has now helped a group including researchers from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light to test the measurement of quantum states after they have been transmitted over a distance of 38,000 kilometres.© ESA.

    Sensitive data from banks, state institutions or the health sector, for example, must not fall into unauthorized hands. Although modern encryption techniques are far advanced, they can be cracked in many cases if significant, commensurate efforts are expended. And conventional encryption methods would hardly represent a challenge for the quantum computers of the future. While scientists used to think that the realization of such a computer was still a very long way off, considerable progress in the recent past has now raised physicists’ hopes. “A quantum computer could then also crack the data being stored today,” as Christoph Marquardt, leader of a research group at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light, states. “And this is why we are harnessing quantum cryptography now in order to develop a secure data transfer method.”

    Quantum mechanics protects a key against spies

    In quantum cryptography, two parties exchange a secret key, which can be used to encrypt messages. Unlike established public key encryption methods, this method cannot be cracked as long as the key does not fall into the wrong hands. In order to prevent this from happening, the two parties send each other keys in the form of quantum states in laser pulses. The laws of quantum mechanics protect a key from spies here, because any eavesdropping attempt will inevitably leave traces in the signals, which sender and recipient will detect immediately. This is because reading quantum information equates to a measurement on the light pulse, which inevitably changes the quantum state of the light.

    In the laboratory and over short distances quantum key distribution already works rather well via optical fibres that are used in optical telecommunications technology. Over large distances the weak and sensitive quantum signals need to be refreshed, which is difficult for reasons similar to those determining the fact that that laser pulses cannot be intercepted unnoticed. Christoph Marquardt and his colleagues are therefore relying on the transmission of quantum states via the atmosphere, between Earth and satellites to be precise, to set up a global communications network that is protected by quantum cryptography.

    2
    Laser communication to the orbit: The infrared image shows the ground station for the communication with the Alphasat I-XL satellite 38,000 kilometres away. The receiver sends an infrared laser beam in the direction of the orbit so that the satellite can find it. Since the beam is scattered by a higher atmospheric layer, it appears as a larger spot. © Imran Khan, MPI for the Science of Light.

    In their current publication [Optica], the researchers showed that this can largely be based on existing technology. Using a measuring device on the Canarian island Teneriffe, they detected the quantum properties of laser pulses which the Alphasat I-XL communications satellite had transmitted to Earth. The satellite circles Earth on a geostationary orbit and therefore appears to stand still in the sky. The satellite, which was launched in 2013, carries laser communication equipment belonging to the European Space Agency ESA. The company Tesat-Spacecom, headquartered in Backnang near Stuttgart, developed the technology in collaboration with the German Aerospace Center as part of the European Copernicus project for Earth observation, which is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy.


    ESA Sentinels (Copernicus)

    While Alphasat I-XL was never intended for quantum communication, “we found out at some stage, however, that the data transmission of the satellite worked according to the same principle as that of our laboratory experiments,” explains Marquardt, “which is by modulating the amplitude and phase of the light waves.” The amplitude is a measure for the intensity of the light waves and the mutual shift of two waves can be determined with the aid of the phase.

    The laser beam is 800 metres wide after travelling 38,000 kilometres

    For conventional data transmission, the modulation of the amplitude, for example, is made particularly large. This makes it easier to read out in the receiver and guarantees a clear signal. Marquardt and his colleagues were striving to achieve the exact opposite, however: in order to get down to the quantum level with the laser pulses, they have to greatly reduce the amplitude.

    The signal, which is therefore already extremely weak, is attenuated a great deal more as it is being transmitted to Earth. The largest loss occurs due to the widening of the laser beam. After 38,000 kilometres, it has a diameter of 800 metres at the ground, while the diameter of the mirror in the receiving station is a mere 27 centimetres. Further receiving mirrors, which uninvited listeners could use to eavesdrop on the communication, could easily be accommodated in a beam which is widened to such an extent. The quantum cryptography procedure, however, takes this into account. In a simple picture it exploits the fact that a photon – which is what the signals of quantum communication employ – can only be measured once completely: either with the measuring apparatus of the lawful recipient or the eavesdropping device of the spy. The exaction location of where a photon is registered within the beam diameter, however, is still left to chance.

    The experiment carried out at the beginning of 2016 was successful despite the greatly attenuated signal, because the scientists found out that the properties of the signals received on the ground came very close to the limit of quantum noise. The noise of laser light is the term physicists use to describe variations in the detected photons. Some of this irregularity is caused by the inadequacies of the transmitting and receiving equipment or turbulences in the atmosphere, and can therefore be avoided in principle. Other variations result from the laws of quantum physics – more precisely the uncertainty principle – according to which amplitude and phase of the light cannot be specified simultaneously to any arbitrary level of accuracy.

    Quantum cryptography can use established satellite technology

    Since the transmission with the aid of the Tesat system already renders the quantum properties of the light pulses measurable, this technique can be used as the basis on which to develop satellite-based quantum cryptography. “We were particularly impressed by this because the satellite had not been designed for quantum communication,” as Marquardt explains.

    Together with their colleagues from Tesat and other partners, the Erlangen physicists now want to develop a new satellite specifically customized for the needs of quantum cryptography. Since they can largely build on tested and tried technology, the development should take much less time than a completely new development. Their main task is to develop a board computer designed for quantum communication and to render the quantum mechanical random number generator space-proof, which supplies the cryptographic key.

    Consequently, quantum cryptography, which started out as an exotic playground for physicists, became quite close to practical application. The race for the first operational secure system is in full swing. Countries such as Japan, Canada, the USA and China in particular are funneling a lot of money into this research. “The conditions for our research have changed completely,” explains Marquardt. “At the outset, we attempted to whet industry’s appetite for such a method, today they are coming to us without prompting and asking for practicable solutions.” These could become reality in the next five to ten years.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    The Max Planck Society is Germany’s most successful research organization. Since its establishment in 1948, no fewer than 18 Nobel laureates have emerged from the ranks of its scientists, putting it on a par with the best and most prestigious research institutions worldwide. The more than 15,000 publications each year in internationally renowned scientific journals are proof of the outstanding research work conducted at Max Planck Institutes – and many of those articles are among the most-cited publications in the relevant field.

    What is the basis of this success? The scientific attractiveness of the Max Planck Society is based on its understanding of research: Max Planck Institutes are built up solely around the world’s leading researchers. They themselves define their research subjects and are given the best working conditions, as well as free reign in selecting their staff. This is the core of the Harnack principle, which dates back to Adolph von Harnack, the first president of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society, which was established in 1911. This principle has been successfully applied for nearly one hundred years. The Max Planck Society continues the tradition of its predecessor institution with this structural principle of the person-centered research organization.

    The currently 83 Max Planck Institutes and facilities conduct basic research in the service of the general public in the natural sciences, life sciences, social sciences, and the humanities. Max Planck Institutes focus on research fields that are particularly innovative, or that are especially demanding in terms of funding or time requirements. And their research spectrum is continually evolving: new institutes are established to find answers to seminal, forward-looking scientific questions, while others are closed when, for example, their research field has been widely established at universities. This continuous renewal preserves the scope the Max Planck Society needs to react quickly to pioneering scientific developments.

     
  • richardmitnick 5:14 pm on July 13, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Epigenetics between the generations, Max Planck Gesellschaft   

    From Max Planck Gesellschaft: “Epigenetics between the generations” 

    Max Planck Gesellschaft

    July 13, 2017
    Dr. Nicola Iovino
    Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics, Freiburg
    iovino@ie-freiburg.mpg.de

    Marcus Rockoff
    Press and Public Relations
    Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics, Freiburg
    +49 76 1510-8368
    presse@ie-freiburg.mpg.de

    Max Planck researchers prove that we inherit more than just genes.

    We are more than the sum of our genes. Epigenetic mechanisms modulated by environmental cues such as diet, disease or our lifestyle take a major role in regulating the DNA by switching genes on and off. It has been long debated if epigenetic modifications accumulated throughout the entire life can cross the border of generations and be inherited to children or even grand children. Now researchers from the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics in Freiburg show robust evidence that not only the inherited DNA itself but also the inherited epigenetic instructions contribute in regulating gene expression in the offspring. Moreover, the new insights by the Lab of Nicola Iovino describe for the first time biological consequences of this inherited information. The study proves that mother’s epigenetic memory is essential for the development and survival of the new generation.

    1
    Egg-cell of a female fruit fly with the egg cell in which H3K27me3 was made visible through green staining. This cell, together with the sperm, will contribute to the formation of the next generation of flies. In the upper right corner, a maternal and paternal pre-nucleus are depicted before their fusion during fertilization. The green colouration of H3K27me3 appears exclusively in the maternal pre-nucleus, indicating that their epigenetic instructions are inherited into the next generation. © MPI of Immunobiology a. Epigenetics/ F. Zenk

    In our body we find more than 250 different cell types. They all contain the exact same DNA bases in exactly the same order; however, liver or nerve cells look very different and have different skills. What makes the difference is a process called epigenetics. Epigenetic modifications label specific regions of the DNA to attract or keep away proteins that activate genes. Thus, these modifications create, step by step, the typical patterns of active and inactive DNA sequences for each cell type. Moreover, contrary to the fixed sequence of ‘letters’ in our DNA, epigenetic marks can also change throughout our life and in response to our environment or lifestyle. For example, smoking changes the epigenetic makeup of lung cells, eventually leading to cancer. Other influences of external stimuli like stress, disease or diet are also supposed to be stored in the epigenetic memory of cells.

    It has long been thought that these epigenetic modifications never cross the border of generations. Scientists assumed that epigenetic memory accumulated throughout life is entirely cleared during the development of sperms and egg cells. Just recently a handful of studies stirred the scientific community by showing that epigenetic marks indeed can be transmitted over generations, but exactly how, and what effects these genetic modifications have in the offspring is not yet understood. “We saw indications of intergenerational inheritance of epigenetic information since the rise of the epigenetics in the early nineties. For instance, epidemiological studies revealed a striking correlation between the food supply of grandfathers and an increased risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease in their grandchildren. Since then, various reports suggested epigenetic inheritance in different organisms but the molecular mechanisms were unknown”, says Nicola Iovino, corresponding author in the new study.

    Epigenetics between the generations

    He and his team at the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics in Freiburg, Germany used fruit flies to explore how epigenetic modifications are transmitted from the mother to the embryo. The team focused on a particular modification called H3K27me3 that can also be found in humans. It alters the so-called chromatin, the packaging of the DNA in the cell nucleus, and is mainly associated with repressing gene expression.

    The Max Planck researchers found that H3K27me3 modifications labeling chromatin DNA in the mother’s egg cells were still present in the embryo after fertilization, even though other epigenetic marks are erased. “This indicates that the mother passes on her epigenetic marks to her offspring. But we were also interested, if those marks are doing something important in the embryo”, explains Fides Zenk, first author of the study.

    Inherited epigenetic marks are important for embryogenesis

    Therefore the researchers used a variety of genetic tools in fruit flies to remove the enzyme that places H3K27me3 marks and discovered that embryos lacking H3K27me3 during early development could not develop to the end of embryogenesis. “It turned out that, in reproduction, epigenetic information is not only inherited from one generation to another but also important for the development of the embryo itself”, says Nicola Iovino.

    When they had a closer look into the embryos, the team found that several important developmental genes that are normally switched off during early embryogenesis were turned on in embryos without H3K27me3. “We assumed that activating those genes too soon during development disrupted embryogenesis and eventually caused the death of the embryo. It seems, virtually, that inherited epigenetic information is needed to process and correctly transcribe the genetic code of the embryo”, explains Fides Zenk.

    Implications for the theory of heredity and human health

    With these results the study by the Max Planck researchers is an important step forward and shows clearly the biological consequences of inherited epigenetic information. Not only by providing evidence that epigenetic modifications in flies can be transmitted down through generations, but moreover by revealing that epigenetic marks transmitted from the mother are a fine-tuned mechanism to control gene activation during the complex process of early embryogenesis.

    The international team in Freiburg is convinced that their findings have far-reaching implications. “Our study indicates that we inherit more than just genes from our parents. It seems to be that we also get a fine-tuned as well as important gene regulation machinery that can be influenced by our environment and individual lifestyle. These insights can provide new ground for the observation that at least in some cases acquired environmental adaptations can be passed over the germ line to our offspring”, explains Nicola Iovino. Further, since the disruption of epigenetic mechanisms may cause diseases such as cancer, diabetes and autoimmune disorders, these new findings could have implications for human health.

    Science paper:

    Zenk F, Loeser E, Schiavo R, Kilpert F, Bogdanović O, Iovino N
    Germ line–inherited H3K27me3 restricts enhancer function during maternal-to-zygotic transition.
    Science; July 13th, 2017

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    The Max Planck Society is Germany’s most successful research organization. Since its establishment in 1948, no fewer than 18 Nobel laureates have emerged from the ranks of its scientists, putting it on a par with the best and most prestigious research institutions worldwide. The more than 15,000 publications each year in internationally renowned scientific journals are proof of the outstanding research work conducted at Max Planck Institutes – and many of those articles are among the most-cited publications in the relevant field.

    What is the basis of this success? The scientific attractiveness of the Max Planck Society is based on its understanding of research: Max Planck Institutes are built up solely around the world’s leading researchers. They themselves define their research subjects and are given the best working conditions, as well as free reign in selecting their staff. This is the core of the Harnack principle, which dates back to Adolph von Harnack, the first president of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society, which was established in 1911. This principle has been successfully applied for nearly one hundred years. The Max Planck Society continues the tradition of its predecessor institution with this structural principle of the person-centered research organization.

    The currently 83 Max Planck Institutes and facilities conduct basic research in the service of the general public in the natural sciences, life sciences, social sciences, and the humanities. Max Planck Institutes focus on research fields that are particularly innovative, or that are especially demanding in terms of funding or time requirements. And their research spectrum is continually evolving: new institutes are established to find answers to seminal, forward-looking scientific questions, while others are closed when, for example, their research field has been widely established at universities. This continuous renewal preserves the scope the Max Planck Society needs to react quickly to pioneering scientific developments.

     
  • richardmitnick 5:14 pm on July 5, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Many diseases have their origins in defective proteins, Max Planck Gesellschaft, Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research in Stuttgart, ,   

    From Max Planck Institute Gesellschaft: “Nuclear magnetic resonance scanner for individual proteins” 

    Max Planck Gesellschaft

    July 05, 2017
    Prof. Dr. Jörg Wrachtrup
    Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research
    Universität Stuttgart
    +49 711 685-65278
    j.wrachtrup@fkf.mpg.de

    Thanks to improved resolution, a quantum sensor can now identify individual atoms in biomolecules.

    Nuclear magnetic resonance scanners, as are familiar from hospitals, are now extremely sensitive. A quantum sensor developed by a team headed by Professor Jörg Wrachtrup at the University of Stuttgart and researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research in Stuttgart, now makes it possible to use nuclear magnetic resonance scanning to even investigate the structure of individual proteins atom by atom. In the future, the method could help to diagnose diseases at an early stage by detecting the first defective proteins.

    1
    Green laser light transmitted via an optical fibre excites nitrogen atoms in a diamond, causing it to fluoresce with a red light. The brightness of a nitrogen atom at the edge of the diamond lattice allows conclusions to be drawn about the magnetic signals from a sample on the surface of the sensor. © University of Stuttgart.

    Many diseases have their origins in defective proteins. As proteins are important biochemical motors, defects can lead to disturbances in metabolism. Defective prions, which cause brain damage in BSE and Creutzfeldt- Jakob disease, are one example. Pathologically changed prions have defects in their complex molecular structure. The problem: individual defective proteins can likewise induce defects in neighbouring intact proteins via a sort of domino effect and thus trigger a disease. It would therefore be very useful if doctors could detect the first, still individual prions with the wrong structure. It has, however, not been possible to date to elucidate the structure of one individual biomolecule.

    In an article published in Science, a team of researchers from Stuttgart has now presented a method that can be used in the future for the reliable investigation of individual biomolecules. This is important not only for fighting diseases, but also for chemical and biochemical basic research.

    The method involves the miniaturization as it were of the nuclear magnetic resonance tomography (NMR) known from medical engineering, which is usually called MRI scanning in the medical field. NMR makes use of a special property of the atoms – their spin. In simple terms, spin can be thought of as the rotation of atomic nuclei and electrons about their own axis, turning the particles into tiny, spinning bar magnets. How these magnets behave is characteristic for each type of atom and each chemical element. Each particle thus oscillates with a specific frequency.

    In medical applications, it is normal for only one type of atom to be detected in the body – hydrogen, for example. The hydrogen content in the different tissues allows the interior of the body to be distinguished with the aid of various contrasts.

    Structural resolution at the atomic level

    When elucidating the structure of biomolecules, on the other hand, each individual atom must be determined and the structure of the biomolecule then deciphered piece by piece. The crucial aspect here is that the NMR detectors are so small that they achieve nanometre-scale resolution and are so sensitive that they can measure individual molecules exactly. It is more than four years ago that the researchers working with Jörg Wrachtrup first designed such a small NMR sensor; it did not, however, allow them to distinguish between individual atoms.

    To achieve atomic-level resolution, the researchers must be able to distinguish between the frequency signals they receive from the individual atoms of a molecule – in the same way as a radio identifies a radio station by means of its characteristic frequency. The frequencies of the signals emitted by the atoms of a protein are those frequencies at which the atomic bar magnets in the protein spin. These frequencies are very close together, as if the transmission frequencies of radio stations all tried to squeeze themselves into a very narrow bandwidth. This is the first time the researchers in Stuttgart have achieved a frequency resolution at which they can distinguish individual types of atoms.

    “We have developed the first quantum sensor that can detect the frequencies of different atoms with sufficient precision and thus resolve a molecule almost into its individual atoms,” says Jörg Wrachtrup. It is thus now possible to scan a large biomolecule, as it were. The sensor, which acts as a minute NMR antenna, is a diamond with a nitrogen atom embedded into its carbon lattice close to the surface of the crystal. The physicists call the site of the nitrogen atom the NV centre: N for nitrogen and V for vacancy, which refers to a missing electron in the diamond lattice directly adjacent to the nitrogen atom. Such an NV centre detects the nuclear spin of atoms located close to this NV centre.

    Simple yet very precise

    The spin frequency of the magnetic moment of an atom which has just been measured is transferred to the magnetic moment in the NV centre, which can be seen with a special optical microscope as a change in colour.

    The quantum sensor achieves such high sensitivity, as it can store frequency signals of an atom. One single measurement of the frequency of an atom would be too weak for the quantum sensor and possibly too noisy. The memory allows the sensor to store many frequency signals over a longer period of time, however, and thus tune itself very precisely to the oscillation frequency of an atom – in the same way as a high-quality short-wave receiver can clearly resolve radio channels which are very close to each other.

    This technology has other advantages apart from its high resolution: it operates at room temperature and, unlike other high-sensitivity NMR methods used in biochemical research, it does not require a vacuum. Moreover, these other methods generally operate close to absolute zero – minus 273.16 degrees Celsius – necessitating complex cooling with helium.

    Future field of application: brain research

    Jörg Wrachtrup sees not one but several future fields of application for his high-resolution quantum sensors. “It is conceivable that, in future, it will be possible to detect individual proteins that have undergone a noticeable change in the early stage of a disease and which have so far been overlooked.” Furthermore, Wrachtrup is collaborating with an industrial company on a slightly larger quantum sensor which could be used in the future to detect the weak magnetic fields of the brain. “We call this sensor the brain reader. We hope it will help us to decipher how the brain works – and it would be a good complement to the conventional electrical devices derived from the EEG” – the electroencephalogram. For the brain reader, Wrachtrup is already working with his industrial partner on a holder and a casing so that the device is easy to wear and to operate on a day-to-day basis. To reach this point, however, it will take at least another ten years of research.

    See the full article here .

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    The Max Planck Society is Germany’s most successful research organization. Since its establishment in 1948, no fewer than 18 Nobel laureates have emerged from the ranks of its scientists, putting it on a par with the best and most prestigious research institutions worldwide. The more than 15,000 publications each year in internationally renowned scientific journals are proof of the outstanding research work conducted at Max Planck Institutes – and many of those articles are among the most-cited publications in the relevant field.

    What is the basis of this success? The scientific attractiveness of the Max Planck Society is based on its understanding of research: Max Planck Institutes are built up solely around the world’s leading researchers. They themselves define their research subjects and are given the best working conditions, as well as free reign in selecting their staff. This is the core of the Harnack principle, which dates back to Adolph von Harnack, the first president of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society, which was established in 1911. This principle has been successfully applied for nearly one hundred years. The Max Planck Society continues the tradition of its predecessor institution with this structural principle of the person-centered research organization.

    The currently 83 Max Planck Institutes and facilities conduct basic research in the service of the general public in the natural sciences, life sciences, social sciences, and the humanities. Max Planck Institutes focus on research fields that are particularly innovative, or that are especially demanding in terms of funding or time requirements. And their research spectrum is continually evolving: new institutes are established to find answers to seminal, forward-looking scientific questions, while others are closed when, for example, their research field has been widely established at universities. This continuous renewal preserves the scope the Max Planck Society needs to react quickly to pioneering scientific developments.

     
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