News

World’s first population-level microbiome study reveals links between lifestyle and gut flora

28/04/2016

The Flemish Gut Flora Project, one of the largest population-wide studies on gut flora variation among healthy volunteers, has presented its first major results. Through the analysis of more than 1,000 human stool samples, a team of researchers led by professor Jeroen Raes (VIB/VUB/KU Leuven) has identified 69 factors that are linked to gut flora composition. These results provide important information for future disease research and clinical studies. The project’s fundamental insights will be published in the upcoming issue of the leading academic journal Science.

Important role of nucleocytoplasmic transport in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and frontotemporal dementia

12/02/2016

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD) are two devastating adult-onset neurodegenerative disorders. No cure exists for these diseases. Ten percent of ALS patients suffer from a familial form of the disease, while FTD is caused in 40% of patients by a genetic defect. In 2011, the most important genetic cause of ALS and FTD was discovered. The causative mutation was a repetition of a piece of non-coding DNA, a so called tandem repeat, in a gene with an unknown function, named C9orf72. A team of scientists from VIB and KU Leuven now discovered that proteins translated from this tandem repeat interfere with the nucleocytoplasmic transport which they found is essential for causing ALS and FTD.

Plankton network linked to ocean’s biological carbon pump revealed

10/02/2016

​The ocean is the largest carbon sink on the planet. The community of planktonic organisms involved in the removal of carbon from the upper layers of the ocean has now been described by an interdisciplinary team bringing together oceanographers, biologists and computer scientists, principally from the CNRS, UPMC, Nantes University, VIB, EMBL and CEA. This first overview of the network of species linked to the oceanic biological pump has revealed some new players as well as the main bacterial functions participating in the process. It was obtained by analyzing samples collected by the Tara Oceans expedition in the nutrient-poor regions that cover most of the oceans. The scientists have also shown that the presence of a small number of bacterial and viral genes predicts variation in carbon export from the upper layers of the ocean. These findings should enable researchers to better understand the sensitivity of this network to a changing ocean and to better predict the effects that climate change will have on the functioning of the biological carbon pump, which is a key process for sequestering carbon at global scale. Published on 10 February 2016 on the website of the journal Nature, this work highlights the important role played by plankton in the climate system.