Credit Yuuki Obata and Álvaro Castaño, The Francis Crick Institute. Villi with neuronal fibres.

Research highlights January - March 2020

In our research highlights series, representatives of our faculty select their most significant publications from the Crick each quarter. This time, the selections include insights into our gut bacteria, a new brain activity reading technology and the results of the biggest study of cancer's genetic changes.

O'Garra lab

Replicating human TB blood signal in mice

Mouse transcriptome reveals potential signatures of protection and pathogenesis in human tuberculosis

Moreira-Teixeira et al., Nature Immunology, 21, 464-476 (2020)

A study led by Anne O’Garra has optimised a mouse model, which exhibits the same blood immune response to Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection as humans at the peak of disease, allowing further research.

Read the full news story.

Pachnis lab

Gut bacteria help control the colon

Neuronal programming by microbiota regulates intestinal physiology

Obata et al., Nature, 578, 284-289 (2020)

Micro-organisms in the gut support healthy digestion by helping nerve cells within the intestine to regulate the contraction and relaxation of the muscle wall of the colon, according to research from Vassilis Pachnis's group and Gitta Stockinger.

Read the full news story.

Patani lab

'Star-shaped' cells initially protect against motor neuron disease

Distinct responses of neurons and astrocytes to TDP-43 proteinopathy in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis 

Smethurst et al., Brain, 143, 430-440 (2020)

Support cells in the nervous system help protect motor neurons in the early-stages of sporadic motor neuron disease, according to research from Rickie Patani's lab at the Crick and UCL, published in Brain.

Read the full news story.

Sahai lab

Hibernating breast cancer cells

Crosstalk with lung epithelial cells regulates Sfrp2-mediated latency in breast cancer dissemination

Montagner et al., Nature Cell Biology22, 289-296, (2020)

Healthy lung cells support the survival of breast cancer cells, allowing them to hibernate in the lung before forming secondary tumours, according to work from Erik Sahai's group and the Bioinformatics and Biostatistics facility at the Crick.

Read the full news story.

Santos lab

Stem cells in human embryos commit surprisingly early

GATA3 mediates a fast, irreversible commitment to BMP4-driven differentiation in human embryonic stem cells

Gunne-Braden et al., Cell Stem Cell, 26, 693-706.E9 (2020)

The point when human embryonic stem cells irreversibly commit to becoming specialised was identified by research from the Silvia Santos's group at the Crick, and it's surprisingly early. 

Read the full news story.

Schaefer lab

New brain reading technology

Massively parallel microwire arrays integrated with CMOS chips for neural recording

Obaid et al., Science Advances6, eaay2789

Andreas Schaefer's lab at the Crick has developed an accurate and scalable method to record brain activity across large areas, including on the surface and in deeper region simultaneously.

Read the full news article

Svejstrup lab

New insights into the DNA damage response

Regulation of the RNAPII pool is integral to the DNA damage response

Tufegdzic Vidakovic et al., Cell, 180, 1245-1261

A study led Jesper Svejstrup's team at the Crick has investigated how a cell’s responses to DNA damage are connected, revealing that it is the ubiquitylation of the transcribing RNAPII complex that is the focal point for response coordination. 

Tate lab

The Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde enzyme

D-Cycloserine destruction by alanine racemase and the limit of irreversible inhibition

de Chiara et al., Nature Chemical Biology, 16, 686-694 (2020)

Researchers from Luiz Pedro Carvalho's lab and Ed Tate's satellite lab at the Crick and Imperial found that a key antibiotic widely used to treat drug-resistant tuberculosis does not work as expected – a finding that could be used to develop new drugs.

Read the full news story.


Van Loo lab

Signs of cancer could appear years before diagnosis

The evolutionary history of 2,658 cancers

Gerstung et al., Nature, 578, 122-128 (2020)

Early signs of cancer can appear years before diagnosis and developing tests for these genetic signs could provide new ways to spot cancer early, according to research led by the Peter Van Loo's lab at the Crick as part of the Pan-Cancer Analysis of Whole Genomes consortium.

Read the full news story.

Yuneva lab

Blocking cancer's multiple metabolic pathways

Identifying strategies to target the metabolic flexibility of tumours

Méndez-Lucas et al., Nature Metabolism, 2, 335-350 (2020)

Using a combination of drugs and diet to block the many different ways tumours create energy and building blocks could offer potentially effective new cancer treatments, according to new research led by Mariia Yuneva's group.

Read the full news story.