A hand holding a tray of samples being tested for COVID-19.

Research highlights May - July 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 the set-up of our SARS-CoV-2 testing pipeline, a new method for tumour sampling and timely insights into lung repair after a viral infection.

COVID consortium

Setting up a SARS-CoV-2 testing pipeline at the Crick

Scalable and robust SARS-CoV-2 testing in an academic center

Aitkin et al., Nature Biotechnology, 38, 927–931 (2020)

The Crick COVID-19 Consortium, led by Steve Gamblin, Sonia Gandhi and Charlie Swanton, has described how the Crick was repurposed as a testing facility during the pandemic by collaborating with hospitals and a diagnostic lab.

Bonnet lab

Model to study leukemia's effect on hematopoiesis

Mesenchymal niche remodeling impairs hematopoiesis via stanniocalcin 1 in acute myeloid leukemia

Waclawiczek et al., Journal of Clinical Investigation, 130, 3038-3050 (2020)

A study from the Bonnet lab provides ex vivo and in vivo models to study the interactions that occur in leukemia patients, between leukemic cells, normal residual hematopoiesis and the bone marrow niche.

Calado lab

Restriction of memory B cells differentiation

Restriction of memory B cell differentiation at the germinal center B cell positive selection stage

Toboso-Navasa et al., Journal of Experimental Medicine217, e20191933.

Dinis Calado's lab has investigated how germinal centre B immune cells differentiate into memory B cells, which are key for long-term protection from infection. They found this is restricted by MYC-MIZ1 transcriptional repressor complexes.

Gamblin lab

Fusion in intermediate forms of haemaggluttinin

Structural transitions in influenza haemagglutinin at membrane fusion pH

Benton et al., Nature583, 150–153 (2020)

New research led by Donald Benton has imaged haemagglutinin, the main surface glycoprotein of influenza, trapping structural intermediates using cryoEM. These offer a dynamic view of how the protein mediates membrane fusion.

Holder lab

Essential stage of malaria's life cycle

Ubiquitin activation is essential for schizont maturation in Plasmodium falciparum blood-stage development

Green et al., PLOS Pathogens, 16, e1008640 (2020)

A study led by Tony Holder's lab has identified that addition of ubiquitin tags to proteins is essential for transition through the life cycle of the malaria parasite in the bloodstream. Targeting this pathway could be used to develop new antimalarial drugs.

Papayannopoulos lab

The role of NETs in atherosclerosis

Histones, DNA, and citrullination promote neutrophil extracellular trap inflammation by regulating the localization and activation of TLR4

Tsourouktsoglou et al., Cell Reports31, 107602 (2020)

Research from Veni Papayannopoulos's lab has investigated the underlying mechanisms of how neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs) promote atherosclerosis, a disease where plaque builds in the arteries.

Rancz lab

New insights into the anatomy of neurons

Apical length governs computational diversity of layer 5 pyramidal neurons

Galloni et al., eLife9, e55761 (2020)

A study from the Rancz lab has shown that dendritic excitability of layer 5 pyramidal neurons is not uniform across the brain, as previously thought, and that it is regulated by the length of the apical dendrite.

Turajlic lab

New tumour sampling method significantly improves genetic testing for cancer treatment

Representative sequencing: unbiased sampling of solid tumor tissue

Litchfield et al., Cell Reports31, 107550 (2020)

A holistic tumour sampling method that more accurately detects genetic alterations in tumours, which are critical in allowing treatment to be personalised to each and every patient, has been developed by researchers from the Crick, led by Samra Turajlic, Roche and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust.

Vincent lab

How Wnt proteins signal at a distance

Glypicans shield the Wnt lipid moiety to enable signalling at a distance

McGough et al., Nature585, 85–90 (2020)

A study led by Ian McGough in Jean-Paul Vincent's lab has uncovered how Wnts proteins, which are highly insoluble because of a lipid moiety, spread within tissues to organise cell fates, maintain stemness and control growth. 

Wack lab

A protein that helps to fight viruses can also block lung damage repair

Type I and III interferons disrupt lung epithelial repair during recovery from viral infection

Major et al., Science, 369, 712-717 (2020)

Researchers from the Andreas Wack's lab have found that a protein, which is initially helpful in the body’s immune response to a virus, can later interfere with the repair of lung tissue. The work highlights the need for careful consideration regarding the use of this protein to treat viruses, including the novel coronavirus.