2022 - What an NGC year!
Written by Admin
During the past two years, the NGC team has grown and gained several new members from the IMB Mainz. We had already been collaborating with their PhD students representatives for the Career Events for Life Scientists for some time, but now we consider some of those members part of our family. This is an important step for the NGC, which now includes members of two different research institutions in Mainz, as a milestone in our expansion: the NGC is FROM young life scientists in Mainz, no matter which research institute they belong to, FOR young life scientists in Mainz. Our main aim remains the one of bringing together PhD students and junior postdocs, to talk about their science, exchange experiences as researchers and learn from each other's methods and techniques.
We have come a long way and new exciting discoveries are waiting ahead of us. To have a better perspective, we need to look back at the events of the past year. Here, some of our old and new NGC members tell us what kind of print 2022 has left on them, from scientific discoveries to personal achievements.
Marco - Blog Writer, from 2023
What happens if we introduce a chunk of human brain tissue into a mouse brain? And why would we do that? Could we create a mouse embryo simply by using a cell line? Could a few neurons in a dish play ping pong better than you? This year, 2022, gave us answers to all these exciting and peculiar questions. Next year I will be happy to join the NGC team and tell you more about these neuroscientific topics from this website.
Meanwhile, the year ended with promising news about the effect of a new treatment against the progression of early-stage Alzheimer disease (van Dyck et al., 2022). The monoclonal antibody Lecanemab, which targets the amyloid beta protein, showed a significant 27% reduction in cognitive decline in early-stage Alzheimer’s patients compared to placebo. However the scientific community is still cautious about the results and potential side effects of the new treatment: like other antibodies targeting the beta amyloid plaques, Lecanemab seems to be associated with brain swelling and bleeding. While we wait for new exciting results from the clinical trials, I wish you all a relaxing and joyful holiday time and see you next year!
Debbie - Blog editor, since 2022
What really excited me this year was the Nobel Prize in chemistry being awarded for the development of "click chemistry". This elegant technique is widely used in labs, bringing much convenience to our experiments and in my opinion will pave the way for many striking breakthroughs in science in the future.
Isabelle - Blog writer, since 2018
For my 2022 highlight, I chose an exciting paper published in Nature about astrocytes from the Goshen lab in Israel. There is growing evidence indicating that astrocytes, the most abundant glial cell type present in the brain, are involved in memory and in the encoding of sensory information. The work of Adi Doron shows that in awake behaving animals, astrocytes encode a specific type of environmental data: the reward location (Doron, A., Rubin, A., Benmelech-Chovav, A. et al., 2022). In their experiment, they could predict the location of the mouse based only on the activity of the astrocytes if the reward is located in an expected place in a familiar environment. This work is important because it highlights a new role of astrocytes in cognitive functions and further proves the implication of glia in higher brain functions.
Dalmira - Communications officer, since 2021
Since the development of AI-based approaches keeps growing every year, their application in molecular biology is also expanding. This year, Meta AI launched Evolutionary Scale Modeling (ESM). ESM is able to predict the impact of a missing residue in the protein structure and works much faster than any other prediction tool! Despite its lower predictive score in comparison to AlphdaFold2, it inspired others to work on an algorithm to predict the effect of a single mutation on the protein structure, which will be an important tool in drug development and other biological-based advancements.
Margaryta - Designer, since 2015
My personal achievement of 2022 is the submission of two papers. An exciting change in science-policy has been the initiative from eLife to remove editorial rejections from the common track and send every submitted publication to peer-review. And on a scientific breakthrough that gives me chills: the implantation of human neurons into a mouse brain in vivo!
Evrydiki - Events Manager, since 2021
For me, one of the most exciting discoveries in 2022 was the discovery of how rapamycin (an anti-ageing compound) can protect gut health in aged mice and fruit flies, therefore prolonging their lifespan (Juricic, P., Lu, YX., Leech, T. et al., 2022). Why is that important? While working as a scientist, we always seek ways to unravel the truth about nature and the human body and try to find ways to cure illnesses in order to improve our life and well-being. What is better news than a discovery as such, that we can potentially benefit from?
John - Blog editor, since 2021
The highlight for me this year is that I've finally had my thesis written up and submitted! Now, the only thing that is left is to look forward to the defense in 2023.
Susmitha - Events organiser and IT support, from 2023
Some highlights of this year for me were the intriguing applications I used, which not only made my reading and scientific paper selection easier, but also had a connection to my mental health. As a strong believer of the therapeutic effect of meditation, I would like to recommend the guided meditation application – Level. Regarding scientific research, my favorite programs this year were Quillbot (AI-based tools for paraphrasing), Researcher (which includes a selection of recent articles as well as some excellent scientific courses and podcasts), and R Discovery (for seeking literature relating to one's field of study). In addition, of course, there are well-known software like AlphaFold and chatGPT that don't need an introduction.
Karla - Blog writer and Communications Manager, since 2021
The Wellcome Sanger Institute has a Programme called “Tree of Life”, which aims to better understand eukaryotic organisms. This year they announced they already have collected, sequenced and assembled 500 genomes! This is remarkable to me, as I clearly remember the time when sequencing was so expensive and having a new genome sequenced felt like a dream. And here we are in 2022.
Another highlight for me was the announcement of the Nobel prize for physiology and medicine to Svante Pääbo. I heard about his research back in my masters, so it was exciting to hear from him again, now getting his research publicly recognized. He studies ancient DNA, which is very sensitive and difficult material to work with. Nevertheless, he sequenced the first ever genome of a Neanderthal! His group also discovered a new hominin population ‘Denisovans’ in Siberia, which was the first time a new hominid was discovered just based on genetic data.
We look forward to bringing you more highlights like these through our blog, our social media accounts and our events. This year, we could shed more light on careers outside of academia. Our three invited speakers, Lina Vasiliauskaitė, Sadhna Sahani and Artal Moreno-Fortuny, discussed various possibilities in industry with us, from research positions to regulatory affairs. We have also hosted Dr Ronald Wong, who gave a mini-workshop on quantitative microscopy. Ronald is a postdoc at IMB Mainz and his workshop is an example of how local scientists can exchange expertise thanks to the NGC. For the next year, we are looking forward to a return to in-person scientific events, to connect our young researchers on campus with their peers again. We look forward to it immensely and hope to meet many new faces!
Written by NGC; Edited by Jie Shi. Featured Image: NGC/Design.
van Dyck CH, Swanson CJ, Aisen P, Bateman RJ, Chen C, Gee M, Kanekiyo M, Li D, Reyderman L, Cohen S, Froelich L, Katayama S, Sabbagh M, Vellas B, Watson D, Dhadda S, Irizarry M, Kramer LD, Iwatsubo T. Lecanemab in Early Alzheimer's Disease. N Engl J Med. 2022 Nov 29. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa2212948. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 36449413.
Doron, A., Rubin, A., Benmelech-Chovav, A. et al. Hippocampal astrocytes encode reward location. Nature 609, 772–778 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-022-05146-6
Juricic, P., Lu, YX., Leech, T. et al. Long-lasting geroprotection from brief rapamycin treatment in early adulthood by persistently increased intestinal autophagy. Nat Aging 2, 824–836 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s43587-022-00278-w