Yearbook 2016

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Lifespans becoming more similar

Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research Colchero, Fernando; Rau, Roland; Scheuerlein, Alexander; Schwentker, Björn; Vaupel, James W.
The higher the life expectancy in a society, the smaller the difference between the ages at which people will die. This relation can be described by a mathematical rule, as demographic data from many countries show. The relationship holds not only for very different human cultures and epochs, but similarly for non-human primates. Although separated by millions of years of evolution, for both humans and non-human primates the lives of females tend to be longer than the lives of males, suggesting deep evolutionary roots to the male disadvantage.

Phenotypic plasticity – how genes and the environment interact

Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology Sommer, Ralf J.; Loschko, Tobias; Riebesell, Metta; Röseler, Waltraud; Witte, Hanh
Organisms are responsive to environmental variation. However, little is known on how genetic regulation of development is linked to environmental changes. Phenotypic plasticity, the property of a single genotype to produce distinct phenotypes dependent on the environmental conditions, provides a unique opportunity to study organismal-environmental interactions. The nematode Pristionchus pacificus is a new model for studying phenotypic plasticity. P. pacificus forms two distinct mouth-forms and is accessible to an unbiased studying of phenotypic plasticity. more
Connectomes are wiring diagrams of neural networks showing the specific connections between neurons. The research group Neurobiology of marine zooplankton is working on the complete wiring diagram of a small marine larva to understand how neuronal circuits mediate behaviour. more
More and more, computerized documentation systems find their way into scientific laboratories. They promise efficient, cooperative and easy working, standardized input and filing as well as connections to other electronic applications. MPDL investigated the current situation in the MPG, examined which demands researchers have on such a system and what barriers might arise when implementing it. Eventually, in 2016, laboratory notebook software was licensed by the MPDL, which can be used locally in the institutes or as a central MPG platform. more
The fortified border has always served as a powerful symbol of sovereignty, governance and jurisdiction. Now a new and striking phenomenon—the shifting border—has emerged. Unlike a refortified physical barrier, it is not fixed in time and place. Instead, prosperous countries increasingly rely on sophisticated legal tools to detach migration regulation from a fixed territorial location. This reinvention relies on law’s admission gates rather than a specific frontier location with dramatic implications for the scope of rights and protections that migrants and other non-citizens may enjoy. more

Coordinated fluid transport by ciliated surfaces

Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization Westendorf, Christian; Gholami, Azam; Faubel, Regina; Guido, Isabella; Wang, Yong; Bae, Albert; Eichele, Gregor; Bodenschatz, Eberhard
Active and directed fluid transport are crucial for the survival of eukaryotic organisms. This is often carried out by ciliated tissues e. g., the inner wall of the ventriclar system in the mammalian brain. Using a novel method the complexity of the cilia driven fluid flow in the third ventricle of the brain is revealed. Furthermore, ciliated tissues, which are capable of driving such complex flows are interesting for synthetic biology and applications in technology. Therefore, our working group at the MPI for Dynamics and Self-Organization currently attempts to rebuild such ciliated carpets. more
An increasing world population and fast spread of old and new influenza virus strains demands more efficient vaccine production methods. One approach is the use of coupled continuous bioreactors. Unfortunately, accumulation of defective interfering particles (DIPs) leads to unstable virus yields. As an alternative we have designed a novel plug-flow tubular bioreactor system, providing high influenza virus titers for up to three weeks in continuous mode using suspension MDCK cells. This novel platform can be used for other viruses and help reduce vaccine manufacturing costs worldwide. more
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