Yearbook 2017

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The genetic information for building an organism is transmitted from parents to offspring through gametes. Although it has long been thought that the DNA blueprint solely is encoded in our genes, increasing evidence shows that stress-induced changes in the chromatin can also be inherited through gametes affecting gene regulation across generations. Our recent research shows that an epigenetic modification, H3K27me3, is maternally inherited and controls gene expression during early embryogenesis. Future work will address the mechanisms underlying intergenerational epigenetic inheritance. more
New findings from the institute provide detailed insight into the molecular and cellular mechanisms through which the gastric pathogen Helicobacter pylori induces chronic inflammation of the gastric mucosa and how this could promote the development of cancer. The human mucosa is equipped with efficient sensors in combination with defense mechanisms for detecting and, if necessary, eliminating the pathogenic bacteria. In the case of H. pylori, however, this pathogen is detected but the subsequent induction of a protective response is effectively blocked. more
Unlike Buridan’s ass, horses do not starve to death when placing them exactly between two identical bales of hay. But what happens, if the horse does not see whether there’s hay to its left and/or right? What if we don’t know either, and if we possibly can’t see where the horse goes? Can we reliably decide whether the horse starves? Interestingly, answers to such questions become highly relevant when considering so-called metastability in circuits. This article explains these terms, their connection, and why it is important to know whether the horse dies or not. more
Supplementary Protection Certificates (SPC) prolong patent protection in the field of pharmacological and plant protection products. A study at the Max-Planck-Institute for Innovation and Competition examines the functioning of the system and proposes reforms. These proposals concern especially the elimination of uncertainties created by, among others, the case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union, the development of a union-wide system as well as the expansion of the existing exceptions and limitations. more
With the claim “Connecting Science and Business.” Max Planck Innovation is partner of both science and industry. Our interdisciplinary team provides consulting and support for scientists in evaluating inventions, applying for patents, and founding companies. We offer industry a central point of access to the innovations of the Max Planck Institutes. We thus provide the important function of transferring the results of basic research into economically and socially useful products and services. more
Microrobots to the rescue! Miniature robots the size of around a single cell have the prospect of transforming medical therapy, as they are able to access enclosed spaces, making previously inaccessible body parts accessible, allowing for a minimally invasive diagnosis and treatment. However, it is difficult to construct a microrobot. Questions are: can the researchers create medical robots that decide themselves when to take action inside the body? How can they build such an autonomous, intelligent system at the sub-millimeter scale? A great challenge, that the scientists pursue with passion. more
Robots as helpers in everyday life can make our lives better in the future. However, there is much research needed to get there. One problem is the hardware. It needs to withstand everyday usage without being bulky or dangerous. The bigger problem, however, is to develop the right "brain”. To come somewhere close to human skills, a robot has to learn a lot by itself. The researchers of the Autonomous Learning Group at MPI for Intelligent Systems are working on artificial curiosity and the associated learning methods so that artificial systems can improve themselves in the future. more
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