Yearbook 2011

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Antibodies produced by B lymphocytes are able to recognize virtually any foreign antigen in the body. This enormous antibody diversity is generated by random somatic recombination of V-, (D-) and J-gene segments. In this process, autoantibodies can be generated that are directed against the body’s own structures and can thereby cause autoimmune diseases. However, scientists at the MPI for Immunobiology and Epigenetics could now show that the recognition of autoantigens is important for the selection and expansion of developing B cells. more
Functional immune systems rely on tolerance to self and harmless components of food and microflora. In mammals, immune tolerance is achieved through several mechanisms including a specialised T cell subset with a high constitutive expression of the transcription factor Foxp3. These so called regulatory T cells are especially important in the gut. The team of Ana Izcue analyses the factors required for the activity of regulatory T cells in vivo. more
Scientists at the institute pursue innovative approaches to develop resistance-proof cures of acute and chronic infections. The strategy relies on the fact that infections decisively depend on the cooperation of host cell determinants, which constitute druggable targets. With the help of modern RNAi based screening technology the entire human genome was scanned for determinants essential for the replication and growth of Influenza viruses and Chlamydiae. The resulting data form a basis for the design of novel drugs and vaccines and provide striking views on the biology of infection. more
Today, there is a vast quantity of knowledge available, in particular on the Internet. In order to precisely answer complex queries in terms of this knowledge, a computer has to be able to perform reasoning on this knowledge. At the Max Planck Institute for Informatics methods are developed that allow a computer to efficiently reason about knowledge bases consisting of several million entries. These methods answer complex queries with respect to such a knowledge base in less than one second. more
The research group focuses on the development of exact and complete methods to handle complex geometric objects which are fundamental for many geometric algorithms. There exist powerful methods from Algebra to solve the considered problems in theory, however, they turn out to be non-practical because of the high computational cost for the needed symbolic operations. By combining techniques from different mathematical fields, we have been able to develop efficient algorithms which only use a minimum of symbolic operations, whereas most operations are based on fast approximate arithmetic. more
A comprehensive comparative-law study looks at the ways in which the legislative bodies and the legal practice in over forty selected countries attempt to balance adequate copyright protection, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the legitimate interests of third parties – especially the interests in the widest possible dissemination of knowledge and culture. more
Public sector bodies control a constantly growing amount of information which could be commercially exploited in particular by digital value added services. With the PSI Directive of 2003, the European legislature aims at promoting the re-use of “public sector information” and the emergence of a private sector for value added information services. The question of how to reform this directive under today’s different economic conditions requires a thorough analysis from the perspective of competition policy. more
Max Planck Innovation is responsible for technology transfer from the Max Planck Society. With the claim “Connecting Science and Business” Max Planck Innovation is partner of both science and industry. Offering futureoriented companies a central access to the proprietary innovations of the Max Planck Institutes all over Germany, it markets numerous inventions from the Biology & Medicine Section and the Chemistry, Physics and Technology Section. more
There have been numerous speculations in scientific publications and the popular media about wirelessly controlled microrobots (microbots) navigating the human body. Such micro-agents could revolutionize minimally invasive medical procedures. Using physical vapor deposition we grow billions of micron-sized colloidal screw-propellers on a wafer. These chiral mesoscopic screws can be magnetized and moved through solution under computer control. The screw-propellers resemble artificial flagella and are the only ‘microbots’ to date that can be fully controlled in solution at micron length scales. more
Brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) provide a new means of communication that does not rely on volitional muscle control. This may provide the capability to locked-in patients, e.g., those suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, to maintain interactions with their environment. Besides providing communication capabilities to locked-in patients, BCIs may further prove to have a beneficial impact on stroke rehabilitation. In this article, the state-of-the-art of BCIs is reviewed and current research questions are discussed. more
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