Media releases, information for representatives of the media Media Relations (E)

Media releases 2017



Sensor-enhanced surgical robot enables highly precise and safe spinal operations

Researchers from the University of Bern, Inselspital, Bern University Hospital and the Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology develop a high-precision, sensor-based surgical robot for spinal operations together with industry partners. Their project is being funded with two million Swiss francs, sponsored by the "BRIDGE" programme of the Swiss National Science Foundation and the Commission for Technology and Innovation.



Using 3D cell cultures to fight anti-cancer therapy resistance

An international research team headed by the University of Bern and the Netherlands Cancer Institute has developed 3D cell cultures in which genes can be specifically modified. They allow the study of genes that may cause therapy resistance in breast cancer. This knowledge may further improve the use of targeted anti-cancer drugs.



Willy Benz elected ESO Council President

ESO’s governing body, The Council, has today elected Professor Willy Benz of the Space Research & Planetary Sciences Division (WP) of the University of Bern and of NCCR PlanetS as its next President.



Humidity switches molecular diode off and on

Molecular electronics is a growing research area where scientists study electrical properties of the molecules with a chemically programmed function. Molecules can function as diodes, switches and transistors, all with a typical length of few nanometers. An international group of scientists from University of Bern, Leiden University, Delft University of Technology, and Chuo University has developed the first switchable molecular diode.



"The University of Bern is moving briskly ahead"

At the 183rd Dies academicus of the University of Bern, the rector Christian Leumann broached the issue of the freedom of teaching and research, and took stock of the first "half-time" in the university's strategy. The President of the Executive Council of Bern, Bernhard Pulver, emphasised the significance of general political conditions for the success of the university – and looked back on 12 years as Director of Education. Zoë Lehmann Imfeld spoke for the Mittelbauvereinigung MVUB (Intermediate Staff Association of the University of Bern) and about Aristotle as a role model. Nine people were awarded an honorary doctorate and eleven researchers were given academic awards.



Great success for Bern as a medical center

The Swiss Personalized Health Network (SPHN) supports nine research projects with Bernese investment, which aim to build up a nationally coordinated infrastructure of health data. Two of the projects are managed by the University of Bern and Bern University Hospital. They are funded with a total of 5.3 million francs.



Maize pest exploits plant defense compounds to protect itself

A new study by the Institute of Plant Sciences of the University of Bern and the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology shows how the Western corn rootworm puts the maize plants’ defense strategies out of action. The results explain why biological control of the crop pest has not been efficient.



The importance of forest biodiversity could increase with climate change

Forests fulfil many important functions for humanity, and do so particularly well if they contain many different tree species. At the same time, European forests could potentially provide more services than they do at the moment. These are the results of two new studies in which researchers from the Institute of Plant Sciences of the University of Bern were involved.



Christian Degen takes over the management of the Communication & Marketing Office of the University of Bern

From 01 January 2018, Christian Degen will be in charge of the Communication & Marketing Office of the University of Bern. There is also a change in the management of the Corporate Communication area.



How "sleeper cells" in cancerous tumours can be destroyed

In many metastasised types of cancer, disseminated tumours grow back despite successful chemotherapy. As a research team under the direction of the University of Bern has now discovered, this is because of isolated cancer cells that survive the chemotherapy due to a phase of dormancy. If these "sleeper cells" possess specific defects, however, they can be destroyed. This could increase the efficacy of chemotherapy for certain patients.



Possible new immune therapy target in lung cancer

A study from Bern University Hospital in collaboration with the University of Bern shows that so-called perivascular-like cells from lung tumors behave abnormally. They not only inadequately support vascular structures, but also may actively modulate the inflammatory and immune response. These findings may represent a novel stromal cancer target.



The 2015 Paris Climate Conference: For Germans, the intensive media coverage had a calming, not a mobilizing effect

The 2015 Paris Climate Conference was accompanied by extensive media coverage. Though the content managed to reach much of Germany’s populace, it did little to change their attitudes. This was a main finding of a study of the University of Hamburg in cooperation with the University of Bern's Institute of Communication and Media Studies.



New professorship position for climate and environmental economics has been filled

The University of Bern has created a professorship for climate and environmental economics, which can now be expanded thanks to the involvement of the Mercator Foundation Switzerland and the Gebäudeversicherung Bern. The goal pursued with the creation of this professorship is to expand the skills in research and teaching in the area of empirical-experimental climate and environmental economics. The professorship position has been filled with the economist Professor Eric Strobl.



Searching for distant worlds with a flying telescope

Researchers from the University of Bern, using an observatory on board a jumbo jet, have observed how the extrasolar Planet GJ 1214b is passing in front of its star, causing a kind of mini-eclipse. The first measurements of this kind with the observatory called SOFIA (short for Stratospheric Observatory for Infra-red Astronomy) prove that the flying observatory is well-suited to the observation of exoplanets.



The University of Bern on the move

Research at the University of Bern is being intensified: Innovative joint projects from different subject areas are being supported with the new IFK inter-faculty research collaborations. In teaching, the study of pharmacy is being expanded to a full-time course. The number of students is stabilising at a high level: Around 17,550 students will be newly enrolled in Bern.



The 13 factors for a successful career

What determines career success? This question has occupied career research, career counseling, organisations and private persons for decades. With the help of a new questionnaire, Bern researchers from the department of work and organisational psychology have now identified the important resources for a successful career.



Climate scientist Thomas Stocker awarded the Marcel Benoist Swiss Science Prize

Thomas Stocker, a professor at the University of Bern, has been awarded this year’s Marcel Benoist Swiss Science Prize. By means of climate modelling and ice core analysis, Prof Stocker has been able to demonstrate the reality of climate change and its resulting consequences. In keeping with the objects of the Foundation, his research findings are of great importance to human life, and address one of the main challenges facing today’s society. Federal Councillor Johann N. Schneider-Ammann, President of the Marcel Benoist Foundation, met Professor Thomas Stocker in Bern on Friday, September 1, and congratulated him on this important award. The award ceremony will be held in Bern on 1 November.



An unusual delivery service

Is it better to produce locally or to import? That can be a crucial question for simple lifeforms as well. Mitochondria, the power plants of the cell, have their own protein factories although the cell apparatus could easily do the job for them. A special species of eukaryotes even has all the transfer-RNA it needs for protein assembly promptly delivered. Researchers from the University of Bern have now uncovered how this highly unusual import mechanism works in detail.



50 years of space exploration at the University of Bern

This year, the University of Bern celebrates 50 years of space exploration. Several dozen Bernese instruments flew on board space probes, to explore the formation of solar systems and the origin of life. One of them, the Bernese solar sail, was deployed in the course of the first landing on the Moon. At the "Researchers’ night" on 16 September, an exhibition will present the highlights of Bernese space exploration.



Tef benefits from further research funding

Tef is Ethiopia’s most important staple food crop. Because its tall, weak stem makes the plant fall over easily, researchers at the Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS) at the University of Bern have bred a variety with shorter, sturdier stalks. After several years of field testing, one improved variety has recently been approved for farm use in Ethiopia. Thanks to this new variety and others in development, small farmers will benefit from better harvests. The Syngenta Foundation has been supporting the Tef Improvement Project since 2006, and will now continue this support with a further 2.75 million Swiss francs.



Possible explanation for the dominance of matter over antimatter in the Universe

Neutrinos and antineutrinos, sometimes called ghost particles because difficult to detect, can transform from one type to another. The international T2K Collaboration announces a first indication that the dominance of matter over antimatter may originate from the fact that neutrinos and antineutrinos behave differently during those oscillations. This is an important milestone towards the understanding of our Universe. A team of particle physicists from the University of Bern provided important contributions to the experiment.



Light pollution as a new threat to pollination

Artificial light disrupts nocturnal pollination and leads to a reduced number of fruits produced by the plant. This loss of night time pollination cannot be compensated by diurnal pollinators. The negative impact of artificial light at night on nocturnal pollinators might even propagate further to the diurnal community, as ecologists of the University of Bern were able to show.



Most comprehensive database on past global changes is online

Climate scientists will now be able to more accurately study the pattern and causes of global surface temperature changes than was previously possible, thanks to a large international team of scientists contributing to one of the University of Bern’s affiliated climate organizations, Past Global Changes (PAGES).



How species arise: a mathematical answer

Predicting when and how species arise is now possible with a new theoretical model using genome-wide data, developed by SIB and University of Bern researcher Simon Aeschbacher and colleagues. The study was published yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.



Switzerland in pole position in ESA’s new mission

PLATO, the largest European exoplanet research mission, was adopted on 20 June 2017 by the European Space Agency at the ESA Scientific Programs Committee meeting. The Universities of Bern and Geneva are heavily involved in this mission, which should enable astronomers to discover and characterize planets the size of the Earth and the "super –Earths" that orbit around solar type stars in their habitable zone.



Effects of ozone depletion felt in the Tropics

The hole in the ozone layer above Antarctica has more far-reaching consequences than previously assumed. A study by Bernese climate researchers has now shown that it even affects precipitation in the tropical regions of the Pacific, 10,000 kilometres away. This new finding demonstrates how the climates of extremely remote areas are linked.



Graphene electrodes offer new functionalities in molecular electronic nanodevices

An international team of researchers led by the University of Bern and the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) has revealed a new way to tune the functionality of next-generation molecular electronic devices using graphene. The results could be exploited to develop smaller, higher-performance devices for use in a range of applications including molecular sensing, flexible electronics, and energy conversion and storage, as well as robust measurement setups for resistance standards.



Relation between comets and earth’s atmosphere uncovered

The difficult yet successful measurement of several isotopes of the noble gas xenon on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko using the Bernese instrument ROSINA on the Rosetta probe shows that materials arrived on Earth due to comet impacts. As proven by further Bern measurements of silicon isotopes, in the beginning our solar system was extremely heterogeneous. The high amount of so-called "heavy" water also shows that cometary ice is older than our solar system.



A new approach to combatting anxiety states, pain and inflammation

Endogenous cannabinoids (endocannabinoids) play an important role in the brain and immune system. Bern researchers from the National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) "TransCure" have now found a new way to influence the endocannabinoid system. Anti-inflammatory, analgesic as well as anxiolytic effects could be achieved in an animal model.



University of Bern joins The Guild of European Universities

The University of Bern has been admitted to The Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities as its newest member with immediate effect.



The race to trace TRAPPIST-1h

After 60 hours of non-stop work, researchers at the University of Bern being part of an international team reached their hoped-for goal: They were the first to measure the orbital period for the outermost planet of the famous TRAPPIST-1 system which made headlines worldwide. The new result confirms that the seven Earth-size planets around the ultra-cool dwarf are lined up in a chain with resonances linking every member.



Reconstructing a lake's history by simple means

The sediments of Lake Van in Eastern Anatolia (Turkey) are a valuable climate archive. Now, using the salinity measured in sediment porewater, scientists from the University of Bern and other institutions have reconstructed the huge lake-level fluctuations that occurred over the past 250,000 years. This approach – based on simple physical concepts – is likely to be more widely applied in the future.



A possible way to new antibiotics

Two research teams from the University of Bern and the ETH Zurich have developed a new method to shed light onto a mostly unknown process of bacterial protein production. Their results could be used for the design of new antibiotics.



Closing the Gate to Mitochondria

A team of researchers from the Universities of Bern and Freiburg (D) have developed a new method that enables the identification of proteins imported into mitochondria. This leads to a better understanding of disease mechanisms linked to defective cellular functions.



What silver fir aDNA can tell us about Neolithic forests

A new technique makes it possible to cost-effectively analyse genetic material from fossil plant and animal remains. Researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL and the universities of Lausanne and Bern have used this technique to examine the DNA of silver fir needles found in lake sediment in Ticino. They found clues as to how forests reacted to the emergence of agriculture.



Novel Antibiotic Resistance gene in Milk

Researchers of the University of Bern have identified a new antibiotic resistance gene in bacteria from dairy cows. This gene confers resistance to all beta-lactam antibiotics including the last generation of cephalosporins used against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. A transfer to S. aureus which is likely according to the researchers would jeopardize the use of reserve antibiotics to treat human infections caused by multidrug-resistant bacteria in hospitals.



Prehistoric alpine farming in the Bernese Oberland

The people in Switzerland were on the move in the High Alps and running alpine pastures 7,000 years ago and therefore much earlier than previously assumed. A study by the University of Bern that combines archaeological knowledge with findings from palaeoecology comes to this conclusion. Prehistoric finds from the Schnidejoch Pass played a crucial part in this.



Steep rise of the Bernese Alps

The striking North Face of the Bernese Alps is the result of a steep rise of rocks from the depths following a collision of two tectonic plates. This steep rise gives new insight into the final stage of mountain building and provides important knowledge with regard to active natural hazards and geothermal energy. The results from researchers at the University of Bern and ETH Zürich are being published in the «Scientific Reports» specialist journal.



Cut the long story short – and stitch it back together

A species of unicellular ciliate has found a special trick to make use of the cellular machinery in seemingly impossible ways. Researchers of the NCCR «RNA & Disease – The Role of RNA Biology in Disease Mechanisms» of the University of Bern have for the first time described a mechanism in detail how so called «junk»-DNA is transcribed before being degraded – and this mechanism is remarkably clever.



"Instrument Flight" to the Inner Ear

A team of surgeons and engineers of Inselspital, Bern University Hospital, and the ARTORG Center for Biomedical Engineering Research, University of Bern (Switzerland), have developed a high-precision surgical robot for cochlear implantation. In the same way that avionics allow a pilot to fly a plane by instrument solely based on read-outs from the cockpit, the surgical robot developed by the researchers for RCI has the capabilities to perform surgery that a surgeon cannot carry out manually without a robot.



Genome Editing: Pressing the «Delete» Button on DNA

Until recently, genomics was a «read-only» science. But scientists led by Rory Johnson at the University of Bern and the Centre for Genomic Regulation in Barcelona, have now developed a tool for quick and easy deletion of DNA in living cells. This software will boost efforts to understand the vast regions of non-coding DNA, or «Dark Matter», in our DNA and may lead to discovery of new disease-causing genes and potential new drugs.



Stem cells derived neuronal networks grown on a chip as an alternative to animal testing

Scientists at the Institute for Infectious Diseases, University of Bern have developed an in vitro stem cell-based bioassay grown on multi-electrode arrays capable of detecting the biological activity of Clostridium botulinum neurotoxins. Their assay could serve in minimizing animal experiments as well as provide a physiological relevant platform for drug-screening of neuroactive compounds.



Seven terrestrial exoplanets around a nearby star

An international team of astronomers has discovered a compact analogue of our inner solar system about 40 light-years away. Brice-Olivier Demory of the Center of Space and Habitability at the University of Bern, analysed the data collected with NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and calculated that the newly detected exoplanets all have masses less or similar to the Earth.



Explosion in species diversity due to hybridization

No less than 500 new species of cichlids, brightly coloured perch-like fish, evolved in Lake Victoria (East Africa) over the past 15,000 years – a record in the animal and plant world. This evolutionary puzzle has now been solved by scientists from Eawag and the University of Bern. In a study published in «Nature Communications», they demonstrate for the first time that this rapid evolution was facilitated by earlier hybridization between two distantly related cichlid species from the Upper Nile and Congo drainage systems.



Bern study rehabilitates climate models

With new methods of reconstruction, climate researchers in Bern have been able to demonstrate that some 9,000 to 5,000 years ago, the Mediterranean climate was considerably warmer than previous studies had suggested. Among other things, previous concerns regarding the reliability of climate models could thus be dispelled.



New Vice-Rector Elected

The State Council of the Canton of Bern has elected a new Vice-Rector to the Executive Board of the University. Silvia Schroer has been appointed the new Vice-Rector for Quality, replacing Doris Wastl-Walter, who will be stepping down on 31st July 2017.



On track to heal leukaemia

The first clinical studies for a new type of immunotherapy for leukaemia are beginning at Bern’s University Hospital and the Department of Clinical Research (DCR) of the University of Bern. Antibodies discovered in the laboratory should inhibit the growth of tumour cells.



Peter Messerli named co-chair of UN Global Sustainable Development Report

Peter Messerli, Professor of Sustainable Development at the University of Bern, has been selected as co-chair to lead the group of scientific experts tasked with drafting the upcoming UN Global Sustainable Development Report. Former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed Peter Messerli and Endah Murniningtyas from Indonesia to serve as co-chairs. The first report is slated for release in 2019.