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

Media Relations 2019



Bern and Fribourg researchers identify neurons responsible for rapid eye movements (REM) during sleep

Why do we move our eyes fast in the paradoxical sleep - in that sleep phase, in which most dreams take place? The secret is not yet fully aired, but we are on his track: A team at the University of Bern, in collaboration with the University of Fribourg, has identified the nerve cells behind this curious phenomenon.



Bark Beetles Control Pathogenic Fungi

Pathogens can drive the evolution of social behaviour in insects. This is shown by researchers from Bern and Würzburg for ambrosia beetles.



Wyss Academy for Nature founded at the University of Bern

With the Wyss Academy for Nature, a globally leading research and implementation center in the field of nature and people is being set up at the University of Bern. The entrepreneur and patron, Hansjörg Wyss, the President of the Government of the Canton of Bern, Christoph Ammann, and the Rector of the University of Bern, Christian Leumann, ceremoniously signed the contract today. Over the next 10 years, 200 million francs are going to be invested.



Swiss space telescope CHEOPS: Rocket launch set for 17 December 2019

The space telescope CHEOPS is scheduled to begin its journey into space on Tuesday, December 17th on board a Soyuz rocket from the European Space Agency (ESA) in Kourou, French Guiana. CHEOPS is a joint mission of ESA and Switzerland, led by the University of Bern, in collaboration with the University of Geneva.



Hans Sigrist Symposium 2019: Fascinating Exoplanet Science

The Hans Sigrist Symposium, which is taking place on Friday, December 6, 2019, is to address the topic of exoplanet research – and will therefore revolve around the question of whether Earth-like planets orbit other suns in the universe. The occasion coincides with the presentation of the prestigious Prize of the Hans Sigrist Foundation, which is based at the University of Bern, to the Dutch Astronomer, Prof. Dr. Ignas Snellen. The keynote speech by Ignas Snellen is entitled "The Search for Extraterrestrial Life".



A new pathway to "reprogram" killer cells

Killer cells of the immune system detect and kill infected cells or cancer cells. Researchers at the Institute of Pathology at the University of Bern have now discovered that the mechanism by which certain immune cells kill their target cells can also be used to control the killer cells themselves. This finding may be relevant to cancer immunotherapy.



Media conference “Launch of the CHEOPS mission”

For the time being, the Swiss space telescope CHEOPS is scheduled to begin its journey into space in mid-December on board a Soyuz rocket from the European Space Agency (ESA) in Kourou, French Guiana. CHEOPS is a joint mission of ESA and Switzerland, led by the University of Bern, in collaboration with the University of Geneva.



How nematodes outsmart the defenses of pests

The western corn rootworm, one of the world's most damaging maize pests, can use plant defense compounds to defend itself against its own natural enemies, so-called entomopathogenic nematodes. However, the nematodes can become immune against these compounds in turn, which enhances their ability to fight the western corn rootworm, as researchers at the University of Bern show. This mechanism may contribute to improving biological pest control.



Breakthrough in malaria research

An international scientific consortium led by the cell biologists Volker Heussler from the University of Bern and Oliver Billker from the Umeå University in Sweden has for the first time systematically investigated the genome of the malaria parasite Plasmodium throughout its life cycle in a large-scale experiment. The researchers were able to identify hundreds of targets that are urgently needed in drug and vaccine development to eradicate the disease.



Research Award for project on Heart Transplantation

This year's Johanna Dürmüller-Bol DBMR Research Award of the Department for BioMedical Research (DBMR) of the University of Bern goes to Maria-Nieves Sanz. She receives the award, endowed with CHF 30,000, for her research on inflammatory processes during heart transplantations. It will be awarded today on the “Day of BioMedical Research”.



Removing liver tumors safely, noninvasively and efficiently

Many liver tumors have long been difficult or impossible to remove. Since 2015, however, it has been possible to treat these tumors by combining noninvasive surgical techniques, radiological imaging and a navigation system. For the first time, a new study by University of Bern and Inselspital, Berne University Hospital has impressively demonstrated the success of this technique.



Special cells contribute to regenerate the heart in Zebrafish

It is already known that zebrafish can flexibly regenerate their hearts after injury. An international research group led by Prof. Nadia Mercader of the University of Bern now shows that certain heart muscle cells play a central role in this process. The insights gained could be used to initiate a similar repair process in the human heart.



Dr. Josef Steiner Cancer Research Award 2019 goes to a bioinformatician

The Dr. Josef Steiner Cancer Research Award for 2019, endowed with €900,000 and originally referred to as the "Nobel Prize for Cancer Research", is going to Prof. Serena Nik-Zainal of the University of Cambridge. Thanks to her research, mutations in cancerous tumors can be analyzed using new bioinformatic methods, which makes new targeted therapy approaches possible. The prize is being awarded today at the University of Bern.



Liquifying a rocky exoplanet

A hot, molten Earth would be around 5% larger than its solid counterpart. This is the result of a study led by researchers at the University of Bern. The difference between molten and solid rocky planets is important for the search of Earth-like worlds beyond our Solar System and the understanding of Earth itself.



A planet that should not exist

Astronomers detected a giant planet orbiting a small star. The planet has much more mass than theoretical models predict. While this surprising discovery was made by a Spanish-German team at an observatory in southern Spain, researchers at the University of Bern studied how the mysterious exoplanet might have formed.



Advanced AI boosts clinical analysis of eye images

A fast and reliable machine learning tool, developed by the ARTORG Center, University of Bern and the Department of Ophthalmology, Inselspital brings Artificial Intelligence (AI) closer to clinical use in Ophthalmology. The novel method published in Nature Scientific Reports on September 19, 2019 presents a tool that reliably extracts meaning from extensive image data. Based on a convolutional neural network (CNN) the tool is able to provide results within seconds, thus supporting the doctor with comprehensive image analysis during a consultation with the patient.



How to construct a protein factory

The complexity of molecular structures in the cell is amazing. Having achieved great success in elucidating these structures in recent years, biologists are now taking on the next challenge: to find out more about how they are constructed. A joint research project between two groups from the University of Bern and ETH Zurich now provides insight into a very unusual construction process in the unicellular parasite Trypanosoma brucei.



The path of breast-to-brain cancer metastasis

Scientists at EPFL’s Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research and University of Bern have discovered a signaling pathway that breast tumors exploit to metastasize to the brain. The work is published in Nature.



AI-based prognosis in intensive care: decision-relevant patterns identified in EEG of coma patients

A reliable prognosis for coma patients in the intensive care unit is crucial. Improved transparency will boost the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to support end-of-life decisions. For the first time, a research team has succeeded in identifying specific patterns in Electro-Encephalogram (EEG) analyses that the deep-learning network uses for making prognosis decisions. This is an important step towards decoding the "black box" of deep-learning processes and thus towards AI transparency.



Prestigious grant to use Artificial Intelligence for improved glucose control

The ARTORG Center for Biomedical Engineering Research of the University of Bern is the recipient of a grant from JDRF, the leading global funder for type 1 diabetes research. Thanks to the grant, a team led by Stavroula Mougiakakou will investigate a large, real-world dataset to develop advanced algorithms for automated insulin delivery that are capable of predicting dangerously low or high blood sugar levels. The goal is to optimize and personalize insulin treatment.



The University of Bern strengthens its international presence

The University of Bern excels with its world-class research in several areas: this year, it celebrated the participation in the first moon landing and will soon start an ESA mission into space; the UN’s world sustainability report was drafted under Bernese co-leadership, and its medical research is garnering international recognition at award ceremonies. In addition, the University of Bern has also increased its student numbers.



Global Sustainable Development Report calls for urgent, coordinated action

Global Sustainable Development Report calls for urgent, coordinated action



Computer science professor and geologist receive 3.5 million euros in funding

Two researchers from the University of Bern have each been awarded a prestigious European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant. Computer science professor David Bommes is seeking a breakthrough in the field of digital 3D models and geologist Pierre Lanari will be using new computer simulation to explore fluid pathways in the Earth’s interior.



Hints of a volcanically active exomoon

A rocky extrasolar moon (exomoon) with bubbling lava may orbit a planet 550 light-years away from us. This is suggested by an international team of researchers led by the University of Bern on the basis of theoretical predictions matching observations. The “exo-Io” would appear to be an extreme version of Jupiter’s moon Io.



Major award for two Bernese medical projects

Prestigious grants from the USA go to two Bernese researchers: the biomedical scientists Marianna Kruithof-de Julio and Robert Rieben were the only researchers in Switzerland to receive a grant under two "Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs", which primarily support research in the USA. This underlines the unique quality of medical research at the University of Bern.



The climate is warming faster than it has in the last 2,000 years

In contrast to pre-industrial climate fluctuations, current, anthropogenic climate change is occurring across the whole world at the same time. In addition, the speed of global warming is higher than it has been in at least 2,000 years. That’s according to two studies from the University of Bern.



Volcanoes shaped the climate before humankind

Five large volcanic eruptions occurred in the early 19th century. They caused cooling and – as a study led by the University of Bern shows – to drying in the monsoon regions and glaciers growing in the Alps. The study shows that the pre-industrial climate was not constant: if one takes this cold period as the starting point for current global warming, the climate has already warmed up more than assumed in the current discussions.



Four new professorships to drive forward diabetes research in Bern

The University of Bern and the Diabetes Center Berne (DCB) are together creating four professorships in the field of diabetes technology research and development. This will boost the international profile of diabetes research in Bern and strengthen its role as a center of medicine in the long term.



Sediments in Lake Geneva reflect the 2008 financial crisis

An analysis of sediment transport in the Rhône Valley yields surprising results: melting glaciers overcompensated for the effect of the increased number of hydropower plants. A reduction in construction activities due to the 2008 financial crisis could also be seen in the data. This comprehensive study, the first of its kind in Europe, brings important new knowledge, in particular for flood prevention.



Cancer control: Structure of important transport protein solved

For the first time, Bernese researchers have been able to solve the structure of a transport protein and thus to describe the functional mechanism that plays a significant role in the survival of cancer cells. This is an important step towards developing effective inhibitors and fight tumor growth.



Survey shows high levels of employee satisfaction at the University of Bern

On the whole, employees at the University of Bern are very satisfied or mostly satisfied with their work and, in general, have a high level of commitment. This is according to the results of the 2019 staff survey. One aspect which staff particularly enjoy is the diverse nature of their work. An up-to-date analysis of wage equality also yielded positive results: at the University of Bern, men and woman earn the same amount for work which is of equal value.



Bern in Space – celebrating 50 years since the moon landing

At the end of June, the University of Bern is holding a diverse science festival to mark the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing: a multimedia show on Bundesplatz will display milestones in Bernese space exploration, high-ranking representatives from the big space agencies will discuss the future of space exploration, there will be a chance to look up at the night sky from the Grosse Schanze – and rockets will be built.



"Goldilocks" neurons promote REM sleep

It has been a mystery why REM sleep, or dream sleep, increases when the room temperature is "just right". Neuroscientists from Bern show that melanin-concentrating hormone neurons within the hypothalamus increase REM sleep when the need for body temperature defense is minimized, such as when sleeping in a warm and comfortable room temperature. These data have important implications for the function of REM sleep.



A combination of insecticides and mite weakens honeybees

Today, scientists of the Institute of Bee Health of the University of Bern and the honeybee research association COLOSS have published an article in the peer-reviewed journal Scientific Reports that shows a synergistic time-lag interaction between the parasitic mite Varroa destructor and neonicotinoid insecticides reducing survival of winter honeybees, Apis mellifera. This article emphasizes the need to develop sustainable agricultural and apicultural schemes.



"Copying & pasting" a gene allows stickleback to live in freshwater habitats

Since the last ice age, stickleback have managed to emerge from the sea to colonise many freshwater waterbodies. Genetic analysis by Eawag researchers and colleagues from the University of Bern and the National Institute of Genetics in Shizuoka, Japan, now demonstrate that they achieved this thanks to additional copies of a metabolism gene.



Information and language in news impact prejudice against minorities

Researchers at the Institute of Psychology show how news about immigrants and language describing immigrants shape prejudice against immigrants and other social minorities, as part of the project «Immigrants in the Media». For instance, nouns used for describing the ethnicity of immigrants enhance prejudice against immigrants more than adjectives.



Bern Center for Precision Medicine inaugurated

The Bern Center for Precision Medicine (BCPM) of the University of Bern and Inselspital, University hospital of Bern, were officially opened today in the presence of Director of Education Christine Häsler. Häsler described the BCPM as a prime example of the development of new research centers, and strengthening Bern as a center of medicine.



Particulate matter from aircraft engines affects airways

In a unique, innovative experiment, researchers under the leadership of the University of Bern have investigated the effect of exhaust particles from aircraft turbine engines on human lung cells. The cells reacted most strongly to particles emitted during ground idling. It was also shown that the cytotoxic effect is only to some extent comparable to that of particles from gasoline and diesel engines.



Rare-Earth metals in the atmosphere of a glowing-hot exoplanet

KELT-9 b is the hottest exoplanet known to date. In the summer of 2018, a joint team of astronomers from the universities of Bern and Geneva found signatures of gaseous iron and titanium in its atmosphere. Now these researchers have also been able to detect traces of vaporized sodium, magnesium, chromium, and the rare-Earth metals scandium and yttrium.



First demonstration of antimatter wave interferometry

An international collaboration with participation of the University of Bern has demonstrated for the first time in an interference experiment that antimatter particles also behave as waves besides having particle properties. This success paves the way to a new field of investigations of antimatter.



Spider venom is a dangerous cocktail

Spider venom does not only consist of neurotoxins but also of a multitude of dangerous constituents. Researchers of the University of Bern present a summary of many years of spider venom research in a new study and show how various substances present in spider venom interact with each other and thus effectively render the spider's prey defenseless.



"Flight recorder" of rocks within the Earth’s crust

Daniela Rubatto, Professor at the Institute of Geology at the University of Bern, was awarded the prestigious Bunsen Medal of the European Geosciences Union. It is an appreciation of her innovative research approach, which uses metamorphic zircon as a "flight recorder" of rocks within the Earth’s crust.



The oldest ice on Earth may be able to solve the puzzle of the planet’s climate history

A European research consortium, in which the University of Bern is involved in, wants to drill a 1.5 million year old ice core in Antarctica. An analysis of the climate data stored in the ice should contribute to a better understanding of the alternation between warm and cold periods.



Hurricanes going astray make for heavy rainfall in Europe

Tropical storms that move poleward influence the weather in Europe much more than previously supposed. A study from the Mobiliar Lab for Natural Risks at the University of Bern shows that the probability of heavy rainfall is twice as high when mid-latitude weather is disrupted by cyclones. These findings could ensure better extreme weather forecasts in the future.



Female roundworms produce clones of themselves

In the Mesorhabditis belari roundworm, the sole purpose of males is to help females produce clones of themselves. This unique form of reproduction was recently described by an international research team with participation of Peter Meister from the Institute of Cell Biology of the University of Bern.



Bernese Mars camera CaSSIS returns spectacular images

Three years ago, on 14 March 2016, the Bernese Mars camera CaSSIS started its journey to Mars with the "ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter" spacecraft. The camera system developed at the University of Bern has been observing Mars from its primary science orbit since April 2018 and provides high-resolution, colour images of the surface. On 2 March 2019, CaSSIS also delivered its first image of InSight, NASA's lander on Mars.



Internationally acknowledged expert becomes Endowed Professor for Preventive Dentistry

The Executive Board of the university has appointed WHO expert Guglielmo Campus to the position of Endowed Professor for Preventive Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology. The endowed professor has the objective to promote public oral health. Guglielmo Campus brings wide-ranging experience and considerable expertise to his post.



Neural networks predict planet mass

To find out how planets form astrophysicists run complicated and time consuming computer calculations. Members of the NCCR PlanetS at the University of Bern have now developed a totally novel approach to speed up this process dramatically. They use deep learning based on artificial neural networks, a method that is well known in image recognition.



Vaccine developed to treat osteoarthritic pain

Researchers from the Universities of Bern and Oxford have developed a vaccine that blocks the effects of the main cause of pain in osteoarthritis (OA) - nerve growth factor (NGF) – in mice.



The deep Southern Ocean is key to more intense ice ages

Over the last million years, ice ages have intensified and lengthened. According to a study led by the University of Bern, this previously unexplained climate transition coincides with a diminution of the mixing between deep and surface waters in the Southern Ocean. The study confirms that the Antarctic region plays a crucial role during periods of climate change.



European Southern Observatory Committee of Council meets in Bern

The European Southern Observatory (ESO) is Europe’s foremost organisation for astronomical research. Its giant telescopes provide advanced observational facilities at various sites in the Atacama Desert in Chile. Switzerland is one of the 16 countries which support ESO. The ESO Committee of Council, which currently has the University of Bern's astrophysicist Willy Benz as president, is to meet in Bern on 5 and 6 March.



Small and medium-sized towns are surprisingly innovative

Small and medium-sized towns are increasingly appearing on the radar of policy makers all over Europe. Findings from a project funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation on the role and significance of these towns in Switzerland show that national policy and planning overlook their potential.



Bern Center for Precision Medicine founded

Precision medicine "tailored" to individual patients is regarded as the medicine of the future. It is already being practiced at the University of Bern and Inselspital, Bern University Hospital. The new Bern Center for Precision Medicine will exploit synergies and strengthen the medicinal location in Bern.



Why a blow to the chest can kill or save you

It is still a mystery why a blow to the chest can kill people by inducing cardiac arrest yet save others that are in cardiac arrest. We may be one step closer to an answer, however, thanks to a device developed by researchers of the University of Bern and the EPFL that can replicate the experience in the laboratory.



"Better to dry a rocky planet before use"

Earth’s solid surface and clement climate may be in part due to a massive star in the birth environment of the Sun. Without its radioactive elements injected into the early solar system, our home planet could be a hostile ocean world covered in global ice sheets. This is demonstrated by computer simulations in which the National Centre of Competence in Research PlanetS, based at the University of Bern, was involved.



Drug-resistant tuberculosis: high mortality rate due to inaccurate tests

Inaccurate tests carried out on tuberculosis patients in developing countries often fail to reliably detect resistance to drugs, leading to incorrect treatment and a higher mortality rate. These are the results of study by an international group of researchers led by a team at the University of Bern published today.



Learning new vocabulary during deep sleep

Researchers of the University of Bern showed that we can acquire the vocabulary of a new language during distinct phases of slow-wave sleep and that the sleep-learned vocabulary could be retrieved unconsciously following waking. Memory formation appeared to be mediated by the same brain structures that also mediate wake vocabulary learning.



Testmitteilung of today




Inequality promotes deforestation in Latin America

Agricultural expansion is the main cause of deforestation in Latin America. Improvements in agricultural productivity can either enable forest conservation, or promote more deforestation. A new University of Bern study highlights the role played by inequality: high inequality leads to more deforestation, while lower inequality improves the long-term protection of remaining tropical forests.



Discovery of bacterial signature of intestinal disease

Researchers from the Department of Biomedical Research of the University of Bern and the University Clinic of Visceral Surgery and Medicine of the Inselspital Bern, Switzerland, have discovered that changes in the composition of the intestinal bacteria in patients with chronic inflammatory bowel disease affect the severity of the disease and the success of therapy. The advance provides an important basis to improve treatment of these diseases.



Turbocharger for the cell machinery

Researchers of the University of Bern have discovered a new molecular regulatory mechanism in unicellular parasites which has never before been observed. RNA fragments do not act as brakes in the cell apparatus, but on the contrary as "stimulants": they boost protein production after periods of stress.