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Concept: Max Planck Society


BACKGROUND: A regional-scale sensitivity study has been carried out to investigate the climatic effects of forest cover change in Europe. Applying REMO (regional climate model of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology), the projected temperature and precipitation tendencies have been analysed for summer, based on the results of the A2 IPCC-SRES emission scenario simulation. For the end of the 21st century it has been studied, whether the assumed forest cover increase could reduce the effects of the greenhouse gas concentration change. RESULTS: Based on the simulation results, biogeophysical effects of the hypothetic potential afforestation may lead to cooler and moister conditions during summer in most parts of the temperate zone. The largest relative effects of forest cover increase can be expected in northern Germany, Poland and Ukraine, which is 15–20% of the climate change signal for temperature and more than 50% for precipitation. In northern Germany and France, potential afforestation may enhance the effects of emission change, resulting in more severe heavy precipitation events. The probability of dry days and warm temperature extremes would decrease. CONCLUSIONS: Large contiguous forest blocks can have distinctive biogeophysical effect on the climate on regional and local scale. In certain regions of the temperate zone, climate change signal due to greenhouse gas emission can be reduced by afforestation due to the dominant evaporative cooling effect during summer. Results of this case study with a hypothetical land cover change can contribute to the assessment of the role of forests in adapting to climate change. Thus they can build an important basis of the future forest policy.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Climate, Weather, Climate change, Germany, Greenhouse gas, Global warming, Max Planck Society


Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard is Director Emeritus at the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology in Tübingen, Germany. In 1995, she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine, along with Eric Wieschaus and Edward Lewis, for her work on the genetic control of embryogenesis using the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster In the 1990s, she transitioned her lab to working with zebrafish (Danio rerio), using similar forward genetic approaches to those that had proved so successful in Drosophila to uncover key regulators of vertebrate development. We met with Christiane at the recent International Society for Developmental Biology (ISDB) meeting in Singapore, to talk about her research, the impact of the Nobel Prize and the challenges of being a ‘woman in science’.

Concepts: DNA, Biology, Model organism, Germany, Drosophila melanogaster, Drosophila, Nobel Prize, Max Planck Society


Minhaj Sirajuddin talks to Francesca Lake, Head of Open Access Publishing. Minhaj Sirajuddin is currently an Assistant Investigator at the Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine (InStem), Bangalore, India. His lab works on understanding biological motility mediated by cytoskeleton elements using biophysics and cell biology. Previously his tenures were at UCSF (CA, USA) for his postdoctoral work and the Max Planck Institute (Dortmund, Germany) for his PhD. Minhaj is a recipient of Wellcome Trust - DBT India Alliance Intermediate Fellowship and the EMBO Young Investigator Award. He was also a finalist in the inaugural Future Science Early Career Research Award.

Concepts: Molecular biology, Biology, Organism, Stem cell, Cell biology, Research, Germany, Max Planck Society


Emmanuelle Charpentier is a French microbiologist, geneticist and biochemist. She is a Director at the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Berlin, Honorary Professor at Humboldt University, Visiting Professor at Umeå University and recipient of an Alexander von Humboldt Professorship. Prior to her current appointments, she worked at several other institutions in Germany, Sweden, Austria, the US and France. Emmanuelle Charpentier’s research on a bacterial immune system laid the foundation for the ground-breaking CRISPR-Cas9 genome engineering technology. She has received numerous prestigious awards and distinctions, and is an elected member of several renowned academies of sciences. She is co-founder of CRISPR Therapeutics and ERS Genomics.

Concepts: Bacteria, Germany, Max Planck, Alexander von Humboldt, Max Planck Society, Otto Hahn, Humboldt University of Berlin, Berlin


Ana Garcia-Saez graduated with a master’s degree in biochemistry from the University of Valencia, Spain, before completing a PhD in the laboratory of Jesus Salgado in 2005. Afterwards Ana joined the research group of Petra Schwille at the Dresden University of Technology, Germany. In 2010, she started her own group at BioQuant, the Center for Quantitative Analysis of Molecular and Cellular Biosystems, at Heidelberg University with funding from the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems and the German Cancer Research Centre (DKFZ). Since 2013, Ana has been a full Professor at the University of Tübingen. Her work focuses on membrane dynamics of mitochondria and the interaction of proteins with membrane lipids in the context of cell death programs, where she uses biophysical models and single-molecule high-resolution microscopy.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Molecular biology, University, Germany, Academic degree, Doctorate, Max Planck Society


Julius Hallervorden, a distinguished German neuropathologist, admitted on several occasions that he had received some five hundred brains of “euthanasia” victims from the Nazi killing centres for the insane. He investigated the brains in the summer of 1942; however, their traces were subsequently lost. The present study shows, that the Series H, which was part of the Hallervorden collection of brain sections in the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research, comprises the brain sections of the above mentioned five hundred euthanasia victims. The provenance of 105 patients could be reconstructed and 84 are for sure euthanasia victims. Most of them were killed in Bernburg or in Sonnenstein-Pirna. Hallervorden used the brain sections of Series H until 1956 for his studies and never publicly regretted this abuse of the brains of euthanasia victims.

Concepts: Time, Brain, Traumatic brain injury, Human brain, Germany, Summer of Love, Max Planck Society, Otto Hahn


After obtaining his diploma in human biology at the Philipps-University Marburg, Germany, Robert Ernst joined the laboratory of Lutz Schmitt and obtained his PhD (summa cum laude) at Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf in 2007. For his postdoctoral work, Robert worked with Hidde Ploegh at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, USA, supported by an EMBO long-term fellowship. Afterwards, he returned to Germany, to the laboratory of Kai Simons at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden. In 2012, Robert became an Emmy Noether fellow of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft and joined the Institute of Biochemistry, Goethe-University Frankfurt as a Junior Professor. Robert moved to the University of Saarland in 2017 as a full professor of molecular biology. His laboratory is interested in sense-and-control elements underlying the homeostasis of cellular membrane properties and their active role in cellular signalling.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Cell, Molecular biology, Biology, Cell biology, Germany, Max Planck Society


Gaia Pigino received her master’s degree in natural science followed by a PhD in evolutionary biology - focusing on zoology and ecotoxicology - in the laboratory of Fabio Bernini at the University of Siena, Italy. She then joined the electron microscopy laboratory of Pietro Lupetti for her first postdoctoral position before moving to Zürich. There, supported by an EMBO Long-Term Fellowship, she worked with Takashi Ishikawa at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and the Paul Scherrer Institute in Villigen. In 2012, Gaia became an independent group leader at the Max Planck Institute in Dresden. Her laboratory is interested in understanding the assembly of the cilium and mechanisms of ciliary transport in eukaryotic cells, as investigated with cryo-transmission electron microscopy.

Concepts: DNA, Cell, Biology, Organism, Eukaryote, Organelle, Germany, Max Planck Society


To investigate the rate of and risk factors for restless legs syndrome (RLS) augmentation in Japanese patients receiving pramipexole (PPX) treatment. Records of 231 consecutive patients with idiopathic RLS who received PPX therapy for more than one month in a single sleep disorder center were analyzed retrospectively. Augmentation was diagnosed based on the Max Planck Institute criteria; associated factors were identified by logistic regression analysis. Mean age at PPX initiation was 60.6 ± 14.9 years and mean treatment duration was 48.5 ± 26.4 months. Augmentation was diagnosed in 21 patients (9.1%). Daily PPX dose and treatment duration were significantly associated with augmentation. By analyzing the receiver operating characteristic curve, a PPX dose of 0.375 mg/day was found to be the optimal cut-off value for predicting augmentation. After stratifying patients according to PPX treatment duration, at median treatment duration of 46 months, optimal cut-off values for daily doses were 0.375 and 0.500 mg/day for <46 months and ≥46 months of treatment, respectively. The RLS augmentation with PPX treatment in Japanese patients was occurred at rate of 9.1%, being quite compatible with previously reported rates in Caucasian patients. The symptom could appear within a relatively short period after starting the treatment in possibly vulnerable cases even with a smaller drug dose. Our results support the importance of keeping doses of PPX low throughout the RLS treatment course to prevent augmentation.

Concepts: Regression analysis, Logistic regression, Receiver operating characteristic, Pramipexole, Ropinirole, Restless legs syndrome, Max Planck Society


Arun Shukla received his master’s degree in Biotechnology from the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, and joined the lab of Nobel laureate Hartmut Michel at the Max Planck Institute of Biophysics in Frankfurt, Germany, for his PhD. He then moved to the United States for his postdoctoral work with Robert Lefkowitz at Duke University (Durham, NC) in a very close collaboration with Brian Kobilka (Stanford University, CA). Arun became an Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine at Duke University in 2011, before returning to India in April 2014 as an Assistant Professor at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Kanpur as a Wellcome Trust DBT India Alliance Intermediate Fellow. His research is centred on G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), and he applies molecular, cellular and structural biology methods to understand the signalling and activation pathways of GPCRs.

Concepts: University, India, Academic degree, North Carolina, Doctorate, Indian National Congress, Jawaharlal Nehru, Max Planck Society