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Insights into Signalling Research at the Science Market 2021

With exciting lectures, a pub quiz and a colouring picture, the CIBSS presented signalling research at the science market.

This year, the Freiburg Science Market took place online and the Cluster of Excellence CIBSS - Centre for Integrative Biological Signalling Studies was also present.

At the pub quiz by CIBSS and the MPI-IE participants solved questions on signalling, immunology and epigenetics. (photo: CIBSS/Mathilde Bessert-Nettelbeck)

Online lectures

In educational lectures on Friday 25.06.21, two scientists of the Cluster of Excellence CIBSS at the University of Freiburg presented their research to explain what signalling research actually is in an easily accessible way.

Prof. Wilfried Weber from the CIBSS speaker team started in the morning. Weber used vivid examples to illustrate the challenges signalling research has to face in order to achieve its goal of understanding and learning to speak the universal language of life.

Research in this field is made particularly difficult by the different size scales on which signals occur. Weber emphasised the huge time spans and physical scales in which signalling researchers must think. For example, trying to understand how a single protein affects the shape of an organ is like trying to understand how a one cent coin might change the shape of the moon.

In the afternoon, Dr Eva-Maria Dürr from the research group of CIBSS member Prof. Maja Banks-Köhn explained why swimming in lakes can become a health hazard in summer. When the lakes really heat up in late summer, blue-green algae proliferate in some places, producing toxic substances called microcystins. These microcystins are toxic because they block signals in our cells. They bind to so-called protein phosphatases and hinder them in their important tasks in the body. The consequences in humans are symptoms of poisoning, such as diarrhoea and vomiting. But it is precisely the fact that they block these protein phosphatases that makes them useful for researchers: with the help of these molecules, phosphatases can be researched and, for example, new drugs can be developed.

Fun for young and old 

At online Freiburg science market, everyone got his share of science fun.

On 15 June, at an online science pub quiz, visitors eagerly puzzled over questions on immunology and epigenetics. The organizational team was supported by researchers from CIBSS and the Max Planck Institute for Immunobiology and Epigenetics, who answered any remaining questions afterwards. 

While the older ones sat with a self-served cold drink of their choice at the pub quiz, the younger ones interested in signalling research could enjoy a funny colouring picture on which they could discover countless communication paths between and within the cells.