Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2015

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2015 goes to Tomas Lindahl, Paul Modrich and Aziz Sancar “for mechanistic studies of DNA repair.


Tomas Lindhal, Paul Modrich et Aziz Sancar ©

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Tomas Lindahl received The Foreigner Prize of Inserm in 2008. See Thomas Lindahl, in an interview on the Inserm History website : “Tomas Lindahl, Prix Etranger 2008

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2015. Nobel Media AB 2014. Web. 5 Oct 2015.

Signature of a Franco-Japonese research agreement

On the occasion of Prime Minister Valls’ visit and the launch of the France-Japan Year of Innovation, Inserm signs a research partnership with St Luke’s International University to combat Ebola virus.

In the presence of French Prime Minister Manuel Valls and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe, Finance Minister Emmanuel Macron and Secretary of State for Research Thierry Mandon, Inserm and St Luke’s International University have just signed a research agreement on combating Ebola virus

This agreement concerns the development of the antiviral drug Favipiravir for the treatment of Ebola infection. This antiviral drug, initially developed by Toyama Chemical, part of the Fujifilm Group, was evaluated by Inserm under a partnership agreement with the Japanese company and the Guinean authorities during the recent Ebola epidemic in Guinea. The promising results led the Guinean authorities to allow access of Ebola patients to this treatment.

In order to continue research on this drug with a view to developing a treatment, Inserm and St Luke’s International University, designated as operator by the relevant Japanese authorities, have concluded an agreement focusing mainly on preclinical research. The total sum allocated under this collaboration is approximately €1 million for the Japanese part, to fund research conducted by Inserm, particularly in its Inserm/Jean Mérieux high-level containment laboratory in Lyon.

Following joint statements from the French and Japanese Prime Ministers, Prof. Yves Lévy, Chairman and CEO of Inserm, and Prof. Tsuguya Fukui, President of St Luke’s International University, welcomed this French-Japanese collaboration.

Prof. Lévy stated: “The agreement that has just been signed will allow Inserm to make further advances in combating Ebola by establishing the optimal dose of Favipiravir for broad protection of populations threatened by the virus. This is a vital contribution to the excellent research on Ebola conducted in Inserm’s laboratories.”

Medical diagnosis: will brain palpation soon be possible?

If there is one technique used by the physician to explore the human body during every medical examination in order to make a diagnosis or prescribe further tests, it is palpation. By its nature, however, the brain cannot be palpated without using a highly invasive procedure (craniotomy, or opening the skull), which is limited to rare cases. By drawing on seismology, Inserm researchers led by Stéfan Catheline (Inserm Unit 1032, “Therapeutic Applications of Ultrasound”) have just developed a noninvasive brain imaging method using MRI that provides the same information as physical palpation. Ultimately, it could be used in the early diagnosis of brain tumours or Alzheimer’s disease. This work is published in PNAS.

Many diseases involve structural changes in tissues, which are reflected in a change in their mechanical properties, such as elasticity. Using the sensitivity of their hands, and their detailed knowledge of the body, physicians, through an examination known as palpation, can assess the size and stiffness of a tumour, the presence of inflamed lymph nodes, or the size and position of the foetus in a pregnant woman, to mention a few examples.

This palpation has been supplemented or replaced by modern techniques that give the physician an indication of the elasticity of a biological tissue. They are based on the generation and detection of waves that propagate through the body at varying speeds depending on the stiffness of the organs (the stiffer the tissue, the slower the wave propagation, and vice versa). However, this method cannot be applied to the brain, which, doubly protected by the cranium and cerebrospinal fluid, is difficult for externally applied waves to access. It is therefore impossible to directly or indirectly palpate the brain, something that greatly complicates the work of neurosurgeons. On the other hand, the brain is the seat of natural vibrations created by the blood pulsating in the arteries and the circulating cerebrospinal fluid. There remained a significant unprecedented challenge: how to capture this complex field of natural shear waves, and represent it on a computer screen.

In this article, Inserm researchers, using MRI, have succeeded in detecting natural shear waves in the brain using computational techniques borrowed from seismologists and known as “noise correlation.” They were thus able to build images of the brain’s elasticity.

“If this method can be developed for clinical use, it will be a boon for both the patient and the physician, since making the brain vibrate is quite painful at the moment. Of course, this method will be complementary to those that already exist, and the future is in a multimodal medical diagnosis,” says Stéfan Catheline, Inserm Research Director and main author of this work.

 “Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and hydrocephalus involve changes in the stiffness of the brain tissues. This new technique allows their detection, and could be used to avoid brain biopsies. ”

This method for palpating the brain could have other areas of application, such as for analysing the development of neurodegenerative processes, the impact of a lesion from a trauma or tumour, response to treatment, etc.Photorecadree

©Inserm/Stéfan Catheline

Nobel Prize in medicine 2015

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2015 was divided, one half jointly to William C. Campbell and Satoshi Ōmura “for thier discoveries concerning a novel therapy against infections caused by roundworm parasites” and the other half to Youyou Tu “for her discoveries concerning a novel therapy against Malaria”.


William C. Campbell, Satoshi Ōmura et Youyou Tu ©

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The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2015. Nobel Media AB 2014. Web. 5 Oct 2015.