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New genes and functional innovation in mammals

In her latest post, Mar Albà, head of the Evolutionary genomics lab at the UPF-IMIM, explains her group’s research into new genes and their role in mammalian-specific adaptations. You can read the paper she refers to in bioRxiv, the preprint server for biology!



“Many human genes have counterparts in distant species such as plants or bacteria. This is because they share a common origin, they were invented a long time ago in a primitive cell. However, there are some genes that do not have counterparts in other species, or only in a few of them. These genes have been born much more recently. Although they may have appeared by accident, some have acquired useful functions and been preserved by natural selection. We have recently compiled thousands of mammalian-specific gene families and asked which functions they perform. We have found an enrichment in proteins from the immune system, milk, skin and the germ cells. The most recent genes, however, are rarely functionally characterized. The results of this work provide new insights into how new genes originate and what they are selected for.

Read our paper at bioRxiv and tell us what you think!”

T-Coffee Reloaded

Cedric Notredame, a group leader at the CRG, tells us in his “Slow bioinformatics blog” his personal and interesting story behind the development of T-coffee, a method for multiple sequence alignment which he developed during his PhD and which is currently widely used.



“For those who have no clue what T-Coffee does, it is a multiple sequence aligner. It means that it takes a bunch of biological sequences – typically proteins – that have evolved from a common ancestor by accumulating mutations, insertions and deletions…”

If you want to know the real story behind the T-coffee success, read Notredame’s blog here!




The four battlefronts in the war against Antibiotic Resistance


The World Antibiotic Awareness Week took place last 14-20 November, and the Antibiotic Resistance Initiative ISGlobal team took the chance to explain to the world what are the main difficulties on the fight against antibiotic resistance – a serious problem that threatens our ability to treat infectious diseases and poses a serious risk to the progress made in global health in the past decades. They summarise the issues in four battlefronts:

1- New antibiotics
2- Diagnosis
3- Mechanisms of antibiotic resistance
4- Surveillance

You can read the whole report here.

LabTechnician position open at the IBE





The González lab at the Institute of Evolutionary Biology (CSIC-UPF), which focuses on understanding how organisms adapt to the environment, is seeking a lab technician to join their research team. You can read more about this position – with a starting date around February 2017 – here.

You can read a bit about the lab’s citizen science project “Melanogaster: Catch the fly!” in this post.

And here you can see a post about a recent publication of the lab where they discovered several naturally occurring independent transposable element insertions in the promoter region of a cold-stress response gene in the fruitfly Drosophila melanogaster.


Pervasive translation of lncRNAS

Ribosome profiling is a sequencing technique that detects regions in mRNAs that are being translated. Using this technique, researchers have observed mysterious patterns of translation in many transcripts believed to be non-coding (lncRNAs, or long non-coding RNAs). The patterns are very similar to those observed in protein-coding genes but the translated proteins are generally smaller. Aside from their sequence, we know nothing about these peptides. Are they functional? Do they reflect some background noise of the translation machinery?





You can get some insights from a a recent study published in bioRxiv by the group led by Mar Albà at the IMIM. Read the whole post on her group’s blog here.

See you soon, Computational Oncogenomics lab!

Núria López-Bigas started her lab on Computational Oncogenomics at the GRIB, within the PRBB, ten years ago. After a very successful decade, we are sad to see her leaving. We wish her all the best in her lab’s new adventure, and we hope the very fruitful interactions she has started with the different groups at the park will continue to prosper.

In her last post on her blog, Núria says thanks to the GRIB, the UPF, the PRBB community and the PRBB Intervals programme… We want to say, thanks to you Núria, for the great research you have done and for being such an open, collaborative and supportive person, both within the scientific community at the park and with outreach events for the general public! You will be missed. Good luck and see you soon!

PhD Thesis from the Computational Oncogenomics group at the PRBB during the last 10 years

PhD Thesis from the Computational Oncogenomics group at the PRBB during the last 10 years

A tutorial on Burrows-Wheeler indexing methods

Guillaume Filion’s latest post is aimed at those wanting to understand the details of how the Burrows–Wheeler transform (an algorithm used in data compression) works. It may be of particular interest to those genomics researchers working on alignments, since, Filion says, the Burrows-Wheeler indexing is used to perform the seeding step of the DNA alignment problem, and it’s exceptionally well adapted to indexing the human genome.

For those of you who are not afraid of the small mathematical details, you can see this “The grand locus” post here.

Contact With Natural Spaces Improves the Health of the Population

park in the city 2


In this recent post by the HealthISglobal blog, Margarita Triguero, a PhD student at CREAL (now part of ISGLobal), gives us an overview about some recent studies showing the effects of natural spaces – mostly green spaces, both big and small – on health. As she says, blue spaces, such as lakes, rivers, or the sea, have been much less studied so far, but that’s about to change with a new international project called “BlueHealth Project“, which is led from the UK and in which the CREAL/ISGlobal researchers are involved.

Looking forward to hear more about this new project, which started earlier this year and will run until 2020! For the time being, you can read Margarita’s post here!


Science for All and All for Air Quality

Citizen Science is blooming. There’s a growing number of examples of research projects in which the general population can participate. In this post at the blog Health ISGlobal, the researcher Irene Eleta (CREAL) talks about some of these projects which are related to air pollution and that scientists at CREAL /ISGlobal are leading, such as CITI-SENSE.

CITI-SENSE sensor in Barcelona

CITI-SENSE sensor in Barcelona



Proteins bound to DNA impair Nucleotide Excision Repair


Congratulations to Núria López-Bigas at the GRIB (UPF-IMIM) for her lab’s latest paper in Nature describing why there’s an increased mutation rate in Transcription Factor Binding Sites (TFBS) in melanomas and lung tumors!!!!

You can read more about the experience publishing this paper in this post from her lab’s blog, where she explains how, after a long process of reviewing, they felt they “had the responsibility to describe our finding as soon as possible to the community”, and decided to publish the manuscript in bioRxiv. Later on, the paper was accepted and published by Nature.

Here’s for this success story!

You can read the paper here:

Radhakrishnan Sabarinathan, Loris Mularoni, Jordi Deu-Pons, Abel Gonzalez-Perez & Núria López-Bigas. Nucleotide excision repair is impaired by binding of transcription factors to DNA. Nature 532, 264–267 (14 April 2016) doi:10.1038/nature17661

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