Great News for Interdisciplinary Research in Germany

We received funding for a new Collaborative Research Centre (CRC) “Neurotronics: Bio-inspired Information Pathways“. In close collaboration between electro engineers and evolutionary biologists at Kiel University, the CRC will explore novel hardware technologies for novel bio-inspired computing architectures paving the way towards a paradigm change in information processing. Projects by Thomas Bosch and by Alexander Klimovich aim to model functional circuit growth including sensory information processing of the nervous system of Hydra to derive fundamental biological principles of neuronal circuit growth. Based on a spatiotemporal map of the nervous system of developing Hydra polyps, an electrical circuit mimicking the activity patterns of light-modulated body contractions will be synthesized. A wave digital emulation will reveal how the nervous system of a Hydra hatchling processes visual sensory information related to light stimulation.

New Book: Cellular Dialogues in the Holobiont

Thomas Bosch recently edited the book “Cellular Dialogues in the Holobiont” together with Mike Hadfield from the University of Hawaii.

From the preface:

A dialogue that matters: microbe–host interactions in protists, plants, and animals.
Animal evolution appears intimately linked to the presence of microbes. A continuously increasing number of studies demonstrate that individuals from sponges to humans are not solitary, isolated entities, but consist of complex communities of many species that likely coevolved during a billion years of coexistence (McFall-Ngai et al., 2013). This progress is due in large part to the application of “metagenomic” methods: a series of experimental and computational approaches that allows a microbial community’s composition to be defined by DNA sequencing without having to culture its members. This work has yielded catalogues of microbial species, many previously unknown and belonging to all three domains of life, as well as lists of millions of microbial genes collectively known as a host’s microbiome. Research on host–microbe interactions has become an emerging cross-disciplinary field. Contrary to the classical view that microbes are primarily pathogenic and disease-causing, there is now a multitude of studies indicating that a host-specific microbiome provides functions related to metabolism, immunity, development, and environmental adaptation to its animal, plant, or fungal host. Similarly, microbes have been documented as important for environmental sensing, inducing colony formation and sexual reproduction in choanoflagellates, and contributing to developmental transitions and life history traits such as development pace and longevity. Similarly, the microbiome of plants impacts the phenotype and fitness of the plant host. It has become increasingly clear that animals, plants, and fungi evolved in a microbial world and that multicellular organisms rely on their associated microbes to function. Symbiosis appears as a general principle in eukaryotic evolution.

Interview mit Thomas Bosch zur Bedeutung des Mikrobioms in Zeiten von Covid-19

Yuuki Obata and Vassilis Pachnis from The Francis Crick Institute in London wrote a wonderful commentary in PNAS on our recent paper concluding that our studies in Hydra will be extremely valuable to understand the function and contributions of pacemaker cells (of mesenchymal or neural origin) to intestinal physiology and host defense against pathogens. Read the commentary here.

In times of social distancing: Thomas Bosch explains in an interview with the weekly newspaper „Der Freitag” why humans need the physical contact with each other and why microbes are so important (in German).

In Zeiten von Kontaktbegrenzung: Thomas Bosch erläutert in einem Interview „Unser Körper braucht Gemeinschaft”, warum menschliche Organismen auf den Austausch mit anderen angewiesen sind und welche Rolle dabei die symbiontischen Mikroben spielen.