Dioscuri – MPI Evolutinary Biology meeting

Last week we spent a very intense 5 days visiting our collaborators in Ploen in the north of Germany. Amanda Azevedo and Michael Raatz – local organizers who coincidentally also spent some time at the Dioscuri Centre – put up together a very nice programme of scientific talks, discussion sessions, and a few social events.

This was the first time most of our group travelled together to a meeting, because we started the Dioscuri Centre in the midst of COVID-19.

We came back to Warsaw full of news ideas about possible joint projects.

Photo credits: Michael Hesse.

Only one day until our group trip to Ploen

This Sunday the whole Dioscuri Centre is going to Ploen (north of Germany) to participate in a research workshop (5-9 September). This is the first time since the opening of our centre that we can physically visit our collaborators at MPI Evolutionary Biology. We have already had a few guests from Ploen (Amanda, Michael) and we are now reciprocating. Hopefully, we will bring in only good vibes and not the universally-dreaded infectious disease!

Apart from talks by our group members and the local researchers, we will also have a scientific speed-dating session and dedicated slots for one-to-one and group discussions.

Many thanks to Amanda Azevedo and Michael Raatz (local researchers) as well as Ursula Kruetzfeld and Maren Lehmann for organizing the workshop.

Here are some details of the meeting.

Response of cancer cells to chemotherapy

Pragyesh did a clonogenic assay to assess change in the number of colonies formed by different cell lines in response to various doses of temozolomide (TMZ) treatment.

The graph above shows the change in the number of the colonies formed as compared to the DMSO-treated cells. We further treated cells with various doses of TMZ and assessed the change in their number over time using live-cell microscopy. To achieve this, Ilyas has developed an algorithm to quantify the number of cells. Though this algorithm is still a “work in progress”, it works quite well and shows that cells do not respond to the drug immediately after its application:

Rather, a significant delay is observed for all concentrations of the drug. Interestingly, this is very similar to what we observed for bacteria treated with antibiotics. This is just another example of interesting parallels between the growth of bacterial populations and cancer which we want to explore further.

This research has been supported by the POLS programme, funded through Norway Grants.

“What do you do in your job”

A few weeks ago we recorded a video featuring my daughter and some of the Dioscuri scientists. Julia (8 years old) interviews us about our work. I think everyone will agree that she is the star of this short video! Many thanks to everyone who participated in the production process (Magda, Asia, Pragyesh, Ilyas, Dominik)

Goodbye Amanda!

Last week we said farewell to Amanda, our long-term visitor from Ploen. We will all miss Amanda – both due to her scientific contributions as well as her culinary skills! However, we will continue to collaborate with Amanda and we hope to see her again very soon (in Ploen in September, then again in Warsaw some time next year).

@ Magda Ziolkowska

Visit at the MPG headquarters in Munich

This week all Dioscuri Centre leaders were invited to Munich to visit the Max Planck Society headquarters. The programme of the visit was packed with events, but we found a moment to have a joint photo with the President of the MPG, Professor Martin Stratmann. Professor Stratmann was instrumental in creating the Dioscuri Programme. Our visit coincided with the 5-year anniversary of the programme, which explains the cake in the photo below!

The night at the Opera

Some of us decided to go to the opera to see The Magic Flute. It was a rather extraordinary performace, with actors playing in front of a white screen on which animated decoration would be displayed. I cannot share any images from the performace (recording was forbidden) but I can share a photo of us standing in the lobby of the opera house.

OPUS22 grant for the Dioscuri Centre

I am delighted to say that our Dioscuri Centre has been awarded an NCN grant (call OPUS22) to study the transition from genetic to phenotypic antibiotic resistance in bacterial mutants. The image below conveys the main idea.

Many thanks to Elin Lilia, Aleksandra Sadlocha, and Witold Postek who performed experiments to generate preliminary data to support the proposal. Well done guys!

We will soon have some openings for post-docs, so stay tuned!

A visitor from Ukraine

This week we welcomed Dr Viktoria Blavatska from the Institute for Condensed Matter Physics of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, Lviv. Viktoria has come to us thanks to the financial support from a joint initiative of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and the Polish Academy of Sciences (PAS).

Viktoria’s background is in theoretical statistical physics, but she plans to use the visit to explore new research areas and work on theory aspects of some biological projects we have been pursuing in the group. Perhaps we even manage to convert her to a biologist (I am only half-joking 🙂 )?

Bike trip

Spring has finally arrived to Warsaw, and some of us decided to celebrate it by going on a short bike trip to a sort of a beer garden near the Vistula River. As evidenced by the picture below, food options were limited but we still enjoyed the trip! The weather was excellent, the company was great, and the city bicycles performed better than expected.