One of the projects at the International Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology in Warsaw studies the mechanisms of DNA repair, the role of which is to prevent the distortion of genetic information. The DNA molecule, which encodes information about how each cell and the whole organism are built and function, undergoes chemical damage, either spontaneously or under the influence of external factors (radiation, carcinogens etc.). Staff members of the Institute’s Laboratory of Protein Structure use protein crystallography, which allows them to determine the three-dimensional architecture of molecules and further elucidate their mechanism of action. The Laboratory has discovered, for example, the way the UvrA protein detects various DNA lesions and initiates repair. Another achievement involved elucidating the mechanism of the RuvC enzyme, which participates in a repair pathway in which a damaged region of DNA is fixed using a correct copy thereof. The team also determined the first structures of another important DNA repair enzyme – Slx1.
The MUPUS penetrator, an instrument equipped with a hammering device and a 40 cm rod carrying measuring devices, was constructed by a team from the Space Mechatronics and Robotics Laboratory at the PAS Space Research Center (the strongest center in the world making specialist devices of this sort). The instrument is part of the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission, underway since 2004. After 10 years in flight, MUPUS landed on the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, attached to the Philae lander. It penetrated the comet’s surface and is sending measurement data back to Earth. This is the first space research of its kind carried out by European scientists.
Hornsund Polish Polar Station is situated on the bay of Isbjørnhamn in the fiord of Hornsund (in the southern portion of the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen, part of the Svalbard archipelago). Managed by the PAS Institute of Geophysics in Warsaw, the station conducts scientific research yearround and is proud to be Poland’s northernmost research institution. Together with Poland’s research vessels (including the “Oceania” research vessel of the PAS Institute of Oceanology), it forms the basis for the Polish Interdisciplinary Laboratory of Polar Research (PolarPOL). One of its objectives is to help identify the causes and effects of such global phenomena as climate change and to help counteract their negative consequences, through the sustainable use of water, natural resources, and preserving biological diversity.
The PAS Space Research Center, Poland’s only unit dealing with human activity in space, developed and assembled the subcomponents of Lem and Heweliusz – the first Polish research satellites, which are now in Earth orbit. The satellites form part of the Bright Target Explorer (BRITE) international consortium, making precise measurements of the brightest stars in our galaxy.
The European Social Survey (ESS) is one of the largest and most important European research projects in the social sciences. In Poland it is carried out by the PAS Institute of Philosophy and Sociology. Under the EES project, a unique research method has been developed, making it possible to create maps illustrating shifts in social attitudes on key issues, the modification of value systems and human behavior. The survey provides a reliable source of information about the residents of the European Union. The data is available free-of-charge at www.europeansocialsurvey.org.
This new initiative is the largest and most state-of-the-art center of its kind in Poland, studying renewable energy technologies, and one of three such facilities in Europe. It is meant to be a place for scientific research as well as for developing applications in the field of “plus-energy” technologies for homes, settlements, hospitals and schools, which will enable them to generate more energy than they themselves consume. The project coordinator is the Institute of Fluid-Flow Machinery, PAS, in Gdańsk.
Specialists from the Hirszfeld Institute of Immunology and Experimental Therapy took part in an experiment in which severed nerve fibers and motor ability was restored for Dariusz Fidyka, a man whose spinal cord had been severed. The team took cells from the olfactory bulb, isolating specifically the olfactory ensheathing cells (OEC) together with fibroblasts. After 14 days in culture, the material was then transplanted by a team of specialists from the Neurosurgery Clinic at Wrocław Medical University. After six months of intensive exercise, the patient regained the ability to walk (using orthopedic parallel bars).
Built by the PAS Institute of Nuclear Physics in Kraków, the Bronowice Cyclotron Center is Poland’s only facility equipped to treat cancer with beams of accelerated protons. Proton therapy is the latest type of radiotherapy, and its effectiveness for certain types of cancer is estimated to be at above 90%. It differs from traditional methods in that the protons strike and destroy cancer cells with great precision, without damaging healthy tissues.
In the years 2011-2014, the Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology carried out the BIO-IMAGINE project (“BIO-IMAGing in research INnovation and Education”). Its objective was to bolster the Institute’s research potential related to bioimaging, and its main task was to foster optimal conditions for creative research work. The project has given rise to new ideas in research on cells, the brain, and cancers, to cooperative projects with outstanding researchers and the world’s best research institutions, and to new hardware better able to image tissues and cells.