Established in 2018, the Inter-Faculty Cooperation (IRC) One Health fosters interdisciplinary research between the University of Bern`s Faculties of Science, Veterinary Medicine and Medicine, through an unifying framework that explores the impact of different types of chemicals on the health of food chains. This combines two of the University of Bern`s thematic priorities –sustainability and health/medicine. The initiative has also supported young researchers, training a new generation of competent and interdisciplinary scientists.
One Health - Interfaculty Research Cooperation
Chemicals from maize roots influence wheat yield
Maize roots secrete certain chemicals that affect the quality of soil. In some fields, this effect increases yields of wheat planted subsequent to maize in the same soil by more than 4%. This was proven by researchers from the University of Bern. While the findings from several field experiments show that these effects are highly variable, in the long term they may yet help to make the cultivation of grains more sustainable, without the need for additional fertilizers or pesticides.
The Effects of Soil Microbial Disturbance and Plants on Arsenic Concentrations and Speciation in Soil Water and Soils
In this greenhouse pot experiment with maize (Zea mays L.) grown in soils containing different arsenic levels, members from the One Health group could show that the soil microbiome as well as the presence of plants seems to play a role in the release of As from soils to soil solution. At higher arsenic levels, maize interacted with microbes to mitigate arsenic bioavailability.
One Health Spin Off Company ENZOXA wins 1st Prize at Business Creation Competition
ENZOXA, a One Health spin off company, (Christelle Robert, Sigi Hapfelmeier, Matheus Notter, Pierre Mateo), won first place at the STAGE-UP business creation competition. The award acknowledges ENZOXA's innovative and promising utilisation of plant natural products to develop novel therapies against the stomach pathogen Helicobacter pylori. This victory marks the inception of an exciting chapter for ENZOXA, which just initiated preclinical studies in Bern and is one step closer to improving stomach health.
CHIMIA Special Issue on Chemical Ecology
Switzerland has an active and vibrant Chemical Ecology community. A special issue in CHIMIA edited by Matthias Erb, now puts a spotlight on this topic. The special issue consists of eight reviews, including one by One Health`s Christelle Robert and Pierre Mateo, that highlight the research accomplishments and future aims of several leading laboratories, with topics ranging from basic chemical ecology to application in sustainable agriculture. CHIMIA is an open access journal published by the Swiss Chemical Society (SCS).
Better understanding of the development of intestinal diseases
Researchers led by Andrew Macpherson and Bahtiyar Yilmaz from the Department for Biomedical Research at the University of Bern and the University Clinic for Visceral Surgery and Medicine at the Inselspital have now been able to examine the intestinal bacteria of the human small intestine in a simple and innovative way to show how they support the digestive process by reacting dynamically to the human nutritional status.
One Health expert joins Minamata Convention to research adverse effects of mercury
The FOEN (Swiss Environmental Agency) has nominated Adrien Mestrot to join the Open Ended Scientific Group (OESG) of the Minamata Convention on Mercury-a global treaty to protect human health & the environment from the adverse effects of mercury. The role of the OESG is to develop a scientific report in which it will compile, analyse and synthesize comparable mercury monitoring data on changes in mercury concentrations in environmental media, biotic media and the human population, including vulnerable populations over time.
One Health PhD Student awarded University of Bern Venture Fellowship to fight antibiotic resistance
One Health PhD student Matheus Notter has been awarded a UniBE Venture Fellowship, to develop his research on antibiotic resistance. Within the One Health framework, substances have been discovered which fight the bacteria Helicobacter pylori. This bacterium can be found in the stomach and leads to chronic gastritis, peptic ulcers, and gastric cancer. With the planned spinoff Enzoxa, Notter and his team, including One Health`s Profs. Sigi Hapfelmeier and Christelle Robert, are looking to introduce on the market a novel treatment against this pathogen. His research is a collaboration between the Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS) and the Institute for Infectious Diseases (IFIK).
Third OH member externally appointed to professor
Moritz Bigalke has been appointed from March 2022 to a full professor at the Institute of Applied Geosciences at TU Darmstadt in Germany. His research will continue to focus on the biogeochemistry of metals, micro- and nanoplastics in soils. This follows Klaus Schläppi`s full professor appointment in summer 2020 to the Dept. of Environmental Sciences, University of Basel, where he focuses on Plant Microbiome Interactions, Root Microbes and Rhizosphere Ecology.
Francesca Ronchi, a One Health Postdoc, was appointed in Oct 2021 to Associate Professor, Charité-Institute of Microbiology, Infectious Diseases and Immunology, Berlin, focusing on gut-microbiota-brain axis in health and disease. All three will continue to be involved with One Health to varying degrees.
Stephanie Ganal-Vonarburg joint recipient of Pfizer Prize for research on microbes and formation of antibodies
Stephanie Ganal-Vonarburg, along with two colleagues from University of Bern and Inselspital, University Hospital Bern have been jointly awarded the prestigious Pfizer Research Prize for their joint project which shows how our gut microbes influence the formation of antibodies. In collaboration with Prof. Andrew Macpherson, One Health Co-Director, they have discovered that gut microbes can shape our antibodies.
PRIMA Grant- ‘TraPPP - Tracing plant protection products across the environment – Source, transport, sink, and relevance for risk assessment’
Aurea C. Chiaia-Hernández has been awarded with the SNSF PRIMA grant aimed at excellent women in research. Her proposed research- ‘TraPPP’ aims to understand the transport and transformation of current-use plant protection products (PPPs) across essential compartments of the environment (at landscape scale) as well as their fate in lake sediments. The proposed research is expected to be a fundamental breakthrough because, for the first time, it will provide a process-based quantitative understanding of the cycling of current-use PPPs across the environment and at different phases as well as investigate systematically resuspension and atmospheric transport of PPPs, processes often neglected.
Production of germ-free mosquitoes via transient colonisation allows stage-specific investigation of host–microbiota interactions
A paper co-authored by Sigi Hapelmeier has been published by `Nature Communications`. Hapfelmeier focused on the auxotrophic E. coli as the key bacterial tool, which enabled the reversible colonisation of the larvae, so they can develop normally, until one decolonizes them again of E. Coli. This new method allows the generation of germ-free adults that have no developmental deficits (compared to existing methods today). The approach allows to further elucidate the biological role of microbes for larval development at different stages by analysing the effects of decolonisation at different stages in a very clean system, as well as to study the role functions of microbiota in the adults by comparing germ-free with colonised adults.
Christelle Robert receives Theodor Kocher prize for her work on natural chemicals in biological interactions
Christelle Robert has been awarded the University of Bern`s Theodor Prize 2020 in recognition of her groundbreaking work on the importance of natural chemicals in biological interactions. In particular, her work is revolutionizing the understanding of the highly complex chemical interactions between plants, soil pests and beneficial organisms.
Matthias Erb and Andrew Macpherson are among the most citied scientists in the world
Matthias Erb and Andrew Macpherson, along with several other University of Bern researchers, are among the most citied scientists in the world for their respective work on the biology of plant chemistry and immunology. The annual list of `Highly Cited Researchers` includes researchers whose work ranks in the top 1% of cited scientific publications in their respective fields.
Pesticides also damage ecosystems in lake beds
In a study just published in the journal "Environmental Science & Technology", Aurea Chiaia-Hernández and her team have demonstrated the exposure to pesticides in lake sediments - and revealed the ecotoxicological risks posed by these substances in the habitat at the bottom of lakes. The research has proven that using sediments from the Moossee, that a ban on individual pesticides is effective and that their concentration in the environment decreases. However exposure to pesticides that continue to be approved is constantly increasing.
ERC Starting Grant `PRENEMA -interactions between plants and the natural enemies of pests`
Christelle Robert has been awarded a prestigious ERC grant for her PRENEMA (Plant Response to Entomopathogenic NEMAtodes) project, which aims to understand interactions between plants, herbivores and herbivores natural enemies, so-called tritrophic interactions. These are important determinants of ecological processes and crop yields. Interestingly, recent work shows that plants can perceive and respond to the presence predators. PRENEMA combines an interdisciplinary approach with a new exometabolome phenotyping method to explore the mechanisms and specificity of this phenomenon.
"Emerging Investigator Series” of an RSC journal
Adrien Mestrot’s article on mercury mobility and methylmercury formation in contaminated floodplain soils was selected for the Emerging Investigator Series of the journal "Environmental Science: Processes and Impacts.”
Plant chemicals influence herbivore growth by modulating root microbial communities
Plants can change soil microbial communities and thereby affect the health of plants and herbivores. In a collaborative effort within the IRC One Health, researchers now provide a mechanism for this phenomenon by demonstrating that maize roots release bioactive compounds that reprogram soil microbial communities and thereby strengthen the defenses of the next plant generation against the fall armyworm, which currently threatens food security in Africa. This discovery may lead to new opportunities for the improvement of agricultural food chains. How the same natural plant chemicals may affect human health is currently under investigation.
Plant volatiles protect caterpillars against natural enemies
The herbivore induced plant volatile indole renders caterpillars repellent and more resistant to their natural enemies. Scientists from the University of Bern and the University of Neuchâtel discovered that this new aspect of tritrophic interactions may limit efforts to use plant volatiles for biological control. “This study also illustrates how plant metabolites can shape the health of food chains, a concept that we now investigate in more depth in the IRC One Health”, says co-author Matthias Erb.
Soils in Swiss nature reserves contain significant quantities of microplastics
Scientists from the University of Bern found significant amounts of microplastics in soils of Swiss nature reserves. Even many soils in remote, protected mountainous areas were found to be contaminated with microplastics. Moritz Bigalke, senior author of the study and principal investigator in the IRC One Health, emphasizes that “there is a need for research into the question of how microplastics affect food production, and whether they can get into the food chain."
"Great potential is released by the interdisciplinary approach"
Matthias Erb and Andrew Macpherson, the coordinators of the new Interfaculty Research Cooperation (IRC) One Health in interview.
IRC One Health officially launched
The University of Bern strikes a new path in research funding: the IRC One Health is one of the three supported networking projects.
Maize pest beats maize with its own weapons
Our new study shows how the Western corn rootworm puts the maize plants’ defense strategies out of action. The results explain why biological control of the crop pest has not been efficient.