How can new fish species appear in ponds large distances apart?

A recent article published by Ádám Lovas-Kiss, András Lukács and members of the DRI Wetland Ecology Research Group in the leading interdisciplinary journal PNAS points out how fish can appear, for example in a freshly dug garden pond isolated from other waters, without human intervention. The Hungarian ecologists have indicated the roe of fish eaten by waterfowl may be able to survive the path through the alimentary canal and hatch in water far from their origin.

Everyone has heard of the phenomenon of fish appearing in temporary waters, seemingly isolated from other waters (e.g. garden ponds, freshly dug artificial lakes, inland waters, etc.) within a short time, even without human intervention. It is therefore clear that the spread of fish is aided by some hitherto unknown process. The most likely natural form of this is dissemination by other animal species, namely species that move frequently between different water bodies and are able to travel long distances in a short period of time. It is understandable, therefore, that waterfowl were the “prime suspects” in the distribution of fish between water bodies. Previous research has considered the transfer of the sticky roe of fish attached to the feet of birds as the most likely means for carrying fish between water bodies. Although several studies have looked at mud and other substances stuck to the feet of birds, fish eggs have been found only on one or two occasions. At the same time, research over the past decade has demonstrated that birds do not carry organisms only on their feathers and feet. Recent studies have shown that resistant reproductive bodies of animals and plants (e.g. seeds, eggs, persistent cells) are likely to be discharged after being ingested by birds, often in very large quantities and several hours later as viable organisms, possibly at greater distances from the site they were eaten.

elkh

The question therefore arises as to whether the soft, gelatinous eggs of the fish are able to survive the path through the birds’ alimentary canal and spread between water bodies in this way.

Waterfowl like to consume the roe of fish in huge quantities when available. A group from the Centre for Ecological Research investigated this issue: fertilized roe of carp and silver carp were fed to captive ducklings in the experiment. Carp and silver carp are considered invasive species that are growing rapidly around the world, and their natural spread is a frequently observed phenomenon. The researchers conducting the experiment fed each duck 500 silver carp and 500 carp eggs. Viable eggs were found in the faeces of six of the eight birds, but, overall, only 0.2% of the eggs consumed were able to pass through the ducks intact. Of the 18 eggs transferred, 12 contained viable embryos. One carp and two silver carp eggs were hatched from these. Eggs that were transferred successfully but did not hatch were killed by a fungal infection, which the researchers attributed to suboptimal hatching conditions. Because of the invasive ability of fish, it is important to note that only a single silver carp can form a new population (in the presence of other carp species) due to their ability to reproduce asexually (spontaneous gynogenesis). The results of the study show that dispersal by birds within the gastrointestinal tract (endozoochory) may play an important role in the spread of fish over greater distances.

Significant additional funds for ELKH – a historic opportunity for Hungarian science

László Palkovics, Minister for Innovation and Technology, and Miklós Maróth, President of the Eötvös Loránd Research Network, held a joint press conference, where they announced significant additional funding for the development of ELKH. The additional resources include: a one-time sum of HUF 11 billion in the second half of this year; an additional HUF 22 billion per year from 2021 onwards to be incorporated in the annual budget; and a total of HUF 36.5 billion for infrastructure investments.

The task and objective of the Eötvös Loránd Research Network is to ensure more transparent, efficient and effective operation of the state-funded network of research institutes, while strengthening the freedom of research and keeping in mind criteria for excellence. Complementing the total of HUF 22 billion per year currently available to finance the research network with an another HUF 22 billion per year from 2021, as well as the additional HUF 36.5 billion for infrastructure development, provides a good basis for the development of the network to increase its efficiency and effectiveness.

The improvements will serve three important purposes. The first is to develop a career model for researchers based on excellence, which, in addition to increasing salaries of researchers, helps retain and attract talented individuals and supports the supply of young researchers. The second is the introduction of a new internal funding model based on three pillars, in which resources allocated to research activities, public research services and operations will be allocated on the basis of tasks and performance agreed with the heads of institutions, replacing the current static system of allocation according to defined bases. The third element is to broaden and reinforce cooperation with domestic and international academic and industrial partners, which will increase the involvement of external sources in research funding and support more effective social and economic utilization of the resulting intellectual property.

Four ELKH researchers awarded grants in this year’s “Lendület” competition

The applications of four ELKH researchers were awarded grants in the 2020 “Lendület” Program competition. Including these successful candidates, the number of research groups of the “Lendület” Program will increase by nine in the period between 2020 and 2025. The winners will receive a total of HUF 360 million in support during the first year of research. 

This year’s call for proposals received 106 valid applications in the “Lendület” I category for those just starting independent research and in the “Lendület”II category announced for those continuing independent research work. The jury announced the projects of nine applicants as winners, four of whom work in institutions affiliated with the ELKH.

Ethnoecologist Dániel Babai, a researcher at the Institute of Ethnology of the Research Centre for the Humanities, brings together representatives of the natural and social sciences to examine today’s rural societies in Central and Eastern Europe, their diverse relationship with the natural environment, and their traditional ecological knowledge. Their goal is to think together with local communities, combining local ecological knowledge and the results of scientific research to develop forms of land use that can help create sustainable, complex social ecological systems for the local community and the natural environment that respond properly to ecological, social and political changes.

Mathematician Péter Csikvári, research fellow at the Alfréd Rényi Institute of Mathematics, associate professor of the Faculty of Science of Eötvös Loránd University, is engaged in one of the most exciting scientific topics of today, networks. The aim of his research group is to develop a mathematical toolkit that can be used to understand large networks, known as graphs in mathematical language, in a quantitative way. To do this, they want to place knowledge in several areas of mathematics, statistical physics and computer science in a common context by leveraging the intuition of statistical physicists, the algorithmic approach of computer science and the precise conceptualization of mathematics.

Neurobiologist Dániel Hillier, a researcher at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and Psychology of the Research Centre for Natural Sciences, set out to explore the role of cortical and subcortical areas and certain cell types in binocular information processing functions in normal and animals with induced lazy eye. His research team will use state-of-the-art, genetically targeted cell circuit access strategies in cat brains. These allow causal and cell type-specific testing and restoration of binocular integration in an induced lazy-eye (amblyopia) disorder model.

Biologist Gergely Maróti, senior research fellow at the Institute of Plant Biology of the Szeged Biological Research Centre, is planning research that can be used in the production of biohydrogen related to wastewater treatment. All microorganisms live in a community, the composition and complexity of which can vary greatly. Researchers have become partially familiar with the operation of many model microbes in recent decades. However, in most cases, the research has not been conducted in the natural medium of the organisms studied, but in defined, simplified laboratory systems. Although scientists have information at the molecular level on some basic microbial interactions, many aspects of the systems studied in detail still need to be explored (e.g., the effect of additional coexisting organisms or the exact path and mediating elements of information flow between species). Gergely Maróti’s specific goal is to investigate the significance of extracellular electron transfer (EET) in complex microbial systems.

In 2009, the Hungarian Academy of Sciences announced the “Lendület” Program of Excellence for young researchers. The program’s main objective is to dynamically renew the research carried out in research institutes and universities by inviting internationally outstanding researchers and outstanding young talents from abroad, while keeping others at home. The “Lendület” Program is designed to jointly support excellence and mobility, and in accordance with this, to provide funding for research teams developing new topics at host research sites. In the last ten years, a total of 180 dynamic research groups have been formed, to which another nine have been added this year.

From August 2019, the funds of the “Lendület” Program will be provided by the Secretariat of the ELKH. The tasks related to the successful implementation of the program are carried out by the Secretariat of the ELKH in cooperation with the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. The ELKH Secretariat also intends to fund further grant proposals to promote research excellence in the future from the anticipated additional budget.

More information on the 2020 “Lendület” competition and its winners can be found on the website below.

Source: mta.hu

 

Hungarian researchers first in world to identify two types of cholinergic neurons in the basal forebrain

Further experiments based on this discovery may determine whether it is worthwhile to design clinical research to selectively influence the two types, which could represent a significant breakthrough, in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, for example.

The Momentum Systems Neurobiology Research Group of the Institute of Experimental Medicine (KOKI) at the Eötvös Loránd Research Network, led by Balázs Hangya, has identified two markedly distinct types of cholinergic neurons, which also perform higher cognitive functions and regulate processes on a very wide time scale.

The two cholinergic cell types now identified cannot be unambiguously assigned to fast or slow processes, as both types may be able to initiate changes at very different rates. This suggests that different ratios of the two cell types found in different areas of the basal forebrain may be responsible for the precise regulation of many cortical processes. This may also explain why only one of the two types is almost exclusively present in the area of the Broca diagonal bundle, which, by influencing the frontal lobe, is likely to be among the major regulators of attentional processes.

The purpose of further experiments is to determine how the two cholinergic cell types are involved in the regulation of learning, attention and decision-making in healthy and abnormal mice, respectively. These experiments may decide whether it is worth designing clinical research into selectively influencing the two types, which could represent a breakthrough e.g. in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

The paper appeared in Nature Neuroscience, the most prestigious journal of neuroscience.

Laszlovszky et al. ‘Distinct synchronization, cortical coupling and behavioral function of two basal forebrain cholinergic neuron types’,

Nature Neuroscience on 22 June 2020 DOI 10.1038/s41593-020-0648-0

URL: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41593-020-0648-0

Contact: Dr Balázs Hangya, hangya.balazs@koki.hu

New strategic development plan adopted by CERN

The Geneva-based CERN, an international laboratory for high-energy physics research using state-of-the-art technology and the latest scientific findings, has reached another milestone: on 19 June 2020, the CERN Council of 23 Member States, including Hungary, formally accepted the European Strategy Plan for Particle Physics Update), which will largely determine the future operation of the laboratory and the discipline.

The strategy now adopted is also particularly important because it will set the main courses of development over the next decade. The document highlights the importance of further developing technical solutions for accelerators, detectors and data processing systems, as this is the only way to ensure that the successor to the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) currently in use can be built in 10-20 years and new elementary particles that are heavier than the Higgs boson can be discovered. In order to dramatically increase the particle energies achieved by the accelerator, revolutionary innovations must be developed and implemented in the decade to come. Until this is achieved, we will continue to study the elementary structure and building blocks of nature with the equipment of the LHC, which has recently been renovated and will be operational again from early 2021.

Nearly 100 researchers, engineers and IT specialists from Hungary are continuously involved in exploratory and development activities at CERN. The implementation of the new Strategic Plan will open up great opportunities for Hungarian research centers to contribute to some world-class projects in Hungary, thereby helping to further the scientific mission of CERN and the international community. The Wigner Data Center has been an excellent example of this in recent years as it has supported the data analysis work at CERN by providing huge computing capacity. It has since become one of the leading servers in the Hungarian research community (see Academic Cloud). Hungarian researchers are currently working on new types of accelerator methods (laser-plasma accelerator), detector solutions (specialized silicon pixel sensors) and revolutionary information technology methods (application of artificial intelligence and machine learning in data analysis). These activities are of paramount importance not only for theoretical research but also for the development of numerous other fields, such as medicine, information technology and AI applications, as these are areas that have already benefited greatly from the results of particle physics research and innovative solutions.

The development and transformation of laboratories accommodating research and development activities that fit into the new strategic plan are in progress, and the main location for these preparations is the Wigner Research Centre for Physics. The Ministry for Innovation and Technology (ITM), The National Research, Development nad Innovation Office (NKFIH) and the newly formed ELKH provide effective support for the successful implementation of research in Hungary and to ensure an active presence in CERN.

The CERN press release is available in English and French at cern.ch.

Source: wigner.hu

ELKH joins the Hungarian Node of the RDA

The Eötvös Loránd Research Network Secretariat joined the Hungarian National Node of the Research Data Alliance of Europe (HRDA) on May 21, 2020. 

The main objective of HRDA is to develop and support the Hungarian Research Data Management community as well as to provide consultation related to the standardization and sharing of existing data resources in the scientific domain both locally and internationally.

RDA helps researchers and innovators in openly sharing data across technologies, disciplines and countries to address the grand challenges of society. RDA has established a new non-profit organization, the Research Data Alliance Foundation that serves as a legal representative of the greater RDA community. The objective of the RDA Foundation is to foster the FAIR data principles and facilitate successful participation in EU applications.

HRDA’s goals are in line with the ELKH Secretariat’s endeavors, namely to facilitate the development of data management in Hungary; to enhance the fundraising potential of data-driven science; to foster cooperation with the international community and to participate in European projects.

Receptor discovered using artificial intelligence model developed by SZBK opens up new ways to protect against coronavirus

Péter Horváth, director of the Biomag Research Group of the Szeged Biological Research Centre (SZBK) at the Eötvös Loránd Research Network and Head of the Biomag Research Group, and his partners, Peter Cullen and Yohei Yamauchi, research professors at the University of Bristol, have shown that the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus can enter the host cell through a hitherto unknown actor, the neuropilin-1 (NRP1) receptor on the host cell surface, which they discovered through their research on influenza.

Many research laboratories around the world are working to help develop effective treatment by understanding the process of coronavirus (COVID-19) infection. Researchers have so far been able to identify the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), through which the virus is able to enter cells. Research based on SZBK’s artificial intelligence model suggests that NRP1, in addition to the already well-known ACE2, may be a new, second focal point for the treatment of COVID-19.

Neuropilin-1 (NRP1) is a receptor found on the surface of a host cell to which the SARS-CoV-2 virus is able to bind through a protein called S (Spike). From this S protein, the S1 protein is formed by enzymatic cleavage, which has a special pattern, the ‘C-end rule’ (CendR), at one end, the so-called C-terminal end. Through this region of the protein, the virus is able to bind to NRP1 and enter the cell. Infected cells, unlike healthy cells, have several nuclei.

To detect and quantify this difference, Péter Horváth and his team have developed a method that is unique in the world and based on a new trend in artificial intelligence, deep learning that enables researchers to perform very accurate microscopic analysis.

Previously, the Szeged research group used a similar methodology to screen for the NRP1 gene in influenza research. They gave this algorithm the name nucleAIzer (www.nucleaizer.org). Intelligent algorithms, such as those used to control self-driving cars or for intelligent analysis of images on social media, need huge training databases that the research team did not previously have access to. They therefore developed a hybrid method employing a deep learning method to generate artificial examples and train another intelligent method based on them. The method has just been published in the most prestigeous journal of systems biology, Cell Systems (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2405471220301174).

The accuracy of the algorithm is shown by the fact that it allowed the Biomag Research Group in Szeged to achieve the highest score in one of the largest global competitions.

SZTAKI and Wigner FK have offered their cloud computing capacity to support the fight against the pandemics

The Institute for Computer Sciences and Control (SZTAKI) and the Wigner Research Centre for Physics (Wigner FK) have offered thousands of processors and terabytes of their cloud computing capacity integrated with the MTA Cloud. In the first step SZTAKI has connected its machines to the Folding@Home international research project and community computing platform, where research with significant potential to contribute to the containment of the coronavirus pandemic is ongoing. The Wigner Data Centre has offered to provide reliable information technology support for virus research and genome sequencing efforts, based on their vast experience. A Call for research teams who need cloud capacity for their virus-related projects is open at both institutes.

Award-winning students prepare for innovation competition in the Centre for Energy Research laboratory

In the spirit of training the next generation of researchers, the Laboratory of Thin Film Physics at the Centre for Energy Research provided the background and professional assistance to high school students Zita Halmos and Anna Viczián, who won 3rd place in the Youth Science and Innovation Talent Search Competition with their bioceramic-coated, 3D-printed polymer implant.

Today, implants placed in the body are widespread, but the majority of people who have had surgery are of the opinion that the possibility of infection and the presence of foreign matter in their body constitute a major problem.

The aim of the competition work by the young students was to create a bone implant based on a skeleton made of polylactic acid (PLA) with 3D printing. The polymer was coated with a suspension of hydroxyapatite (HAP) made from eggshells by the young “researchers”, which, unlike what has been known so far, is not synthetic, resulting in improved and faster ossification (osteogenesis). The implanted bone-replacement biopolymer material degrades in 8 to 12 weeks and is replaced by new bone formed from HAP granules. As a result of the experiments, the parameters of the most optimal coating have been identified.

Zita Halmos and Anna Viczián study at the Márton Elementary and High School in Törökbálint and Baár-Madas Reformed High School, Elementary School and Student Residence in Budapest. Their research work was mentored by Dr Éva Oláh and Dr Katalin Balázs, and the Laboratory of Thin Film Physics provided the technical background for research.

One hundred years of society in the Carpathian Basin put on the map

The Eötvös Loránd Research Network was awarded a grant of HUF 280,717,000 in connection with the Year of National Cohesion. The entire sum was awarded to the Research Centre for Astronomy and Earth Sciences belonging to the Network for the creation of an interactive, open-access electronic version of the volume entitled ‘The National Atlas of Hungary – Society’ (e-MNA Society).

The digital atlas of local knowledge territorially covers the whole of Hungary and the Carpathian Basin, including its 17,660 towns and cities and a total of nearly 40,000 settlements in the immediate vicinity – in Austria, Czechia, Poland, Ukraine, Moldova, Romania, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia. In terms of time, it presents the current and recent state of society (population, settlements, living conditions) and the processes undergone over the century since Trianon (1920–2020). Some of the maps also go back to the 16th century.

Thematically, the project is divided into three major parts, which present the entire socio-geographical vertical for the region:

  1. Population: population history, population density, natural population movements, migration, population demographics (gender, age, family, households, ethnicity, language, religion, education, economic activity, occupation, social structure).
  2. Settlements: settlement history, settlement building stock, cities, Budapest and its region, rural areas.
  3. Living conditions – quality of life: human characteristics, housing and living environment, settlement environment, settlement infrastructure.

Geographic Information System (GIS) display: The presentation of each topic takes place in a spatial and temporal dimension, depending on the data set, in a variable territorial breakdown (by county, district and settlement). This makes it possible to track the changes and development that have taken place in the structure of society and social processes since the division of the formerly politically unified Carpathian Basin in Trianon.

The following views will be available on the bilingual (Hungarian-English) interactive web portal:

  • a base section of the Carpathian-Pannonian region that can be zoomed in on at will;
  • an overall relief map with settlement inscriptions in Hungarian and ethnic minority languages;
  • 200 socio-geographical maps, which can be retrieved on top of and connected to each other at a given level of approximation, so that socio-geographical contexts can be examined;
  • listing basic data as data points by settlement;
  • interactive, freely selectable statistical display and filtering methods, individually adjustable key and coloring for two-thirds of topics;
  • wms service export option.

Overall, the online, interactive mapping database resulting from the project will uniquely present the current state of the entire Carpathian Basin society with a uniform, settlement-level presentation that is unprecedented since Trianon. Compiling a Hungarian mosaic of nearly 18,000 settlements and then creating an interactive atlas with modern geographical information system tools is an unparalleled undertaking with the ambition to transcend national borders.

The Research Centre for Astronomy currently has a research and project management staff of 26 people working on the implementation of the project with another 16 external researchers and consultants, as well as several external service providers. In addition to the uniform processing of data files, content development, legal work on the related intellectual property rights and the establishment of the IT background are already in progress. The presentation of the project to the media is expected to take place between late 2020 and February 2021 in Budapest.