Bild: wikimedia/ABproTWE
Bild: wikimedia/ABproTWE
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Local News Summary of July, 11th

  • The Original. About the Power of Good Design» installation at Vitra Campus
  • Origin of certain immune cells discovered by Basel research group
  • We are not the only ones sweating: the heat can also be dangerous for tram tracks 

«The Original. About the Power of Good Design» installation at Vitra Campus

The art installation «The Original. About the Power of Good Design» has opened at the Zaha Hadid's Fire Station on the Vitra Campus in Weil am Rhein.

A worldwide roadshow was last year launched as part of the «Das Original kommt von Vitra» exhibition, in which classic and contemporary products created by Vitra, a furniture manufacturer, were displayed. The free-standing wooden boxes are currently presenting the different models produced by Vitra, as well as displaying corresponding information about their origin and design features.

The installation tells the story behind the «Tip Ton» chair by Barber and Jay Osgerby, whose development began in 2008 with a competition to furnish the new «Royal Society of Arts Academy» in Tipton in the UK.

Origin of certain immune cells discovered by Basel research group

Plasma-cytoid dendritic cells (pDCs) play an important role in the immune system – as the defence against viruses as wel as certain autoimmune diseases. A research group at the University of Basel has now discovered its creation and origins, according to a report in the «Nature Immunology» magazine.

Plasma cytoid dendritic cells (pDCs), a varied sub-group of circulating white blood cells, are central in the fight against viral pathogens. Equipped with specific viral sensors, they produce large amounts of interferons in the early stages of an infection – and thereby limit the spread of viruses. They are also believed to play a key role in the development of autoimmune diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus. Likewise, their number is reduced in patients suffering from advanced HIV infections.

Despite the importance of pDCs in the mediation between congenital (production of interferon) and acquired immunity (production of antibodies), their origin from the haematopoietic stem cells of the bone marrow has so far remained unclear. A Basel research team, headed by Professor Roxane Tussiwand from the Institute of Biomedicine at the University of Basel, has now been able to show that these cells are mostly of lymphatic origin. Another specific transcription factor called «Interferon Responsible Factor 8» is essential for their formation.

Fight against cancer

Furthermore, by sequencing 15,000 mature spleen and bone marrow pDCs individually, the research team has shown that the diverse functions of the pDCs cannot be assigned to a uniform population, as previously thought. Instead, they are taken over by different sub-types of pDCs. These sub-types differ not only in their function but also in their origin.

Since pDCs belong to the group of dendritic cells (DCs) and these in turn develop from myeloid progenitor cells, it was long assumed that pDCs are also of myeloid origin. However, this assumption has been refuted in the new work: Only 10 per cent of the mature pDC pool is of myeloid origin and, just like the DCs, is capable of presenting decomposed pathogens directly to T cells and initiating specific immunity. On the other hand, pDCs, which are generated by lymphoid progenitor cells, produce high amounts of interferons and make up about 90 per cent of the mature pool.

«These results provide the basis for a better understanding of how pDCs are linked to autoimmunity and how their properties could be used in the fight against cancer» Professor Roxane Tussiwand said.


We are not the only ones sweating: the heat can also be dangerous for tram tracks

Temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius have an influence on almost all aspects of everyday life. This also includes the tram tracks around Basel.

The technical term for rails bending under the heat is called a «distortion of the track». Over the first few weeks of summer, our regional public transport network has been particularly affected by the hot weather. The tracks are making a lot of noise on some routes when trams pass by. This is mostly happening in the more rural parts of the city, but also between Lake Eglisee and Riehen and on long stretches. «Track distortions occur particularly on tracks with a lot of gravel» Basel Transport Services (BVB) spokeswoman, Sonja Körkel, said.

As accidents could happen very quickly due to a distortion of the track, trams are currently driving more slowly as a precaution. If a bend is particularly tight, the tram drivers have to brake more severely: «As an immediate measure, the speed can be reduced to 5 km/h during a crossing», Ms Körkel said, adding: «However, this rarely has an influence on the timetable.»

Water in case of emergency

These measures are used to good effect, and the problem resolves itself: «Normal conditions are restored when the track has cooled down,» she said. On hot summer days, however, the rails can heat up to 80 degrees Celsius. If there are really strong distortions, the tracks are cooled directly with water. They do not need to be replaced, and the public do not have to prepare themselves for additional construction sites during this hot summer.

The Swiss Federal Railway (SBB) is also very aware of the problem caused by track distortions. In the east of Switzerland, there have been such strong shifts in the past few days that some regional trains had to be cancelled. Cooling down the rails no longer helped, and machines and track specialists had to be called in. The necessary repairs were carried out during the night.

Fortunately, there have not been such serious distortions in our region so far. The SBB confirmed that there have been minor incidents at the depot, but they have so far not seriously affected either passenger other traffic.

However, tram travellers will still have to put up with some sudden jerks and halts. You can feel the distortion of the track in Muttenz, for example. But this is bearable, since the rails suffer more than the passengers on the trams.