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Research milestones

The scientific questions that drive the research at the IMP change over time, keeping the institute innovative and fresh. To preserve the appreciation for scientific history made at the IMP, an ongoing essay series on ‘research milestones’ celebrates the success stories of the past as the foundation of present and future work pursued at the IMP. 

The methylation of DNA, specifically of the cytosine base in the context CpG, is an alteration of DNA without changing its sequence – and the first epigenetic modification discovered in mammals. Adrian Bird was already an authority on DNA methylation, having led the team that first identified CpG islands in mammalian genomes, when he was recruited to the IMP as one of the first senior scientists in 1987...more

B cells and T cells are the white blood cells responsible for acquired immunity, providing acute and long-term protection of the host against pathogens. During his more than 30 years as a principal investigator at the IMP, Meinrad Busslinger’s research has focused on the roles of transcription factors in the commitment to and differentiation of the B cell lineage. In particular, his work on Pax5 has revealed wide-reaching insights into the mechanisms of lineage commitment...more

During her eight years as a group leader at the IMP, Denise Barlow made ground-breaking discoveries in the field of genomic imprinting – an epigenetic phenomenon underlying parent-of-origin-specific gene expression. She was a pioneer, not only as a founding figure in epigenetics, but also as the first female group leader at the IMP and a vocal supporter of diversity... more

Landmark work around the turn of the millennium catapulted the field of epigenetics, the study of phenotypic changes that do not involve alterations in the DNA sequence, into the scientific limelight. In particular, breakthroughs in understanding of histone modifications and their impact on the structure and function of chromatin, which organises DNA into compact structures in the nucleus, triggered a deluge of publications with far-reaching implications. During 15 years as a group leader at the IMP in Vienna, Austria, Thomas Jenuwein’s work, particularly that on mammalian histone lysine methylation, was instrumental in triggering and ensuring the successful continuation of this remarkable era... more

During Kim Nasmyth’s time as a group leader (including nearly 10 years as Scientific Director) at the IMP in Vienna, Austria, he and his colleagues uncovered some of the fundamental mechanisms that enable the meticulous segregation of chromosomes during cell division. Their discoveries triggered what Kim would describe as a "chain reaction of knowledge", which to this day has not lost momentum... more

The essays of the ‘Milestones’ series were written by Katrina Woolcock of Life Science Editors in cooperation with former and current IMP staff.