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Creating Interdisciplinary Research Projects

The workshop, set in Sèvres (near Paris), assembles free spirited students and researchers from broad scientific backgrounds to conceive creative projects at the interface with Life Sciences. This year combined newcomer students of the FdV PhD program, 2nd year AIV and Foster master program, and hosted students of the 1st year AIV and Foster master programs on Friday. The CIRP workshop provides the primary basis for collegiality and communication through dialogue and brainstorming on open questions in Life Sciences.

Aims of the workshop: :

– To be able to focus on an important scientific question and to define the means to approach it from different disciplines
– To be able to zoom out (have a broader view) and zoom in (be precise and define the key experiments)
– To think and express your ideas more clearly.
– To gain confidence in your ideas.
– To be able to discuss, reject or accept ideas.
– To learn to take constructive scientific criticisms
– To learn how to write a research proposal.
– To discuss scientific questions thoroughly.
– To learn to interact with people from different backgrounds.

Projects

Starting with some random keywords as a starting point at the beginning of the workshop, students formulated a research question that could be addressed experimentally and theoretically. Then, they made an outline of a research project that meets the specific objectives underlying their question. At the end of the workshop, each group presented its proposal to the CIRP attendees and mentors.

Biological Rythms : unity and diversity

Our daily rhythm is based on time. Schedules and calendars are standard ways of organizing our lifes. However; each individual might have a personal cycle, an internal clock. Our aim is to measure our daily cycles using a smarphone application. The user would perform simple tasks to monitor his cardiac cycle, hormonal cycle, mental state and physical performance. Then, he would get back a map of his daily cycle that would allow him to understand better his personal rhythms and how to improve it. We think that being aware of our personal rhythms and of their changes could be a way to live happier and healthier lives. View proposal

Foetal and Maternal Exchanges

Human are placental mammals and therefore develop, during pregnancy, a maternal-foetal interface called the placenta. It is responsible of the transfer of nutrients and other molecules to the foetus but may also transmit dangerous and deadly infectious agents. For this, these elements must cross a filter consisting of three layers of different cell types: syncytiotrophoblasts, mesenchymal cells and fetal vascular cells. We aim at developing an in vitro model establishing the mechanisms behind these exchanges. For this, we create two devices, one at a cellular level and one at a tissular level. Firstly, a micro-fabrication device constrains cells in channels with differential concentrations of a given molecule on both sides of the cell. Secondly, we replicate the tissular placental structure thanks to a scaffold device on which are seeded either individual cells or explants from discarded tissues. We aim at modelling the transfer phenomenon according to the molecule’s concentration and characteristics. As examples, we will use ethanol, antibodies, Cytomegalo-virus (CMV), and Listeria bacteria (Listeria monocytogenes). This research leads us to the paradox of the relationship between the mother and the foetus: as the foetus develops complex functions necessary for its future independence, the exchanges between the mother and the foetus increase. View proposal

The effects of milk consumption on breast cancer

The consumption of cow’s milk by humans is widespread since 10,000 BC when a genetic mutation enabling lactose tolerance in adults appeared. Milk contains growth factors, but could also be a potential vector for pesticides or transgenes coming from Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) used for cow’s feeding. Moreover, some human cancers are sensitive to growth factors. Our research project aims to identify a possible impact of milk consumption on the development of breast cancer. Our work is based on a multidisciplinary approach driven by a networking with cancer centers in Paris, Boston and Mumbai. The different steps of our project are to:

– perform an epidemiological study on the associated of milk consumption and breast cancer – carry on in vitro and in vivo experimentation of the effect of milk on breast cancer growth
– investigate the possible role of milk as a vector of pesticides and transgenes.

Our aim will be to demonstrate the impact of milk consumption on the development of breast cancer, or by use no pesticides or GOM.
This work could allow to fix a milk threshold that is innocuous for human consumption. View proposal

Why do we kiss?

Kissing is a really widespread behavior among human populations, but this behavior still misunderstanding. In fact, what is the interest of kissing knowing that it is a way for pathogens to spread across the population. Here, we propose to investigate the biological function of kissing with an interdisciplinary. As kissing is a vector of pathogens it can be also a way to share different type of microbiota that can have useful function. But we assume that kiss could be a way to check the immune quality partners because mouth is closely related to odor identification and thus major histocompatibility complex. And finally, brain activity during kissing will be studying to understand which senses and feeling are involved in kissing. View proposal

Kids’ fall: modelization of its effects on brain development and cognitive abilities

Kids fall all the time and we only worry about it when it is serious enough to go to the hospital. But the effect of children’s benign falls on their brains development is still not sufficiently documented. In this study, we aim at assessing the effects of repeated non-impact head acceleration movements in children on (1) their brain development at the macro- and microscopic scales and (2) cognitive abilities. To do so, we will develop a computational model of a child head under the mechanical stress produced by a fall. We will then adapt this model to a mouse head. We will thus be able to apply on young mice different patterns of falls equivalent to what kids may experience. We will change the frequency and intensity of the falls in the pattern and look at their consequences at the functional (qMRI and EEG imaging), microscopic and behavioral levels. We expect that high frequency and intensity falls during childhood will induce damages on the brain and impair cognitive abilities at adulthood, while low frequency and intensity ones might have a protective effect. View proposal

Can we reproduce out of the Earth? How gravity affects mammal reproduction? From mating to development

Throughout its history, mankind has always settled in new lands on Earth. The natural future will be to settle in another planet. As this latter will not necessarly have the same gravity than the Earth, effects on reproduction can appear and affect the stablishment of future generations.
In this study, we propose to study the effects of both hypergravity and hypogravity on mice (mating, artificial fertilization and embryo development) using custom made centrifuge and working in an artificial gravity station in collaboration with NASA.
We expect changes in the development of the embryo and we will quantify the differences between extraterrestrial embryo and embryo born on earth. This will lead to a first insight as to the possibility of reproduction out of the Earth, and possible theoretical knowledge that could in turn lead to medical applications.
We will perform all the experiments in agreement with the ethical committee in the European Council on animal experiments and following the directives from the European Parlement. View proposal

How can cell migration lead to sociologic reflections in human organisation

This project aims at creating a connection between a philosophical reflexion on the human behaviour and the organization of tumor cells.

The biology-based part of the project would be focused on the characterization of the conditions that trigger the separation in single cells from the tumor mass during cancer invasion.

First of all, the extraction of such parameters will help us to understand the different processes of cell migration and will also allow the finding of new treatments.

Then, in the philosophical part of the project the results obtained from the study would be used as a basis for a more general reflection about the organization of human society.

Think-tank will be constructed around the questioning about the advantages and drawbacks of a collective behavior in humans. The thinking will be organized around the philosophical axe previously described but also through an other axe of town planning gathering together designers, architects and sociologist. This part of the reflection will be lead around modularity in transport and housing. View proposal

Influence of the skin mechanical and microbial properties on hair growth

Human bodies are covered in hair of different lengths. The length of hair is determined by the rate at which it grows and the time it spends growing before it falls out during the anagen phase. The causes of these physiological variations have not yet been determined. Here, we propose to concentrate on the comparison of scalp hair and eyebrows to establish the influence of the hair follicle environment on hair growth. We first aim to compare the physiology of scalp hair and eyebrow follicles. We will then identify the differences between the environments of these follicles, in particular their microbiome and mechanical properties. After these descriptive studies, the influence of specific parameters will be tested on follicle stem cell behaviour by using an in vitro culture system. This original project will provide a novel insight on the influence of the environment on homeostasis, but could also lead to new therapeutic solutions to alopecia. View proposal

Impact of colors on Mice Behaviors

It is widely approved that colors can impact human’s moods and behavior. However there is a need for a solid quantitative basis to prove this statement. The vision disabilities are common disorders which make us address the question whether and how the multicolor environment would affect their behavior. Moreover, we are one step from the application for the gene therapy for colorblind people. It would be crucial to imagine the impact of such a therapy on their quality of life. In this study we will use three transgenic mice strains with different numbers of cone types (mono-, di-, tri-chromatic). Using an automated image analysis tool, we will analyze in a quantitative manner the different behaviors of these mice under exposure to different colors.
With these lines we will make use of gene therapy to change the number of cone types during mice life. We will then analyze their changes in behavior in the way they behave.
In parallel we will try to relate these behaviors to brain pattern activation using an innovative Doppler ultrasounds technique. View proposal

Cooperation and Interdisciplinarity in Problem­ Solving Task

As research has become more and more interdisciplinary over the past years, the impact of this heterog of backgrounds on scientific efficiency is still to be assessed. An even broader question is how divers group of individuals could lead, or not, to better yields in performing some specific tasks. In an atte identify the optimal composition of a working group, we propose two complementary approaches, each a different scale. The first one lies on the observation of cooperation behaviour in groups of 2, when as either solve a rebus and a mechanic dilemma, with respect to their academic background. On a large sca propose to develop a video game based on the popular board game “pandemic”, for which winning ch crucially rely on the level of cooperativity between the different players. From the data collected rel players’ personal interests, we hope to get a better understanding of the cooperation dynamics bet individuals with different experiences. View proposal

Innovation through iNSight or ImiTation: an Evaluation

Behavioural innovation at an individual scale can be achieved by imitation or insight learning, or possibly by accident. For a long time, it has been thought that insight learning was restricted to primates. Despite difficulties to distinguish between these processes, there are a growing number of studies suggesting animals of other clades are capable of this process. In this study, we investigate whether mammals (rat), birds (blue tit) and cephalopods (octopus) present evidences of insight learning. We first check that an animal is able to learn a task from another of the same species, or a lookalike robot, by imitation. We then assess varying levels of insight, by testing whether animals are able to achieve these goals by learning from robots of “non-natural” appearance solving the tasks with either the same solution available to the test animal or with an unavailable solution (thereby hinting to the animal to seek alternatives). The effect of age, gender and geographic origin on insight learning will also be evaluated. Finally, we test the persistence of the acquired skills after the “teacher” has been removed as a further proof of insight learning. View proposal

How different types of synesthesia affect memorisation?

Synesthesia is a remarkable ability resulting in very unique perceptions of our environment. Thanks to neuronal phenomena which are poorly understood, synesthetes are, for instance, able to associate graphemes to colours. It has already been shown that synesthesia was an advantage in creative processes. Nevertheless, all synethetes do not experience their special abilities the same way. Here we propose to investigate the influence of different kinds of synesthesia on learning processes. More precisely, we would like to assess how they affect memorization, defined as the ability to remember past experiences.
To answer this question, we propose an original and interdisciplinary approach. Firstly, we want to determine to what extent synesthesia is an advantage for short and long term memory. To do so, we plan to use a specifically designed game. Secondly, we want to investigate the links that exist between synesthesia, serotonin levels and brain connections. Finally we hope that our work will result in improvement of learning methods. View proposal

How different types of synesthesia affect memorisation?

Synesthesia is a remarkable ability resulting in very unique perceptions of our environment. Thanks to neuronal phenomena which are poorly understood, synesthetes are, for instance, able to associate graphemes to colours. It has already been shown that synesthesia was an advantage in creative processes. Nevertheless, all synethetes do not experience their special abilities the same way. Here we propose to investigate the influence of different kinds of synesthesia on learning processes. More precisely, we would like to assess how they affect memorization, defined as the ability to remember past experiences.
To answer this question, we propose an original and interdisciplinary approach. Firstly, we want to determine to what extent synesthesia is an advantage for short and long term memory. To do so, we plan to use a specifically designed game. Secondly, we want to investigate the links that exist between synesthesia, serotonin levels and brain connections. Finally we hope that our work will result in improvement of learning methods. View proposal

Can videogames with neurofeedback be used as a complementary treatment for children diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)?

In most of the western countries including the US, many children are diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). The usual treatment is Ritalin, which is a psychotrope with many adverse side effects. In this project, we propose to find a less invasive treatment based on behavioral techniques. Our team needs first to list characteristic symptoms of ADD to find a pool of affected children. Then, a quantification tool will be built using electroencephalogram (EEG) and analysis of brain waves. Based on this, an application will be developed that gives real-time feedback to users about their current attention to test whether they can increase their attention level. Then, the efficiency of attention consolidation by games with neurofeedback will be tested on healthy children, then on ADD-affected children. Finally, we intend on following up kids on a 6-month period to get feedback from parents and psychiatrists on the evolution of ADD symptoms. View proposal