Universe inside the nucleus

The unknown of the outer space fascinates humankind since ever: the universe, it’s galaxies, stars, dark matter, black holes and extraterrestrial life. Every galaxy consists of a particular arrangement of stars, dust, gas, and (potentionally) dark matter. A galaxy has a certain position within the universe but galaxies are not static; they can move within billions of lightyears and interact with other galaxies. The detailed analysis of the universe from the earth is limited by resolution, which is impaired by the earth‘s atmosphere, the gigantic distance to the objects of interest and their amount of light emission. Since 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope sends images from outer space with constantly improved resolution.

Messier 100

But there is another universe, also hardly explored, but tiny and as close as it could be since it is located in ourselves, inside the cell nucleus. This universe consists of chromosome-galaxies, gene-stars and the dark matter of junk DNA. Like the Hubble Telescope, scientists developed super-resolution microscopy techniques to overcome the limitations of resolution and now we begin to understand which dynamic and functional wonderland exists inside us: the nucleus-universe.

Control cell

It was thought that the interphase nucleus, where chromosomes are decondensed and gene trancription takes place, resembles a plate of spaghetti. But actually, chromosomes occupy distinct territories inside the nucleus and form genomic galaxies which contain genes and “junk-DNA”. This junk-DNA is not coding for proteins but is supposed to have gene regulatory functions. Unlike postulated dark matter, it is proven that non-coding DNA exists, but as for dark matter, we don’t know much about it, yet. Within genomic galaxies, DNA-sequences interact via looping and protein space shuttles cruise through channels between them to mediate gene transcription. Genomic galaxies are very dynamic and the whole nucleus-universe can adapt it‘s landscape to environmental disturbances in order to adjust the genetic programme.


A whole new research field has evolved, which investigates the 4D Nucleome: the three-dimensional organisation of the nucleus-universe in space and time. As you see, a biologist can also be a kind of astronauts!

XOXO, Your Nerd

Between Science and Sanity

Today’s post deals with some psycho-social aspects of science based on observations which I made during the last few years. In every scientific career comes the point when you are fed up with this sh**. Actually, this happens on a regular basis:

  • When you are an undergraduate, confronted with the naked truth that working more and harder doesn’t necessarily correlate with the quality of your results.
  • When you are a PhD student, learning that having interesting and reproducible scientific results doesn‘t mean that a journal is ever going to publish them.
  • When you are a postdoc, wondering if the decades of studying and sacrifice will ever pay off.
  • When you are a group leader, realising that science will never kiss you good night or make a tea for you when you’re sick.

Working in science can be incredibly frustrating but nothing beats the feeling when an experiment finally works out (and shows what you wanted to prove), your manuscript gets accepted, or you receive the grant you applied for. I guess, beeing a researcher is more than just a job. People who are good at it, do it out of idealism, passion and the believe to change something. I have the feeling that no job could ever thrill me like science does – it can be a rollercoaster of emotions. Many people struggle on this long, stony way and not a few pay with their sanity. I also had to take a little detour to realise that I really want to do research and which perspectives it offers to me:

  • the possibility to develop something from which patients could benefit some day
  • the contribution to common knowledge and education
  • a life full of learning
  • getting to know smart and inspiring people
  • a dynamic way of life, which enables you to see a lot from the world
  • doing something meaningful

XOXO, Your Nerd