Making A Case For Organic Rankine Cycles In Waste Heat Recovery (Engineering)

In a recent research paper published in the Energy journal, City, University of London’s Dr Martin White says cascaded organic Rankine cycle systems could improve the way in which environmentally-friendly power is generated from waste heat.

A team from City, University of London’s Department of Engineering believes that a new approach to generating energy through waste heat could yield important insights into delivering environmentally-friendly power.

Diagram illustrating cascaded organic Rankine cycle system. ©Dr Martin White, City, University of London

In this recent paper, Making the case for cascaded organic Rankine cycles for waste-heat recovery, published in the Energy journal, Dr Martin White has identified optimal single-stage and cascaded organic Rankine cycle systems (ORC) to maximise performance, and has designed accompanying heat exchangers.

The ORC is based on the principle of heating a liquid which causes it to evaporate, and the resulting gas can then expand in a turbine, which is connected to a generator, thus creating power. Waste heat to power organic Rankine cycle systems can utilise waste heat from a range of industrial processes in addition to existing power generation systems.

A cascaded ORC system is essentially two ORC systems coupled together, with the heat that is rejected from the first ORC being used as the input heat for the second.

However, in developing his model of a cascaded ORC system, Dr White hastens to add that there is a trade-off between performance and cost – in the case of the heat exchangers deployed, the general rule is that the better the performance, the larger and more costly the heat exchangers.

He says the trade-off can be explored through optimisation and the generation of what is called a ‘Pareto front’ – a collection of optimal solutions that considers the trade-off between two things.

If quite large heat exchangers (in this specific case, greater than around 200m2), were affordable, then for that amount of area, it is possible to generate more power with a cascaded system than a single-stage system.

However, if the size of the heat exchangers was restricted, one would probably be better off with a single-stage system.

Dr White’s results suggest that in applications where maximising performance is not the primary objective, single-stage ORC systems remain the best option. However, in applications where maximised performance is the goal, cascaded systems can produce more power for the same size heat exchangers.

His paper emerged out of his work on the NextORC project, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

References: Martin T. White, Matthew G. Read, Abdulnaser I. Sayma, “Making the case for cascaded organic Rankine cycles for waste-heat recovery”, Energy, Volume 211, 2020, 118912, ISSN 0360-5442, (

Provided by City University London

New Research Explores The Thermodynamics Of Off-equilibrium Systems (Physics)

Arguably, almost all truly intriguing systems are ones that are far away from equilibrium — such as stars, planetary atmospheres, and even digital circuits. But, until now, systems far from thermal equilibrium couldn’t be analyzed with conventional thermodynamics and statistical physics.

When physicists first explored thermodynamics and statistical physics during the 1800s, and through the 1900s, they focused on analyzing physical systems that are at or near equilibrium. Conventional thermodynamics and statistical physics have also focused on macroscopic systems, which contain few, if any, explicitly distinguished subsystems.

In a paper published in the journal Physical Review Letters, SFI Professor David Wolpert presents a new hybrid formalism to overcome all of these limitations.

Fortunately, at the turn of the millennium, “a formalism now known as nonequilibrium statistical physics was developed,” says Wolpert. “It applies to systems that are arbitrarily far away from equilibrium and of any size.”

Nonequilibrium statistical physics is so powerful that it has resolved one of the deepest mysteries about the nature of time: how does entropy evolve within an intermediate regime? This is the space between the macroscopic world, where the second law of thermodynamics tells us that it must always increase, and the microscopic world where it can’t ever change.

We now know it’s only the expected entropy of a system that can’t decrease with time. “There’s always a non-zero probability that any particular sample of the dynamics of a system will result in decreasing entropy — and the probability of shrinking entropy grows as the system gets smaller,” he says.

At the same time that this revolution in statistical physics was occurring, major advances involving so-called graphical models were being made within the machine learning community.

In particular, the formalism of Bayesian networks was developed, which provides a method to specify systems with many subsystems that interact probabilistically with each other. Bayes nets can be used to formally describe the synchronous evolution of the elements of a digital circuit — fully accounting for noise within that evolution.

Wolpert combined these advances into a hybrid formalism, which is allowing him to explore thermodynamics of off-equilibrium systems that have many explicitly distinguished subsystems coevolving according to a Bayes net.

As an example of the power of this new formalism, Wolpert derived results showing the relationship between three quantities of interest in studying nanoscale systems like biological cells: the statistical precision of any arbitrarily defined current within the subsystem (such as the probabilities that the currents differ from their average values), the heat generated by running the overall Bayes net composed of those subsystems, and the graphical structure of that Bayes net.

“Now we can start to analyze how the thermodynamics of systems ranging from cells to digital circuits depend on the network structures connecting the subsystems of those systems,” says Wolpert.

References : David H. Wolpert, “Uncertainty Relations and Fluctuation Theorems for Bayes Nets”, Phys. Rev. Lett. 125, 200602 – Published 10 November 2020.

Provided by Santa Fe Institute

Prenatal Thyroid Hormones Influence ‘Biological Age’ At Birth (Biology)

The environment provided by the mother during embryo development has major consequences on later-life health and lifespan. This can arise through effects on cellular ageing which is often estimated with the length of telomeres. Telomeres are the protective end caps of chromosomes and their length is a marker of ‘biological age’.

Flycatcher egg being illuminated in order to inject thyroid hormones specifically into the egg yolk. ©Tom Sarraude

While telomeres normally shorten with age, short telomeres at a given age predict higher disease and mortality risks. Prenatal exposure to maternal stress hormones as well as instability during embryo development have previously been found to result in short telomeres, i.e. accelerated cellular ageing.

A new study funded by the Academy of Finland and the Turku Collegium for Science and Medicine manipulated prenatal exposure to maternal thyroid hormones using egg injection in an avian model.

“The telomere biology of humans is closer to the telomere biology of birds than those of traditional laboratory models. In both human and birds, telomere length is measured in a minimally-invasive way from small blood samples,” says Collegium Researcher Antoine Stier from the University of Turku (Finland), the main author of the research article.

While authors of the study had reasons to expect shorter telomeres in chicks born from eggs injected with thyroid hormones, they were quite surprised to find that those chicks actually exhibited longer telomeres right after birth.

“Based on the natural decline of telomere length observed with age in the same collared flycatcher population, we estimated that chicks hatching from thyroid hormones injected eggs were approximately 4 years ‘younger at birth’ than chicks hatched from control eggs,” adds Collegium Researcher Suvi Ruuskanen.

Although the molecular mechanisms underlying such effects remain to be discovered, the new findings suggest that prenatal thyroid hormones might have a role in setting the ‘biological age’ at birth.

“Considering the interest and controversies surrounding gene therapy trials in humans to elongate telomeres as an anti-ageing therapy, this discovery opens potential avenues to better understand the influence of telomere elongation in animal models,” Stier says.

The study was conducted on a long-term monitored population of wild collared flycatcher breeding in Gotland island, and relied on extensive collaborations with the University of Uppsala (Sweden), Lyon, Glasgow and Aberdeen.

References: Antoine Stier , Bin-Yan Hsu , Coline Marciau , Blandine Doligez , Lars Gustafsson , Pierre Bize and Suvi Ruuskanen, “Born to be young? Prenatal thyroid hormones increase early-life telomere length in wild collared flycatcher”, Royal Society Publishing, 2020. doi:

Provided by University of Turku

Electrochemical Oxygen Evolution On Hf2B2Ir5 Electrode Material (Chemistry)

The water electrolysis is an electrochemical way for production of hydrogen, which is considered as one of the future energy carrier molecules. Therefore, looking at numerous advantages of proton exchange membrane electrolysis compared to the classical alkaline variant, it’s efficiency and applicability on the large scale is of huge importance nowadays. However, the slow kinetics of the anode oxygen evolution reaction (OER) limits the overall electrolysis process and requires an active and stable electrocatalyst. Such need inspired the scientists of Chemical Metal Science and Physics of Correlated Matter departments at MPI CPfS together with the Fritz-Haber-Institut in Berlin to employ their longstanding expertise in chemistry of intermetallic compounds, electronic features of solid matter and electrocatalysis to make a step forward in this challenging direction. As a result of fruitful teamwork, the concept of cooperative phases with different stabilities under OER conditions was successfully demonstrated with the intermetallic compound Hf2B2Ir5 as a self-optimizing electrocatalyst for OER.

Figure 1. OER performance of Hf2B2Ir5 anode material, represented by linear sweep voltammograms measured during the long-term chronopotentiometry experiment (0.1 M H2SO4, j = 100 mA cm-2, t = 0 … 240 h). Inset: morphology of Hf2B2Ir5 material afterwards. © MPI CPfS

Based on chemical bonding analysis, the intermetallic compound Hf2B2Ir5 has a cage-like type of the crystal structure: the two-dimensional layers of B2Ir8 units are interconnected by two- and three-center Ir-Ir interactions to polyanionic framework and hafnium atoms are guesting in such anionic cages. The atomic interactions features are reflected in the electronic structure of Hf2B2Ir5 and its chemical behaviour under OER conditions. The initial electrochemical OER activity of Hf2B2Ir5 sustains during the continuous operation at elaborated current densities of 100 mA cm-2 for at least 240 h (Figure 1) and positions this material among Ir-based state-of-the-art electrocatalysts. The harsh oxidative conditions of OER activate the surface-limited changes of the pristine material and as a result the electrochemical performance is related to the cooperative work of Ir-terminated surface of the ternary compound itself and agglomerates of IrOx(OH)y(SO4)z particles (inset of Figure 1). The latter are formed mainly due to the oxidation of HfB4Ir3 secondary phase and near-surface oxidation of the investigated compound. The presence of at least two OER-active states of Ir, originated from the Hf2B2Ir5 under OER conditions, was confirmed by the XPS analysis (Figure 2). The experimental data (electrochemical results, material characterization using bulk-and surface-sensitive methods, elemental analysis of the used electrolyte) are consistent with the chemical bonding analysis. The illustrated concept of cooperative phases with different chemical stabilities under OER conditions can be explored to other systems and offers a perspective knowledge-based way for discovery of new effective OER-electrocatalysts.

Figure 2. Ir 4f core levels in Hf2B2Ir5 material: pristine state (black) and after 240 h of chronopotentiometry at 100 mA cm-2 current density (pink). The reference lines are drawn for Ir 4f in intermetallic Hf2B2Ir5 (black dashed), elemental Ir (grey dashed) and rutile IrO2 (red dashed). © MPI CPfS

References: Ana M. Barrios Jiménez, Ulrich Burkhardt, Raul Cardoso-Gil, Katharina Höfer, Simone G. Altendorf, Robert Schlögl, Yuri Grin, and Iryna Antonyshyn, “Hf2B2Ir5: a self-optimizing catalyst for oxygen evolution reaction” , ACS Appl. Energy Mater, 2020. DOI: 10.1021/acsaem.0c02022

Provided by Max Planck Institute

Chemical Clues In Leaves Can Reveal Ash Tree Resistance to Deadly Disease (Agriculture / Botany)

Naturally occurring compounds in ash leaves could be linked to susceptibility or resistance of individual trees to the fungal disease ash dieback (ADB).

* Naturally occurring compounds in ash leaves could be linked to susceptibility or resistance of individual trees to the fungal disease ash dieback (ADB).
* Scientists at the University of Warwick and University of Exeter have identified a group of chemicals present in ash leaves which could be used as biomarkers to look for susceptibility or resistance to ADB.
* Identifying resistant trees and breeding from them could help populate the UK with ADB resistant ash.
* But, the same chemicals are used by trees to deter herbivorous insects, so selective breeding for ADB resistance could have the unintended consequence of leaving the UK ash population open to attack by invading pests.

Ash trees with ash die back. ©University of Warwick

Naturally occurring compounds in ash leaves could be linked to susceptibility of individual trees to the fungal disease ash dieback (ADB). But selecting trees with lower levels of these compounds and breeding for resistance could leave the UK ash tree population open to attack from invading insect pests in the future, according to scientists at the University of Warwick.

Secoiridoid glycosides are naturally occurring compounds found in plant leaves. Researchers from Warwick’s School of Life Sciences and Department of Chemistry and the School of Biosciences at the University of Exeter looked at the abundance and diversity of secoiridoid glycosides in the leaves of a panel of ash trees known to be resistant and samples from trees known to be susceptible to ADB from both Denmark and the UK.

Previous research had identified five compounds in the secoiridoid glycoside family that were enriched in susceptible Danish trees, but results published today in Nature Scientific Reports, show UK ash tree leaves produced 27 different individually identifiable chemicals in the group. In the paper entitled Diversity of secoiridoid glycosides in leaves of UK and Danish ash provide new insight for ash dieback management, researchers have identified particular secoiridoid glycoside compounds that could potentially be used as biomarkers for tolerance or susceptibly to ADB.

Lead author, Dr John Sidda, from the School of Life Sciences at Warwick, said: “Ash dieback is an enormous problem for the UK, as ash makes up 5.5% of British woodlands. It is the third most abundant tree species in the UK with numbers exceeding 100 million trees. Ash dieback could be devastating to the British landscape and it is estimated it could cost the UK economy up to £15 billion. Currently there is no treatment for the disease so it is vital we understand all the possible pathways to developing resistance.

“Our work shows that the small molecules in leaves could give a pretty reliable indication of a tree’s resistance as well as new insight into possible resistance mechanisms. Work is already underway to validate our results on a much larger panel of UK trees, and to identify other compounds that contribute to ash dieback resistance.”

Young ash trees suffering from ash die back. ©University of Warwick

If potential ADB tolerant ash could be identified via a rapid test, they could be selected for breeding to begin repopulating the UK countryside. However, there may be another enemy on the horizon.

The Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) beetle is an insect pest of ash which has devastated the ash tree population in North America. The pest is moving towards Europe and has already been identified in Russia and Ukraine. At the current rate of spread it will reach central Europe in 15-20 years.

Dr Sidda said: “We know that secoiridoid glycosides play a number of roles in plants, and some of these compounds act as a defence mechanism against herbivorous insect pests. In selecting trees with lower levels of these compounds in order to help protect the ash population against ADB, we may run the risk of reducing the UK’s ash trees’ natural defence against the EAB.

“However, our results indicate that there may be higher concentrations of secoiridoid glycosides in UK ash compared to Danish ash, so UK trees might be better protected against future herbivore threats such as EAB. There is also much more structural diversity of secoiridoid glycosides in the UK and Danish trees than we first thought.

“Researching and understanding these chemical compounds further will help us plan for protecting the UK ash population over the next few decades.”

Professor Murray Grant, Elizabeth Creak Chair in Food Security at the University of Warwick and report co-author said: “These results are exciting as they reveal an unexpected diversity in this class of chemical compounds between ADB susceptible and tolerant UK trees, and also between Danish and UK ash. These may act as a potential reservoir of protective compounds that contribute to tree health.

“Our ongoing research is focussed on better understanding the biology of these compounds. We are grateful to funding from UKRI that allows us to expand this study to identify other chemical markers that discriminate tolerant and susceptible trees with the goal of developing a screen for ADB tolerant ash.”

References: Murray Grant, Sidda et al., “Diversity of secoiridoid glycosides in leaves of UK and Danish ash provide new insight for ash dieback management”, Nature Scientific Reports, 2020. DOI: 10.1038/s41598-020-76140-z Link:

Provided by University of Warwick

A Molecule From Gut Bacteria Reduces Effect Of Diabetes Medication (Medicine)

The action of metformin, the classic drug used to treat diabetes by stabilizing blood sugar, can be blocked by a molecule from the bacteria in our intestines, a University of Gothenburg study shows.

©Ara Koh et al.

Metformin is the primary treatment option for type 2 diabetes, but there are major variations in how individuals respond to this drug. In some people it lowers blood glucose (sugar) and delays the course of the disease, while in others its effects are less favorable.

An article published in the journal Cell Metabolism now clarifies one underlying factor that explain why metformin action can be blocked. This blocking is preceded by processes in the gut bacteria — the intestinal microbiota — in which the molecule imidazole propionate is produced.

The change in gut microbiota associated with type 2 diabetes has been demonstrated in previous research under the leadership of Fredrik Backhed, Professor of Molecular Medicine at Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg.

He has also shown that the altered gut microbiota brings about a change in metabolism of the amino acid histidine. This, in turn, leads to an increase in the production of imidazole propionate, a molecule that inhibits the effects of insulin in lowering blood glucose.

The present study shows that, besides blocking the effects of insulin, imidazole propionate also reduces the efficacy of metformin in lowering blood glucose. In type 2 diabetes patients, high imidazole propionate levels proved to be associated with impaired metformin action, and vice versa.

The study also shows that imidazole propionate impairs the glucose-lowering effect of metformin in mice.

“Our study demonstrates clearly that imidazole propionate not only inhibits the effects of insulin but may also reduce the therapeutic action of the metformin,” Backhed says.

“Since imidazole propionate has also been linked to inflammation in the gut, and metformin has several side effects in the form of intestinal problems, it’s conceivable that imidazole propionate both blocks the treatment effect and contributes to side effects of metformin. But new studies are needed to verify this hypothesis.”

How imidazole propionate obstructs the efficacy of metformin in regulating blood glucose has been thoroughly investigated through applied biochemistry and molecular biology. Ara Koh is the first author of the study.

“We found out that imidazole propionate interacts with AMPK, the same molecule as metformin. But instead of activating AMPK, imidazole propionate inhibits metformin-induced AMPK activation,” she relates.

By blocking another protein, p38gamma, which is required to enable imidazole propionate to block AMPK (AMP-activated protein kinase), the researchers were able to inhibit the effects of imidazole propionate.

The research group works at the Wallenberg Laboratory for Cardiovascular and Metabolic Research at the University of Gothenburg, and the present study was conducted in collaboration with Sahlgrenska University Hospital.

“The work demonstrates the robustness of the translational research carried out at the Wallenberg Lab. There, observations of patients can be explained in molecular terms, which can give rise to new therapies,” Fredrik Backhed concludes.

References: Ara Koh, Louise Mannerås-Holm, Na-Oh Yunn, Rosie Perkins, J. Gustav Smith et al., “Microbial Imidazole Propionate Affects Responses to Metformin through p38γ-Dependent Inhibitory AMPK Phosphorylation”, VOLUME 32, ISSUE 4, P643-653.E4, OCTOBER 06, 2020. DOI: link:

Interlayer Ligand Engineering of β-Ni(OH)2 For Oxygen Evolution Reaction (Chemistry)

Oxygen evolution reaction (OER) is a key process for many energy devices such as electrolyzers and rechargeable metal-air batteries. Tremendous studies have been devoted to obtaining cost-effective, efficient and durable OER catalysts. Among them, nickel-based materials are considered to be promising candidates for OER in alkaline media. However, their performances are still below the expectation and the active sites are often controversial.

LSV curves of β-Ni(OH)2 and NiEt, and the inset is the atom structure of NiEt. ©Science China Press

Recently, Associate Professor Yuqin Zou from Hunan University and Professor Xia Lu from Sun Yat-sen University proposed an interlayer ligand engineering strategy on β-Ni(OH)2 for OER.

The alkoxyl substituted β-Ni(OH)2 are facilely prepared by an one-step solvothermal reaction. Assisted by subsequent powder X-ray diffraction (PXRD) and crystalline structure computational simulation, the corresponding chemical formula can be described as Ni[(OH)1-y(L)y]2 (0?y?1), in which L represents alkoxyl ligands. The selected alkoxyl could be methoxyl, ethoxyl, propoxyl and isopropoxyl, or even the combination of methoxyl and ethoxyl. Owing to the chain length, electronegativity and hydrophilicity differences of these alkoxyl, the alteration of electron configuration and three-phase interfaces of Ni[(OH)1-y(L)y]2 are achieved, and the ethoxyl substituted one (NiEt) shows great potential to be efficient OER catalysts (Figure 1).

Combining with X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS) and other ex situ physical analysis, the critical active species of NiEt is formed via hydroxylation and subsequent de-protonation, existing as high valent Niδ+ (3<δ?3.66). According to the further operando XAS studies, the corresponding reaction pathway is tracked and catalysis mechanism is proposed.

References: He JY, Zou YQ, Huang YC, Li CH, Liu YB, Zhou L, Dong CL, Lu X, Wang SY. Interlayer Ligand Engineering of β-Ni(OH)2 for Oxygen Evolution. Sci. China Chem., 2020, DOI:10.1007/s11426-020-9844-2

Provided by Science China Press

The Transformation Of A Pair: How Electrons Supertransport Current In ‘Bad Metals’

‘Bad’ and mysterious yet highly effective in superconducting at high temperatures; even if, according to expectations, these materials should not behave like this; new research explains why; reconciling theory and experiments.

In jargon, they are called “bad metals”, but they are not really so bad. As a matter of fact, they are the best superconductors because they are able to conduct current with the highest efficiency and without resistance up to high temperatures. This has been seen experimentally. Yet their behaviour remains a mystery. The repulsive forces between the electrons in these materials are much stronger than in low-temperature superconductors: so how do particles with the same charge overcome these forces and manage to pair-up and to transport current as it happens in “traditional” superconductors? A team of researchers of SISSA in Trieste in collaboration with the Vienna University of Technology have found a possible, surprising answer. According to the study published in Physical Review Letters, in these materials the electrons would transform into new “objects”, with an unprecedented character that would allow them to pair up and thereby superconduct the current. In their research, the researchers also demonstrated the peculiarity of a new type of “Bad metals”, called “Hund’s metals”, important for a class of iron-based materials. Scientists believe that these materials are particularly interesting because they are superconductive and rather malleable, which makes them highly suited to technological applications.

In their research, the researchers also demonstrated the peculiarity of a new type of “Bad metals”, called “Hund’s metals”, important for a class of iron-based materials. Scientists believe that these materials are particularly interesting because they are superconductive and rather malleable, which makes them highly suited to technological applications. ©Gerd Altmann on Pixabay

Low-temperature superconductors

“Superconductors are interesting materials because they hide many mysteries that remain unsolved and, at the same time, they offer an incredible application potential,” explain Laura Fanfarillo, Angelo Valli and Massimo Capone, authors of the research. They are chemical compounds which, below a critical temperature, conduct electricity without any resistance, so without heat dissipation. It is easy to imagine their potential in the technological field. Were it not that for many of them, so-called “low-temperature superconductors”, superconductivity appears at temperatures very close to the absolute zero, making their use complicated and very costly. However, there are also high-temperature superconductors, such as bad metals, whose critical temperature, although well below zero, require a much less complicated and expensive cooling. For this reason, these materials are considered to be the most interesting superconductors to explore in order to shed light on the physical characteristics that make them so special.

“And yet they move (together)”

The researchers explain “In low-temperature superconductors we know that superconductivity is the result of the pairing of electrons that overcome the repulsion due to their negative charge thanks to a “mediator”. Once organised into pairs the electrons begin to move coherently and transport electric current without encountering any resistance. In bad metals, the Coulomb repulsion, which the electrons are subject to, is much stronger than in traditional metals. This repulsion, in theory, should prevent even more decisively the formation of these pairs and the transport of the supercurrent.” This is where the question arises: “Since we know that the pairing between electrons is the mechanism at the base of superconduction and that, at least in this case, there is a mediator, it remains to be understood how bad metals are such good superconductors. With our calculations, we have tried to shed light on this intriguing mystery”.

Quasiparticles to conduct electricity

What the scientists discovered is that it is precisely the characteristics that, at a superficial glance, would make them the worst possible candidates, that turn these materials into such powerful superconductors. In these materials, the electrons transform into peculiar “quasiparticles” whose characteristics are actually much more compatible with pairing, thereby justifying their experimental behaviour. However, it does not end here: “In this work we also demonstrated that a new type of bad metal characterised by a peculiar type of repulsion, called “Hund’s metal”, opens up interesting prospects in the field of superconductivity”. “Our results” conclude the scientists “accurately and elegantly explain a quantity of experimental evidence in the class of ferrous superconductors, a relatively new type of material discovered in 2008, but whose unprecedented properties are still a field of investigation full of questions for scientists”.

References: Laura Fanfarillo, Angelo Valli, and Massimo Capone, “Synergy between Hund-Driven Correlations and Boson-Mediated Superconductivity”, Phys. Rev. Lett. 125, 177001 – Published 21 October 2020.

Provided by SISSA

New Prognostic Markers For Colon Cancer Identified (Medicine)

The gut-associated lymphoid tissue represents an integral part of the immune system. Among the powerful players of the mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue are isolated lymphoid structures (ILSs). Additionally, in the course of cancer, ectopic lymphoid structures (ELSs; also known as tertiary lymphoid structures, TLSs) were shown to be formed at the tumor site. Both ILSs and ELSs act as multitasking information centers triggering multifaceted immune responses. An in-depth understanding of the complexity and functionality of ILSs and ELSs may lead to new directions in therapeutic interventions and/or provide help in treatment decisions as part of personalized medicine. The study recently published by researchers from MedUni Vienna and collaborative partners nominates ILSs as novel prognostic players orchestrating the pathobiology of metastatic colorectal cancer.

Cumulative data within the rapidly evolving field of immuno-oncology positions tumor infiltrating B cells among powerful contributors to anti-tumor immunity. One essential aspect that links the B-cell biology, the adaptive immunity, and the inflammation process to the tumor microenvironment is based on the unique ability of B cells to form ELSs. Central to this are Germinal Center reactions, which involve the coordinated action of various immune cell types with a central role given to B cells.

Key information that needs to be considered for understanding the ELSs in solid tumors is that there are tissue types where such lymphoid structures are physiologically appearing to fulfil an important balance between effective and protective immune response and self-tolerance. “This holds true for organs with specialized immunity at epithelial barriers. Among those is the gut-associated lymphoid tissue with the ILSs being among the most powerful players.” saysDiana Mechtcheriakova, principal investigator and the head of Molecular Systems Biology and Pathophysiology Research Group at the Institute of Pathophysiology and Allergy Research, Medical University of Vienna. “We aimed to investigate whether there is a link between the patient-specific characteristics of pre-formed isolated lymphoid structures in non-tumorous colon tissue and the disease pathobiology for patients with metastatic colorectal cancer.”

In this study the multidisciplinary research team implemented newly developed integrative strategy named DIICO/from Digital Immune Imaging to Clinical Outcome. DIICO is based on digital tissue image cytometry which enables to transform encrypted tissue information on immune cells and structures into numerical data for alignment with disease-relevant parameters. Important additive information was obtained by B-cell clonality assessment and a comprehensive analysis of Omics data..

The authors showed that the properties of ILSs in non-tumorous colon tissue predefine the immune phenotype of ELSs at primary and metastatic sites. They discovered that B-cell-enriched and highly proliferative lymphoid structures are prognostic towards an improved clinical outcome for patients with metastatic CRC. The knowledge gained from this study expands our understanding of tumor-immune interactions and draws particular attention to the anti-tumor immune response guided by isolated lymphoid structures outside of tumor tissue.

References: Mungenast, F.; Meshcheryakova, A.; Beer, A.; Salzmann, M.; Tamandl, D.; Gruenberger, T.; Pietschmann, P.; Koperek, O.; Birner, P.; Kirsch, I.; Robins, H.; Mittlboeck, M.; Jaritz, M.; Bergmann, M.; Zimmermann, P.; Mechtcheriakova, “The Immune Phenotype of Isolated Lymphoid Structures in Non-Tumorous Colon Mucosa Encrypts the Information on Pathobiology of Metastatic Colorectal Cancer.”, Cancers 2020, 12, 3117. Doi:

Provided by Medical University of Vienna