news 2020


Life Sciences

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Health - Life Sciences - 23.12.2020
New research highlights the importance of the thymus in successful pregnancies
How the immune system adapts to pregnancies has puzzled scientists for decades. Now, findings from an international group of researchers, led by experts at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, reveal important changes that occur in the thymus to prevent miscarriages and gestational diabetes. The thymus is a central organ of the immune system where specialised immune cells called T lymphocytes mature.

Life Sciences - Health - 21.12.2020
How our brains help us find misplaced objects
Have you ever wondered how we remember the last place we saw our car keys or other objects like mobile phones and glasses? This new research shows we have a type of brain cell that's sensitive to the distance and direction of objects, they call these Vector Trace cells. These are in addition to GPS-like brain cells, which can store maps of places we have been, like our kitchen or a holiday destination.

Life Sciences - Environment - 18.12.2020
Spotting elephants from space: a satellite revolution
Using the highest resolution satellite imagery currently available - Worldview 3 - from Maxar Technologies and deep learning, (TensorFlow API, Google Brain) researchers at the University of Oxford Wildlife Conservation Research Unit and Machine Learning Research Group have detected elephants from space with comparable accuracy to human detection capabilities.

Life Sciences - Health - 16.12.2020
Driving force behind cellular ’protein factories’ could have implications for neurodegenerative disease
Researchers have identified the driving force behind a cellular process linked to neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson's and motor neurone disease. There is still so much to learn about this system, which is incredibly important to fundamental biomedical science Clemens Kaminski In a study published today in Science Advances , researchers from the University of Cambridge show that tiny components within the cell are the biological engines behind effective protein production.

Environment - Life Sciences - 16.12.2020
New research highlights impacts of weedkiller on wildlife
Prolonged exposure to environmentally relevant concentrations of the weedkiller Roundup causes significant harm to keystone species according to new research at the University of Birmingham. A team in the University's School of Biosciences used waterfleas, or Daphnia, to test the effects prolonged exposure to concentrations of Roundup deemed safe by regulatory agencies.

Life Sciences - Environment - 15.12.2020
Are Britain’s land animals eating plastic?
Programmes such as the BBC's Blue Planet and Hugh's War on Plastic , have drawn attention to the threat plastics pose to sea-life. But little is known about the impacts on Britain's land-based species, such as hedgehogs, rabbits and voles. Now, a new research project from the University of Sussex and the Mammal Society, aims to assess the exposure of wild mammals to waste plastics across Britain.

Life Sciences - Health - 15.12.2020
Apathy could predict onset of dementia years before other symptoms
Apathy - a lack of interest or motivation - could predict the onset of some forms of dementia many years before symptoms start, offering a 'window of opportunity' to treat the disease at an early stage, according to new research from a team of scientists led by Professor James Rowe at the University of Cambridge.

Health - Life Sciences - 14.12.2020
No association between COVID-19 and Guillain-Barré syndrome
Neuroscientists at UCL have found no significant association between COVID-19 and the potentially paralysing and sometimes fatal neurological condition Guillain-Barré syndrome. Researchers say the findings, published in the journal  Brain*,  along with a linked scientific commentary** by UCL and other international experts, should provide the public with reassurance, as the UK's national coronavirus vaccination programme is rolled out.

Paleontology - Life Sciences - 14.12.2020
Unexpected insights into early dinosaur’s brain, eating habits and agility
A pioneering reconstruction of the brain belonging to one of the earliest dinosaurs to roam the Earth has shed new light on its possible diet and ability to move fast. Research, led by the University of Bristol, used advanced imaging and 3-D modelling techniques to digitally rebuild the brain of Thecodontosaurus , better known as the Bristol dinosaur due to its origins in the UK city.

Health - Life Sciences - 10.12.2020
Testing memory over four weeks could predict Alzheimer’s disease risk
New research suggests testing people's memory over four weeks could identify who is at higher risk of developing Alzheimer's disease before it has developed. Importantly, the trial found testing people's ability to retain memories for longer time periods could predict this more accurately than classic memory tests, which test memory over half an hour.

Environment - Life Sciences - 10.12.2020
Bacteria release climate-damaging carbon from thawing permafrost
A new study based on scientific sampling of a rusty carbon sink at a permafrost peatland at Sweden has revealed that iron minerals fail to trap organic carbon, a vast source of CO2 and methane not included in global warming forecasts. The study, conducted by researchers from the Universities of Tübingen and Bristol conducted their investigation site at Stordalen mire, Abisko, Sweden appears today [10 December].

Health - Life Sciences - 10.12.2020
Gene therapy injection in one eye surprises scientists by improving vision in both
Injecting a gene therapy vector into one eye of someone suffering from  LHON , the most common cause of mitochondrial blindness, significantly improves vision in both eyes, scientists have found. Saving sight with gene therapy is now a reality Patrick Yu-Wai-Man In a landmark phase 3 clinical trial, the international team, coordinated by Dr Patrick Yu-Wai-Man from the University of Cambridge and Dr José-Alain Sahel from the University of Pittsburgh and Institut de la Vision, Paris, successfully treated 37 patients suffering from Leber hereditary optic neuropathy (LHON) .

Life Sciences - Health - 08.12.2020
Open-source toolkit helps developing countries meet demand for COVID-19 research and diagnostics
Researchers have developed a free, open-source toolkit that allows laboratories in developing countries to produce their own tools for COVID-19 research and diagnosis, without relying on an increasingly fractured global supply chain. A resilient local supply chain for diagnostics is vital to future health security and pandemic preparedness Jenny Molloy High demand for millions of COVID-19 tests per day combined with a disrupted global supply chain has left many countries facing diagnostic shortages.

Health - Life Sciences - 07.12.2020
Gut research identifies key cellular changes associated with childhood-onset Crohn’s Disease
Scientists have tracked the very early stages of human foetal gut development in incredible detail, and found specific cell functions that appear to be reactivated in the gut of children with Crohn's Disease. Our results indicate there might be a reprogramming of specific gut cell functions in Crohn's Disease Matthias Zilbauer The results are an important step towards better management and treatment of this devastating condition.

Life Sciences - 07.12.2020
Genetic map of the human face
An international team of researchers has connected specific genetic regions which influence facial features. This means they can see the signals of normal facial features in the genome - but it is also hoped their work can shed light on craniofacial malformations such as cleft lip and palate. The findings are published today in an article .

Life Sciences - Environment - 03.12.2020
Flightless birds were more common before human-driven extinctions
Dr Ferran Sayol and Professor Tim Blackburn (both UCL Biosciences) discuss their new study, which found there would be at least four times as many flightless bird species on Earth today if it were not for human influences. When the first humans started to colonise all the regions of the world, many species went extinct.

Life Sciences - 03.12.2020
Scientists develop an evolutionary theory of stress
Scientists have created an evolutionary model to predict how animals should react in stressful situations. Almost all organisms have fast-acting stress responses, which help them respond to threats - but being stressed uses energy, and chronic stress can be damaging. The new study by an international team, including researchers from the Universities of Bristol and Exeter, suggests most animals remain stressed for longer than is optimal after a stress-inducing incident.

Environment - Life Sciences - 03.12.2020
Flightless birds more common globally before human-driven extinctions
There would be at least four times as many flightless bird species on Earth today if it were not for human influences, finds a study led by UCL researchers. The study, published in Science Advances , finds that flightlessness evolved much more frequently among birds than would be expected if you only looked at current species.

Life Sciences - Health - 02.12.2020
Small and large birth weight linked to genetics of mother and baby - except in tiniest babies
Genetics of mother and baby contribute to most cases where babies are born very large or very small, according to new research. Genetics of mother and baby contribute to most cases where babies are born very large or very small, according to new research. A large scale study, led by the University of Exeter and Cardiff University, has found the strongest evidence to date that genetics play a major role in most cases when babies born at full term are in the top or bottom 10 per cent of the weight spectrum.

Life Sciences - 01.12.2020
Fingerprints’ moisture-regulating mechanism strengthens human touch - study
Human fingerprints have a self-regulating moisture mechanism that not only helps us to avoid dropping our smartphone, but could help scientists to develop better prosthetic limbs, robotic equipment and virtual reality environments, a new study reveals. Primates - including humans, monkeys and apes - have evolved epidermal ridges on their hands and feet with a higher density of sweat glands than elsewhere on their bodies.
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