news 2022


Life Sciences

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Health - Life Sciences - 20.12.2022
Biology medicine and health: a review of our top stories
2022 was another bumper year for news from the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and health. Here are some of our highlights: January we showed how early data for multivariant COVID-19 vaccine booster shows promise. The first results of an early trial of a multivariant COVID-19 vaccine booster, launched in Manchester in September 2021, showed it is driving a comprehensive immune response.

Life Sciences - Health - 19.12.2022
Stranded dolphins’ brains show common signs of Alzheimer’s disease
The brains of three different species of stranded dolphins show classic markers of human Alzheimer's disease, according to the most extensive study into dementia in odontocetes (toothed whales). The new pan-Scotland research, a collaboration between the University of Glasgow, the Universities of St Andrews and Edinburgh and the Moredun Research Institute, studied the brains of 22 odontocetes which had all been stranded in Scottish coastal waters.

Life Sciences - Environment - 15.12.2022
Analysis: A close look at chimpanzees challenges old theories on why humans walk on two legs
Dr Alexander Piel and Dr Fiona Stewart (both UCL Anthropology) discuss their new study in The Conversation which reveals the ability for humans to walk upright on two legs may have evolved in trees, and not on the ground as previously thought. There's no trait that distinguishes humans from all other mammals more clearly than the way we walk.

Environment - Life Sciences - 14.12.2022
Logged tropical forests are surprisingly vibrant and need protection
Logged tropical forests are surprisingly vibrant and need protection
Researchers find tropical forests that have been logged still retain good ecological health, and should be protected from conversion to plantations. Logged forests that have had some trees removed are often labelled as 'degraded', meaning they are lower priority for protection and can be cleared to make way for agriculture such as oil palm plantations.

Environment - Life Sciences - 08.12.2022
Forest restoration - ’balance nitrogen-fixing trees with other species’
Reforestation projects could be made more effective with the findings of new research into the constraints on nitrogen fixation among plants. Some trees, such as those from the Fabaceae or legume family, form a symbiotic relationship with bacteria, enabling them to them take in nitrogen from the air.

Psychology - Life Sciences - 06.12.2022
New study highlights terms most favoured by autistic people across the globe
Autistic people have strong preferences for terms to describe autism, with unpopular terms including 'having autism' or having an 'impairment' or 'disorder'. Researchers from across the U21 Autism Research Network , led by a team at the University of Birmingham, carried out a survey of over 650 English-speaking autistic adults across the globe to explore their linguistic preferences.

Life Sciences - Health - 01.12.2022
Early life experiences can have long-lasting impact on genes
Early life experiences can have long-lasting impact on genes
Early life experiences can impact the activity of our genes much later on and even affect longevity, finds a new study in fruit flies led by UCL researchers. In the study published in Nature Aging , the scientists report that gene expression 'memory' can persist across the lifespan, and may present a novel target for improving late-life health.

Health - Life Sciences - 01.12.2022
Anti-ageing drug rapamycin might only benefit females
Anti-ageing drug rapamycin might only benefit females
The anti-ageing drug rapamycin only prolongs the lifespan of female fruit flies, but not that of males, finds a new study co-led by UCL researchers. Working with researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing in Cologne, the team reports in Nature Aging that in addition, rapamycin only slowed the development of age-related pathological changes in the gut in female flies.

Environment - Life Sciences - 29.11.2022
Dormant microbes can ’switch on’ to cope with climate change
Dormant strains of bacteria that have previously adapted to cope with certain temperatures are switched back on during climatic change, study shows. The results, led by a team at Imperial College London and published today in eLife , have important implications for predicting the impact of global warming on ecosystems.

Environment - Life Sciences - 29.11.2022
New study suggests climate change may be affecting animal body size
New study suggests climate change may be affecting animal body size
A new study finds treeshrews increase in size in warmer settings, contrary to established norms. Our study is the first to demonstrate a rule reversal over time in any species. We need to revisit some of our assumptions about size variation as our climate continues to rapidly change. Maya Juman New evidence shows that some mammals increase in size in warmer settings, upsetting established norms and suggesting that climate change may be having an unexpected impact on animal body size.

Life Sciences - Health - 29.11.2022
Ancient viruses may hold key to effective gene therapy treatments
Scientists have unlocked key insights into virus evolution, revealing new information that could help develop treatments for a wide variety of genetic diseases. The research, which was led by scientists at the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research (CVR) and University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School, focuses on a group of small, ubiquitous viruses called 'parvoviruses' (from the Latin word "parvus" meaning 'small', 'puny' or 'unimportant').

Life Sciences - Environment - 28.11.2022
Live fast, avoid extinction: fast-lived species more resilient to human influences
Live fast, avoid extinction: fast-lived species more resilient to human influences
Animals that live fast - that is, frequent or abundant reproduction and short lifespans - are more resilient to human-driven land use changes than those with slow life-histories, finds a new study led by UCL researchers. Across the globe, in areas that have experienced rapid expansion of cropland or bare soil, fast-lived species have increased in numbers in recent decades while slow-lived species are in decline, according to the findings published in Global Change Biology .

Environment - Life Sciences - 28.11.2022
Mussel survey reveals alarming degradation of River Thames ecosystem since the 1960s
Mussel survey reveals alarming degradation of River Thames ecosystem since the 1960s
Scientists replicated a 1964 River Thames survey and found that mussel numbers have declined by almost 95%, with one species - the depressed river mussel - completely gone. This dramatic decline in native mussel populations is very worrying, and we are not sure what's driving it David Aldridge The detailed study measured the change in size and number of all species of mussel in a stretch of the River Thames near Reading between 1964 and 2020.

Health - Life Sciences - 21.11.2022
Hospitals more risky than farms when it comes to Klebsiella superbug spread, says study
Hospitals more risky than farms when it comes to Klebsiella superbug spread, says study
A study led by Bath's Milner Centre for Evolution investigated spread of Klebsiella bacteria between humans and the environment. An international team of scientists investigating transmission of a deadly drug resistant bacteria that rivals MRSA, has found that whilst the bugs are found in livestock, pets and the wider environment, they are rarely transmitted to humans through this route.

Health - Life Sciences - 21.11.2022
New Alzheimer’s genes discovered in world’s largest study
Two new genes that raise a person's risk of developing Alzheimer's Disease have been discovered by researchers. An international team, involving Cardiff University's Dementia Research Institute, compared 32,000 genetic codes from patients with Alzheimer's disease and healthy individuals. The research uncovered several new genes and specific mutations in those genes that lead to the development of Alzheimer's disease.

Life Sciences - Health - 18.11.2022
Lab grown 'mini eyes' help understanding of blindness in rare genetic condition
Lab grown ’mini eyes’ help understanding of blindness in rare genetic condition
Researchers at UCL have grown 'mini eyes', which make it possible to study and better understand the development of blindness in Usher syndrome for the first time. The 3D 'mini eyes', known as organoids, were grown from stem cells generated from skin samples donated by patients at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children (GOSH).

Life Sciences - 17.11.2022
Education increases genetic risk of shortsightedness
Scientists have uncovered five genetic variants that increase a person's risk of becoming shortsighted the longer they stay in school. The research, led by Professor Jeremy Guggenheim of the University's School of Optometry and Vision Sciences, used genetic and health data from more than 340,000 participants with European ancestry.

Health - Life Sciences - 16.11.2022
Synthetic biology meets medicine: ’programmable molecular scissors’ could help fight COVID-19 infection
Cambridge scientists have used synthetic biology to create artificial enzymes programmed to target the genetic code of SARS-CoV-2 and destroy the virus, an approach that could be used to develop a new generation of antiviral drugs. XNAzymes are molecular scissors which recognise a particular sequence in the RNA, then chop it up Alex Taylor Enzymes are naturally occurring biological catalysts, which enable the chemical transformations required for our bodies to function - from translating the genetic code into proteins, right through to digesting food.

Life Sciences - 15.11.2022
Scientists grow concerned for the genetic health of otters in the UK
Long-term study reveals otter populations haven't reconnected genetically, despite strong recovery in population size. The genetic health of otters in Britain could be putting them at risk despite conservation efforts, according to a long-term study by Cardiff University's Otter Project. Studying data across two decades, the team has mapped for the first time the changing pattern of otter genetics.

Life Sciences - Health - 15.11.2022
Slow-moving shell of water can make Parkinson’s proteins ’stickier’
Water - which makes up the majority of every cell in the body - plays a key role in how proteins, including those associated with Parkinson's disease, fold, misfold, or clump together, according to a new study. The failure to look at the whole cellular environment has been limiting the field, which may be why we haven-t yet got an effective treatment for Parkinson's disease Gabriele Kaminski Schierle When attempting to discover potential treatments for protein misfolding diseases, researchers have primarily focused on the structure of the proteins themselves.
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