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Tag Archive: Department news

  1. Cancer risk written in DNA

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    Leeds scientists were among a global collaboration that identified 33 new regions of the human genome that influence the risk of developing the skin cancer melanoma.

    They compared DNA from 37,000 people with melanoma to that of nearly 400,000 people with no history of the disease. By identifying these regions, and confirming another 21 previously reported regions, they have more than doubled the number of areas of the genome known to be linked to melanoma.

  2. 3D synthetic tongue

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    Despite the challenges of a complex architecture, researchers have created a synthetic soft surface replica of the human tongue that mimics its topography and wettability – factors that influence how food and saliva interact upon its surface. Researchers used tongue masks obtained from healthy human subjects and digital light processing technology to make a 3D printed tongue mould. This silicone-based tongue surface could help accelerate the development of nutritional, biomedical and clinical products. It is a result of an interdisciplinary collaboration with the University of Edinburgh, which was led by Anwesha Sarkar, Professor of Colloids and Surfaces.

  3. Using vibration to detect impurities

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    Working with colleagues from the Sorbonne, Leeds scientists located a single silicon atom in a graphene crystal using an electron microscope and then observed its vibrations within the crystal.

    The energy of the microscope beam makes atoms vibrate, creating a unique vibrational fingerprint. Impurities can change that fingerprint, but advanced techniques are needed to detect these subtle changes.

    Quentin Ramasse, Professor of Advanced Electron Microscopy, explained: “We now have evidence that a single ‘foreign’ atom in a solid can change its vibrational property. We have shown for the first time that you can record that defect signature with atomic precision.”

  4. New use for failed drug

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    Drugs developed to treat Alzheimer’s disease could be repurposed to prevent – or even reverse – damage done to the blood vessels of people who are obese or have type 2 diabetes.

    People living with conditions including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol have a stiffening of their blood vessels, which puts them at increased risk of heart attack or stroke. Scientists at Leeds and the University of Dundee found that changes to the blood vessels can be triggered by the over-production of an enzyme called BACE1, which in turn creates the protein beta amyloid. Stopping the actions of BACE1 can restore blood vessel health, according to findings published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation.

    Drug companies have developed BACE1 inhibitors but, so far, they have proved ineffective in tackling Alzheimer’s disease. It is now hoped that they can be repurposed to tackle stiffening blood vessels.

  5. New hope for Parkinson’s therapies

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    The discovery of a master control region for a protein linked to Parkinson’s disease could provide hope of new therapies.
    Associate Professor David Brockwell and Sheena Radford, Astbury Professor of Biophysics, led research by their team in the Astbury Centre for Structural Molecular Biology on the protein alpha-synuclein, which is involved in Parkinson’s disease. Alpha-synuclein is found in healthy cells within the nervous system. Problems occur when the protein aggregates, or clumps together, disrupting normal cell function. NAC, an area of the protein particularly prone to aggregation, was previously thought to be key to understanding the disease, yet this new research has discovered two additional regions outside of NAC that control its aggregation. The identification of these sites provides a new target for therapies that could delay or even prevent the progression of Parkinson’s disease, which affects more than 10 million people worldwide.

  6. Historic writers’ climate insights

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    The climate emergency has spawned a genre of fiction, but David Higgins, Professor of Environmental Humanities, and postdoctoral fellow Dr Tess Somervell have shown how, through the ages, literature has offered a valuable perspective on environmental changes.

    Writing in The Conversation, they cite examples such as literature’s oldest epic poem, Epic of Gilgamesh (c1800 BC), which tells of a huge flood, that stemmed from a cultural memory of sea level rise after the Ice Age.

    Similarly, Byron’s Darkness, Percy Shelley’s Mont Blanc and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, which were written as global temperatures plummeted after an Indonesian volcanic eruption during 1816, reveal anxieties about our vulnerability to the environment.

    The researchers concluded: “Literature reminds us of the need to take responsibility for our own impact on the environment. We may not want to view climate change as divine punishment, but when Milton suggests it was the fall of man that replaced Eden’s eternal spring with ‘pinching cold and scorching heat’, his narrative resonates with our present crisis.”

  7. Model tool for investors

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    An innovative new modelling tool, created in partnership with the investment management and stockbroking firm Redmayne Bentley, will help investment managers make decisions on where to invest client money. With input from both the School of Mathematics and Leeds University Business School, the tool breaks down portfolio risks, creating real outputs that can be used to support decisions about asset allocation.

  8. Crime of the times

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    A grant from UK Research and Innovation is allowing Leeds researchers to examine the changing face of crime throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. Closures to shops and people spending more time at home led to decreases in shoplifting and burglary, but increases in domestic abuse and online crime. Researchers are examining the impact of crime and identifying areas for crime prevention as the world adapts to the changes caused by the pandemic.

  9. Show must go online

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    With final year shows cancelled in 2020, it could have been a disappointing end to months of preparation for students from the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies. Instead, students across the school pulled together to adapt their plans to the digital sphere. From creating a virtual gallery, to adapting a live performance to an audio play, they demonstrated that even in difficult circumstances their show could go on.

    Find out more here and here.