Current International Research

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24-05-2012

  NMP: Networking for nanotechnology

Europe has long been the source for many technological innovations but many challenges need to be overcome so as to bridge the gap from research to industry, and from there to market. The growth industry of nanotechnology is no different. In particular, the development of new applications based on nanoimprinting techniques (NIL) is evolving at a rapid pace. This is where the NAPANIL (‘Nanopatterning, production and applications based on nanoimprinting lithography’) project comes in. The recent NAPANIL Industrial Day addressed these issues and found solutions. NAPANIL has received EUR 11.8 million under the ‘Nanosciences, nanotechnologies, materials and new production technologies’ (NMP) Theme of the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).

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23-05-2012

  ICT: Android vulnerability neutralised

Smart phones and tablet computers — once the latest must-have devices for technology geeks — are becoming increasingly more popular with the mainstream. The Android platform is now one of the most popular platforms with over 300 million Android devices in use since February and 700 000 devices being activated with each passing day. One of its main attractions is the open source software that allows a huge community of program developers to write applications. But with so many people contributing to this innovation, the operating system is open to bugs and security holes. In a new study, however, researchers in Italy may have neutralised any potential problems. Their study was funded in part by the SPACIOS (‘Secure provision and consumption in the Internet of services’) project, which is backed with EUR 3.35 million under the ‘Information and communication technologies’ (ICT) Theme of the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).

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22-05-2012

  METHODS & MATERIALS: Cheaper plaster on the cards

Researchers in Spain and the United Kingdom have identified the stages of gypsum crystals formation – a mystery that boggled the minds of many over the years. A mineral that occurs naturally, gypsum is usually used in industrial processes. If left untouched for thousands of years, gypsum can develop into large, over 10-metre tall and translucent crystals. The study was funded in part by the MIN-GRO (‘Mineral nucleation and growth kinetics: generating a general, fundamental model by integrating atomic, macro- and field-scale investigations’) project, which received a Marie Curie Research Training Networks grant worth EUR 3 million under the EU’s Sixth Framework Programme (FP6). The results were published in the journal Science.

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21-05-2012

  GLOBAL WARMING: Sophisticated simulations predict future warming

The chances of our planet being hit by a global warming of 3 degrees Celsius by 2050 is as likely as it being hit by an increase of 1.4 degrees, new research shows. Presented in the journal Nature Geoscience, the British study ran close to 10 000 climate simulations on home computers via a sophisticated climate model to get the results, which suggest that failure to stop emissions will force Earth to cross the two-degree barrier before this century ends. The study was funded in part by the WATCH and ENSEMBLE projects. Both WATCH (‘Water and global change’) and ENSEMBLE (‘Ensemble-based predictions of climate changes and their impacts’) were backed under the ‘Life sciences, genomics and biotechnology for health’ Thematic area of the EU’s Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) to the tune of almost EUR 10 million and EUR 15 million, respectively.

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10-05-2012

  BIOLOGY: Study probes how organisms evolved diverse mechanisms

Scientists have long investigated how organisms fight disease. They have also tried to mitigate the burden of disease. In a paper presented in the journal PLoS Biology, a two-man research team from the United Kingdom and the United States evaluate how Konrad et al. present an example of fungus-specific immune responses in social ants that cause the active immunisation of nest mates by infected individuals. The results provide fresh insight into our understanding of how organisms evolved diverse mechanisms that fulfil various functions, including the transfer of immunity between related individuals and the discrimination between pathogens.

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09-05-2012

  LIFE SCIENCES: Scientists uncover link between genes and bone disease

An international team of researchers has discovered 32 previously unidentified genetic regions linked with osteoporosis and fracture. Presented in the journal Nature Genetics, the study identified that variations in the deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) sequences in these regions confer either risk or protection from the disease that weakens bone. Most regions encode proteins involved in pathways that concern the health of bone. The study was funded in part by the GEFOS (‘Genetic factors for osteoporosis’) project, which has received almost EUR 3 million under the Health Theme of the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).

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08-05-2012

  HEALTH: Scientists probe diabetes in Slovaks

Monogenic diabetes is triggered by mutations of a small number of genes, resulting in disrupted insulin production. Around half of the patients suffering from monogenic diabetes seem to carry a mutation in the glucokinase (GCK) gene. To date, more than 600 GCK mutations have surfaced, and around 65% of these are missense, what experts define as a genetic change resulting in the substitution of one amino acid in a protein for another. Researchers in Slovakia and the United Kingdom have identified the minimum prevalence of GCK-monogenic diabetes among Slovaks. They sequenced GCK in 100 Slovaks with a phenotype consistent with GCK-monogenic diabetes. The team also investigated, through family and functional studies, how identified variants can cause disease. Presented in the journal PLoS ONE, the study was backed by the CEED3 (‘Collaborative European effort to develop diabetes diagnostics’) project, which has clinched EUR 3 million under the Health Theme of the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).

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04-05-2012

  ENVIRONMENT: Learning from the past to protect the future

Scientists in France, the United Kingdom and the United States have found that modern man can learn a lot about land management by taking a look at what happened in the past. The study, presented in the journal PNAS, put the spotlight on the Amazonian area, indicating that its earliest inhabitants managed their farmland sustainably. The data suggest that indigenous people who lived in the savannas around the Amazonian forest farmed without the use of fire.

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27-04-2012

  FOOD SCIENCE: There’s something healthy in the state of Denmark

The people of Denmark are not only concerned about what they eat, but they are willing to pay more tax to eat healthier and make more informed eating choices. The results of this study come at a time when healthy eating and increasing rates of obesity are becoming a major concern for people the world over. Despite this concern, however, government policy actions have rarely been evaluated. The findings are an outcome of the EU-funded EATWELL (‘Interventions to promote healthy eating habits: evaluation and recommendations’) project, which has received EUR 2.5 million under the ‘Food, agriculture and fisheries, and biotechnology’ (KBBE) Theme of the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). EATWELL is looking into a variety of European policies aimed at reducing obesity and the lengths people would go to become healthy.

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26-04-2012

  BIOLOGY: A bite-sized look into the past

Scientists in Australia and the United Kingdom have discovered the sharpest teeth ever recorded in history — with tips measuring just two micrometres across — that belong to a long-extinct prehistoric fish. The study, presented in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, was funded in part by the EVOLVING TEETH (‘Uncovering developmental and functional constraints on the occupation of conodont tooth morphospace’) project, which is backed by a Marie Curie Action grant worth EUR 198 260 under the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). The project involved teams from University of Bristol, UK, and Monash University, Australia, working together and using a very big machine to see some of the world’s smallest fossils.

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25-04-2012

  ICT: Robotic arm with tact and finesse, the EU way

Europeans are strong innovators, and the latest example of their hard work is a robotic hand able to hold and grasp bottles and cups. The novel ‘helping hand’ is an outcome of the DEXMART (‘Dexterous and autonomous dual-arm/hand robotic manipulation with smart sensory-motor skills: a bridge from natural to artificial cognition’) project, which was backed with EUR 6.3 million under the ‘Information and communication technologies’ (ICT) Theme of the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).

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24-04-2012

  PHYSICS: Invisibility field cloak a reality

Science fiction fans are one step closer to having their dreams realised thanks to Slovak and Spanish electrical engineers who have developed a prototype invisibility field. The researchers used simple materials, such as a superconductor, and ferromagnetic materials that are freely available on the market to create an invisibility field that can effectively hide contents from the prying eyes of magnetic fields. The results of the study were presented in the journal Science.

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23-04-2012

  CLIMATE CHANGE: A sea-change in CO2 data records

Scientists have gained a new tool in their efforts to research the world’s changing environment: the Surface Ocean CO2 (carbon dioxide) Atlas (SOCAT). This is the most comprehensive dataset of surface water carbon dioxide measurements for the world’s oceans and coastal seas, made up of 6.3 million global observations generated from research vessels, commercial ships and moorings around the world since 1968. The information provides researchers with a 40-year record of CO2 accumulation in the surface ocean. The study was funded in part by the CARBOOCEAN and CARBOCHANGE projects, which received EUR 14.5 million and EUR 7 million under the EU’s Sixth and Seventh Framework Programmes (FP6, FP7), respectively.

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20-04-2012

  BIOLOGY: Study investigates aquatic parasites on fish

Researchers in the Czech Republic, Spain and the United Kingdom have successfully identified the cellular components and mechanisms that play a role in the proliferation of myxozoa, tiny aquatic parasites responsible for diseases in commercially valuable fish. Presented in the journal PLoS ONE, the study’s findings shed light on the motility of myxozoa’s proliferative states and their reproductive process.

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19-04-2012

  ASTRONOMY: New motor can cut space exploration costs

A European team of researchers led by the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland has developed a prototype of a new, ultra-compact motor that will enable small satellites to journey beyond Earth’s orbit. The objective of this new motor is to make space exploration less expensive. The result is an outcome of the MICROTHRUST (‘Microelectromechanical systems (MEMS)-based electric micropropulsion for small spacecraft to enable robotic space exploration and space science’) project, which is supported under the Space Theme of the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), to the tune of EUR 1.9 million.

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18-04-2012

  BIODIVERSITY: Report on better butterfly protection

Researchers in Europe have created a set of new guidelines for the protection of Europe’s most threatened butterfly species. Coordinated by the Butterfly Conservation Europe, the report puts the spotlight on 29 threatened species listed in Council Directive 92/43/EEC, more commonly known as the Habitats Directive. The report is part of the SCALES (‘Securing the conservation of biodiversity across administrative levels and spatial, temporal, and ecological scales’) project, which is backed with EUR 7 million under the Environment Theme of the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).

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17-04-2012

  LIFE SCIENCES: Epilepsy gene in dogs found

Researchers in Europe and the United States have identified a novel epilepsy gene for idiopathic epilepsy in Belgian Shepherds in the canine chromosome 37. Presented in the PLoS ONE journal, the findings fuel our understanding of the genetic background of the most common canine epilepsies, and provide insight into common epilepsies in humans. The study was funded in part by the LUPA (‘Unravelling the molecular basis of common complex human disorders using the dog as a model system’) project, which is backed under the ‘Health’ Theme of the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) to the tune of EUR 12 million.

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16-04-2012

  HISTORY: Maritime disasters: are women and children really always given priority?

With commemorative events happening all around the world to mark 100 years since the Titanic went down, its legacy as represented in both the history books and popular culture has shaped how we view what happens in a maritime disaster. Now, a team of Swedish scientists claims that one of these widely held beliefs about maritime disasters — that women and children are always the first to be saved, was a phenomenon unique to the Titanic.

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13-04-2012

  HEALTH: Study finds mums and babies benefit from salmon intake

Pregnant women can eat two servings of fish-farmed salmon each week, as it is beneficial to them and their children, according to a new study from Spain. The fish should be enriched with omega-3 fatty acids. Presented in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the study was funded in part by the SIPS (‘Salmon in pregnancy study)’ project, supported under the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).

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12-04-2012

  MARINE: Sea turtles find protected cover

Sea turtles are using marine protected areas (MPAs) to protect themselves from the threats of fishing and to forage for food, a new international study shows. Presented in the journal Global Ecology and Biogeography, the findings show that more than a third of the world’s green turtles are found within MPAs. This figure is much higher than what they anticipated because just a small number of shallow oceans are designated as MPAs.

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11-04-2012

  AGRICULTURE: Innovative pellets to benefit organic farmers

Researchers in Germany and Hungary have engineered novel pellets that are able to repel pests in a way that does not harm the environment and that could fertilise the plants. These pellets are made of cyanobacteria and fermentation residues from biogas facilities. The organic farming industry could stand to benefit from this innovative development since organic farmers stand to lose entire crops when pests, such as cabbage root flies, lay their eggs on freshly planted vegetables. They will present their pellets at the Hannover Messe from 23 to 27 April.

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10-04-2012

  HEALTH: Scientists identify gene behind blood orange pigmentation

Researchers in China, Italy and the United Kingdom have discovered what gene is responsible for blood orange pigmentation, and how it is controlled. The results, presented in the journal The Plant Cell, could help improve the growth of health-promoting blood oranges and lead to novel solutions for patients suffering from cardiovascular disease, obesity and diabetes. The study was partially supported by two EU-funded projects: FLORA and ATHENA. FLORA (‘Flavonoids and related phenolics for healthy living using orally recommended antioxidants’) received EUR 3.3 million under the ‘Food quality and safety’ Thematic area of the EU’s Sixth Framework Programme (FP6). ATHENA (‘Anthocyanin and polyphenol bioactives for health enhancement through nutritional advancement’) has received almost EUR 3 million under the ‘Food, agriculture and fisheries, and biotechnology’ Theme of the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).

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04-04-2012

  CHEMISTRY: Novel technique for single protein observation

Researchers must be able to recognise how proteins work so that they can understand the related biological processes that occur at the molecular level. They get this information by labelling proteins with fluorescent substances. The problem with this method, however, is that it alters the proteins and influences the biological processes under investigation. A new study from Germany has pioneered a novel method able to observe individual proteins. Presented in the journal Nano Letters, the research was funded in part by the SINGLESENS (‘Single metal nanoparticles as molecular sensors’) project, led by Professor Carsten Sönnichsen, who in 2010 received a European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant worth EUR 1.5 million under the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).

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02-04-2012

  SECURITY: Better inspection that offers better security

Scientists have developed a new method to detect chemicals inside a container over distances that top the 100-metre mark. This will help people assess explosive substances from a distance, making such tasks safer. The study was funded in part by the OPTIX (‘Optical technologies for the identification of explosives’) project, which is backed with EUR 2.49 million under the Security Theme of the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).

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30-03-2012

  LIFE SCIENCES: Low protein level triggers TAR syndrome

A European team of scientists has discovered that thrombocytopenia with absent radii (TAR), a rare inherited blood and skeletal disorder, is triggered by low levels of the protein Y14. Presented in the journal Nature Genetics, the findings could help lead to the development of a medical exam that permits prenatal diagnosis and genetic counselling in families affected by TAR. The study was funded in part by the NETSIM (‘An integrated study on three novel regulatory hubs in megakaryocytes and platelets, discovered as risk genes for myocardial infarction by a genome-wide association and platelet systems biology study’) project, which is backed by a Marie Curie Action ‘Networks for Initial Training’ grant worth EUR 2.85 million under the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).

 

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