The University of Edinburgh
The University of Edinburgh
News Article | April 18, 2017
Researchers have found a new group of cells in the retina that directly affect the biological clock by sending signals to a region of the brain which regulates our daily (circadian) rhythms Researchers have found a new group of cells in the retina that directly affect the biological clock by sending signals to a region of the brain which regulates our daily (circadian) rhythms. This new understanding of how circadian rhythms are regulated through the eye could open up new therapeutic possibilities for restoring biological clocks in people who have jet lag through travelling or working night shifts. Biological clocks are synchronized to light-dark changes and are important to regulate patterns of body temperature, brain activity, hormone production and other physiological processes. Disruption of this can lead to health problems such as gastrointestinal and cardiovascular disorders, depression and an increased risk of cancer. The suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) is a region of the brain which co-ordinates the circadian rhythm using many different signalling molecules, including the neurohormone vasopressin. The retina signals environmental light changes to the SCN but it was previously unclear on how this process took place. This research shows for the first time that the retina has its own population of vasopressin-expressing cells which communicate directly to the SCN and are involved with regulating the circadian rhythm. This gives an insight into how the biological clock is regulated by light and could open up new therapeutic opportunities to help restore altered circadian rhythms through the eye. The researchers interfered with the signalling of light information sent to the SCN in rats. Using a series of physiological tests, they showed that vasopressin-expressing cells in the retina are directly involved in regulating circadian rhythms. Mike Ludwig, Professor of Neurophysiology at The University of Edinburgh and lead investigator of the study said 'Our exciting results show a potentially new pharmacological route to manipulate our internal biological clocks.' He added 'Studies in the future which alter vasopressin signalling through the eye could lead to developing eye drops to get rid of jet lag, but we are still a long way off from this.' The full study, Vasopressin casts light on the suprachiasmatic nucleus, is published in the Journal of Physiology.
News Article | April 18, 2017
Travel can be a joy, except for that first day or so when jet lag sets in. While not a serious condition, jet lag can nonetheless disturb digestion, alter your mood and disrupt your ability to concentrate. While supplements including melatonin as well as light therapy have been shown to help the symptoms of jet lag, there is no real cure except time. New research out of the Physiological Society in the UK however, might one day make getting over your disrupted body clock as simple as taking a few eye drops. The researchers, led by Mike Ludwig, Professor of Neurophysiology at The University of Edinburgh, say that for the first time ever, it's been discovered that our retinas have cells in them that create a hormone known as vasopressin. While vasopressin's primary role is maintaining the balance of particles in the fluid surrounding our cells, it's been known that hormone, along with other chemicals, are used by the region of our brain known as the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) in our hypothalamus to regulate our circadian rhythms. "Circadian rhythms are physical, mental and behavioral changes that follow a roughly 24-hour cycle, responding primarily to light and darkness in an organism's environment," says the US National Institute of General Medical Sciences. It is the disruption to those rhythms that causes jet lag. Finding that not only do our eyes themselves also make vasopressin, but that those cells also communicate directly with the SCN, provided the researchers with a path of inquiry: They inhibited the retinal vasopressin-producing cells in rats and discovered that the creatures did not suffer the symptoms of jet lag. The discovery makes the researchers hopeful that developing simple methods to suppress vasopressin in the retina could keep jet lag – and its symptoms – at bay, although they are cautious to point out that much more research will be needed. "Our exciting results show a potentially new pharmacological route to manipulate our internal biological clocks," says Ludwig. "Studies in the future which alter vasopressin signaling through the eye could lead to developing eye drops to get rid of jet lag, but we are still a long way off from this." The study has been published in the Journal of Physiology.
News Article | May 27, 2017
A new study finds 52 genes that are related to intelligence — a rousing success in a field that has often struggled to find correlations between smarts and genes. The 52 genes, though, account for only about 5 percent of the variation in intelligence scores among different people. That's because intelligence is a complex trait, said study author Danielle Posthuma, a statistical geneticist at Vrije University in Amsterdam. These genes "are basically a tip of the iceberg," Posthuma told Live Science. "But there are still a lot more genes that are important for intelligence." Precisely because the genetic underpinnings of intelligence are so complex, previous studies on the topic turned out to be underpowered — most did not include enough people to detect the correlations between any given gene and people's scores on intelligence tests. Those earlier studies were too small because, prior to them, researchers "didn't know what the genetic architecture of intelligence would be," Posthuma said. She added, "If it had been one or two genes, we would have been able to detect them" with the sample sizes that those studies included. Instead, those early findings suggested that intelligence probably involves thousands of genes. Various studies show that intelligence is highly heritable: Between 40 percent and 80 percent of the variations in intelligence among people are attributable to genes. In the new study, the researchers put the heritability factor at 54 percent. The researchers pulled together data from 78,308 people, all of European descent, and scanned their DNA for single-nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs. SNPs are variations in the nucleotides that make up the genome. Most, according to the National Library of Medicine, have no effect, but some are crucial to health. [7 Diseases You Can Learn About from a Genetic Test] Twelve of the 52 genes the researchers ended up pinpointing had been previously associated with intelligence, the researchers reported May 22 in the journal Nature Genetics. One set of genes involved with intelligence, which is also involved in cell development, included three genes already known to be involved with building or maintaining neurons: SHANK3, which is involved in the formation of the synapses, or gaps between neurons; DCC, which is involved in guiding the growth of axons, the spindly projections that neurons use as communication wires; and ZRHX3, which regulates the differentiation of neurons from other cell types during development. To avoid stumbling on false correlations in the giant data set — there are at least 3 million SNPs in a human genome, Posthuma said — the researchers set their standards high in running their analysis. The result of this was that for each gene they identified, the chance that it is not truly linked to intelligence is about 1 in a million, Posthuma said. The researchers also replicated their findings on another data set that measured the highest level of education attained instead of looking at general intelligence. IQ is highly correlated with educational attainment, so genes that drive IQ should also be linked to education, they reasoned. The researchers found that almost all of the variations they uncovered were also associated with the participants' education levels. "This is really important stuff," said Douglas Detterman, a psychologist at Case Western Reserve University and a prominent intelligence researcher. "What is interesting about this particular article is, it suggests what we have to do to really understand intelligence. It's not going to be easy," Detterman said. "They suggest that the things they are finding are mostly implicated in neural development, so we'll have to understand neural development and what it is about the brain that makes people smart." Not everyone agrees that studies like these can shed much light on what makes people smart, though. [6 Foods That Are Good For Your Brain] "The basic premise is that each gene operates to do something in particular, independent of the environment and all the other genes," said Wendy Johnson, a psychologist at The University of Edinburgh. "There is so much evidence that there are many, many problems with this, that I'm not even sure where to start." Focusing on development and the modeling of the dynamics of the gene-environment system would be more enlightening, Johnson said. Detterman said the natural next step in this line of work is to push the sample sizes of genome-wide studies into the millions. "That is what it's going to take to get really good information," he said. Posthuma and her colleagues are already planning to include more people in their next studies, hoping to find genes with even smaller contributions to general intelligence. They also plan to look more closely at the genes they've already uncovered, to see what they do, and if they really are involved with intelligence — and, hopefully, to discover what makes someone intelligent in the first place. [5 Experts Answer: Can Your IQ Change Over Time?] "The genes have a certain function, so it will help us get an idea of the underlying biological mechanism," Posthuma said. "Why do people with different intelligence differ from one another? Are the cells behaving different, or is the information processing faster?" 10 Ways to Keep Your Mind Sharp Why You Forget: 5 Strange Facts About Memory
News Article | June 23, 2015
Divestment is the opposite of investment – it is the removal of your investment capital from stocks, bonds or funds. The global movement for fossil fuel divestment (sometimes also called disinvestment) is asking institutions to move their money out of oil, coal and gas companies for both moral and financial reasons. These institutions include universities, religious institutions, pension funds, local authorities and charitable foundations. It is the fastest-growing divestment campaign in history and could cause significant damage to coal, gas and oil companies, according to a study by Oxford University. Previous divestment campaigns have targeted the tobacco and gambling industries and companies funding the violence in Darfur. Divestment is perhaps most well known for its role in the fight against apartheid in South Africa. Almost all of the arguments in favour of fossil fuel divestment fit into two categories: moral and financial. First, the moral argument, which is rooted in basic maths. Scientific research shows that in order to keep to international targets to limit global warming to a 2C rise and thus prevent catastrophic levels of climate change, between two-thirds and four-fifths of fossil fuels need to remain in the ground. But fossil fuel companies are currently banking on these targets not being met so are extracting these reserves and selling them – and are actively prospecting for more. In doing so they are setting the human race on a route to irreversible climate change that will cause rising seas, flooding, droughts, rising disease, increased conflicts and refugee crises. The UN has lent its “moral authority” to the divestment campaign, while Desmond Tutu has said that “people of conscience need to break their ties with corporations financing the injustice of climate change”. Second is the financial argument, which rests on the premise that if international agreements on climate change are met, the investments will become worthless. The theory that these “stranded assets” are creating a trillion dollar “carbon bubble” that could plunge the world into another economic crisis is now the subject of an investigation by the Bank of England, after Governor Mark Carney said publicly that “the vast majority of reserves are unburnable.” The World Bank has come out in support of the financial argument for divestment, with president Jim Yong Kim stating that: “every company, investor and bank that screens new and existing investments for climate risk is simply being pragmatic”. Although the impact of divestment on share prices may be relatively small, the reputational damage can have serious financial consequences. 10 myths about fossil fuel divestment put to the sword Alan Rusbridger: the argument for divesting from fossil fuels is becoming overwhelming Leave fossil fuels buried in the ground to prevent climate change, study urges The carbon budget is the amount of greenhouse gas that can still be released into the atmosphere without exceeding dangerous levels of climate change – the 2C target agreed by governments. In 2013, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) put a figure on the carbon budget for the first time, announcing that the world burns through about 50bn tonnes of greenhouse gases every year. It is also very likely that more than 20% of emitted CO2 will remain in the atmosphere longer than 1,000 years after manmade emissions have stopped. This means that if we continue to emit at current levels, we will “spend” the carbon budget within 15 to 25 years. Given that we have already used two-thirds of the budget, the IPCC have urged governments to act quickly, using the carbon budget as the basis for international negotiations. The “carbon bubble” is a term that has been used by regulators, financial companies and campaigners to describe the over-valuation of stocks in coal, gas and oil reserves owned by fossil fuel companies around the world. If governments pursue international targets on carbon emissions in order to curb climate change, then between two-thirds and four-fifths of these reserves cannot be used, rendering them worthless. As fossil fuel companies are among the richest in the world these “stranded assets” have the potential to trigger a new global economic crisis if investors pull out in quick succession. The carbon bubble could be inflating stocks worth trillions of dollars, according to a study published in 2013 by thinktank Carbon Tracker and economist Lord Nicholas Stern. He authored an eponymous 2006 report commissioned by Gordon Brown, then UK chancellor of the exchequer, into the economic consequences of climate change. Shell has refuted the concept, predicting in a letter to its shareholders that fossil fuels would account for between 40% and 50% of the energy supply in 2050 and beyond. The Bank of England is currently conducting an investigation into the potential of a “carbon bubble” to damage the economy. More than 220 institutions around the world have now committed to some form of fossil fuel divestment, including pension funds, foundations, universities, faith organisations and local authorities. A coalition of philanthropic foundations, including the heirs to the Rockefeller oil fortune, started to pull out their investments last year, while cities divesting include San Francisco, Seattle and Oslo. The world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, Norway’s Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG), recently revealed it had dropped 114 companies, including tar sands producers, on climate grounds. The Church of England has divested from the most heavily polluting fossil fuels, while the World Council of Churches, which represents half a billion Christians worldwide, has ruled out all fossil fuel investments. In October 2014, Glasgow University became the first in Europe to make the commitment. In the US, Syracuse University is the largest to divest from coal, oil and gas while Stanford University is removing its assets from coal companies. On 23 June, the Lutheran World Federation of churches said it would divest from fossil fuel companies, which would affect current and future investments, though it did not yet know the value of funds that would be divested. The rise and rise of the fossil fuel divestment movement A number of key institutions have explicitly refused to divest from fossil fuels. In May, Swarthmore College in the US, the birthplace of the fossil fuel divestment movement, made the shock decision not to divest from any fossil fuels, stating that it would focus its environmental efforts on changing consumption habits. In March, the Guardian launched Keep it in the Ground, a campaign calling on the world’s biggest charitable foundations – the Wellcome Trust and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – to divest. Both institutions have so far refused to do so. The Wellcome Trust argue that engagement with fossil fuel companies is a more effective way to reduce carbon emissions, while the Gates Foundation have declined to comment. Mayor of London Boris Johnson has recently rejected a call from the London Assembly to divest City Hall’s pension fund from fossil fuels. He said that divestment is “a cliff edge” and that the UK needs to rely more on fracking as an energy source. UK environment secretary Liz Truss has refused to encourage the MPs’ pension fund to divest, telling the Guardian: “I believe the right way [to affect investment] is through carbon reduction targets.” The president of Harvard University, Drew Gilpin Faust, has rejected divestment as “neither warranted or wise”, calling its endowment “an economic resource, not an instrument to impel social or political change”. The University of Edinburgh rejected calls for divestment, saying it would prioritise engagement with fossil fuel companies. Opinion is divided between campaigners and institutions on what level and type of divestment is necessary. According to Liberal Democrat peer Lord Dick Taverne, the Keep it in the Ground campaign “ignores the need to discriminate between [fossil fuels]. The greatest threat of a dangerous rise in global temperatures comes from the world’s reliance on burning coal ... In the short or medium term, the most effective substitute for coal is gas. The US has recently reduced its carbon emissions more than any other major country, because it has switched from coal to gas.” Several institutions have taken a similar line in their divestment decisions. Stanford university in the US and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine are two that have divested from coal alone, while the Church of England has specified thermal coal and tar sands oil, on the basis that these fuels are the most polluting in terms of carbon emissions. But Jamie Henn of 350.org says it is important that institutions divest from coal, oil and gas: “none of [these fuels] are compatible with a liveable future. Coal is an easy target. Most coal industry stocks are so low that if you’re still holding on to them at this point, you’re either stupid or just spiteful. Divesting is just good common sense. That said, the commitments still make a huge impact, since they hasten the industry’s decline and help push governments to take action. “Coal does the most to pollute our climate, but it’s the oil industry that does the most to corrupt our politics. They’re the major power players we need to stigmatise in order to make the space for progress,” he says. Some, such as author and activist Naomi Klein, have called for the plummeting oil and coal price to be used as an opportunity to tackle climate change and “kick oil while the price is down.” Critics of the fossil fuel divestment movement say that it is hypocritical because a globalised western society (and the individuals within it) are dependent on coal, oil and gas for their everyday lives. One group supporting an anti-environmentalist firm built it into their PR strategy, releasing this film: Others, such as the Financial Times’ John Gapper, say that the movement should be targeting the companies emitting high quantities of carbon, rather than the producers alone. He argues that divestment is only a “grand symbolic gesture” that will not have a financial impact because others will pick up the shares. Some, such as Times columnist Matt Ridley, argue that the movement is unethical on poverty grounds, because fossil fuels are needed to build the economies of developing countries. He says it demands that institutions “prioritise the possibility of the start of net harm in the time of our great-great-grandchildren over the plight of the poor today”. Many of these arguments are refuted in 10 myths about fossil fuel divestment put to the sword. Of course, much of the goods and utilities – from heating to plastics – that we use in daily life are dependent on fossil fuels. But the fossil fuel movement will not bankrupt the industry overnight – and indeed its impact is being felt largely though political means, not financial. Instead it argues that fossil fuels are driving us towards catastrophic levels of climate change and that the world needs to transition to much greater dependence on renewables – and do so much more quickly. Consumers can of course be pro-active and make changes to their own lifestyles, which is important. Yet it is the producers who have the power to make the difference that will – or will not – see global temperatures breach internationally agreed targets to prevent climate change occurring on a catastrophic and irreversible scale. These producers are currently committed to business models that will take us well beyond that. Yes, others may buy the stocks, although the amounts being divested are too small to flood the market and cut share prices, so they won’t be going cheap. This cuts to the heart of the impact of the fossil fuel divestment movement – which is not to bankrupt the industry financially, but to do so morally and politically. As research by Oxford University pointed out, the financial loss of the divestment campaign – the fastest growing in history – will not be felt through the shares sold but through the reputation lost by these companies by being stigmatised. But the fossil fuel divestment campaign does not only make a moral assertion; it makes an economic one. Shares invested in fossil fuel companies are invested in a business model that is completely incompatible with international agreements on mitigating climate change. If governments abide by them, such investments will become worthless – so pulling them out now makes good financial sense too. Not necessarily – in fact they may even make money. Companies such as HSBC have warned clients about the risks of fossil fuel investments. Even though fossil fuel companies are some of the most lucrative on the planet, the “stranded assets” argument – that fossil fuel investments will become worthless if international agreements on climate change are met – suggests they are several times overvalued. Coal prices have dropped significantly in the past few years and the oil price has also done so more recently. A recent analysis by MSCI, the world’s leading stock market index company, indicated that portfolios free of fossil fuel investments have outperformed those with assets in coal, oil and gas companies over the last five years. There is also ample opportunity for investment in the green economy. Researchers predict that renewable energy will become the cheapest source of electricity in the next decade, with the cost of solar having fallen by two-thirds between 2008 to 2014, according to the IEA thinktank. The climate change denier’s guide to getting rich from fossil fuel divestment Can the world economy survive without fossil fuels? Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, takes this view arguing that “all fossil fuel companies are not equal” and can be influenced by active shareholder engagement. This is lost if an institution divests. But there are few examples of engagement resulting in significant change. The Wellcome Trust, for example, say that they cannot share any such results without losing the confidence of those they engage with. The one recent example that is often used are the shareholder resolutions at BP and Shell asking them to test the extent to which their business models are compatible with international agreements on climate change. However questions have been raised about the potential impact of the resolutions and the extent to which activists collaborated with the oil giants behind the scenes. Shareholder engagement can work – to persuade companies to pay their workers the living wage or to adopt better recycling practices – but as campaigner Bill McKibben has pointed out, it is unlikely to persuade a company to commit to eventually putting itself out of business. Leading environmentalist Jonathon Porritt spent many years engaging with such companies but concluded recently that his efforts had been futile. It’s also worth noting that some market regulators, such as in the US, do not allow this kind of engagement. Almost certainly. Most of the high street banks, including HSBC, Lloyds, Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland and Santander, have millions invested in fossil fuel companies. Most investment funds, including the trillion dollar pensions industry, are heavily invested in fossil fuels and do not offer savers a fossil free option, although demand is rising. Responsible investment charity ShareAction can support you to approach your own pension provider, while Move your Money are campaigning for banks to divest. As part of the Keep it in the Ground campaign, the Guardian has partnered with ShareAction to create an online tool to help you contact the right person at your pension fund easily. We will then help you decipher the responses. How to divest your bank account from fossil fuels How to get your pension fund to divest from fossil fuels How to divest your personal finances: your questions answered If you are interested in personally divesting or in putting pressure on institutions with which you are connected to divest, then see the previous question. If you are in a position of power in an organisation that may consider divestment, you should first consult your investment advisers. It is likely that they will direct you to the UN’s Principles of Responsible Investment, which although not insignificant they are principles alone and do not require any divestment. A common first step is to freeze any new fossil fuel investments while conducting a review, which can often take several months. Different institutions have defined divestment in different ways, but the divestment movement asks for the removal of funds from the top 200 companies globally (100 coal companies and 100 oil and gas), as defined by the projected carbon emissions of their reserves. Once an institution has committed to divestment, it can remove its direct investments in these companies – some do so with immediate effect, others choose to phase them out more gradually over a set time frame. Next comes the issue of indirect investments: these are much more difficult to remove because they are in commingled funds which which are a blend of assets from different accounts. Managers who offer fossil-fuel-free options are currently in a minority. Investors can engage with managers or consultants about carbon risk or switch to managers who are able and willing to create fossil free accounts. This takes much longer; a five year time-frame is common. Other organisations, such as the university of Sydney and a number of large pension funds, have gone down the route of decarbonisation. This means they commit to phasing out carbon emissions from all the companies in their portfolios rather than exclusively targeting those in fossil fuels. The UN has also supported a coalition of investors taking this approach, called the Portfolio Decarbonisation Coalition Neil Berkett: why the Guardian Media Group is getting out of fossil fuels The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment Although the fossil fuel divestment movement doesn’t stipulate where investors should move their money to, some institutions and campaigners have called for a focus on investing in the green economy. When Syracuse University divested from fossil fuels it also committed to investment in a number of clean energy solutions, including solar, biofuels and advance recycling. A number of key foundations who are part of the Divest-Invest coalition have taken this approach, including the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Wallace Global Fund. Ikea is an example of a multinational that has focused on investment in renewables rather than divestment from fossil fuels – it has invested £1.1bn in renewable energy equipment, and last year met almost half of its global energy demand by generating its own renewable energy power. Ethical investment platforms can help with building a positive investment portfolio, such as Ethex, a non-profit that works with individual investors, financial advisers and social businesses to highlight financial viable alternatives to traditional investments on the stock market. Beyond Fossil Fuels: the investment case for fossil fuel divestment Most institutions, including universities, faith organisations, local authorities, pension funds and charitable foundations have endowments that are almost certainly invested in fossil fuels to some extent. Campaigners are now challenging these investments on a local, national and international scale and many have started to divest. You can find out much more about this through Fossil Free, the divestment campaign run by 350.org
News Article | December 15, 2016
Rigaku Oxford Diffraction is pleased to announce its attendance at the annual meeting of the Royal Society of Chemistry Macrocyclic and Supramolecular Chemistry Group (MASC 2016), to be held at the John McIntyre Conference Centre, Pollock Halls, The University of Edinburgh on December 15 - 16, 2016. This two day conference is regarded as the preeminent annual meeting of the UK macrocycle and supramolecular community. Rigaku is hosting an exhibit featuring the company’s systems for small molecule crystallography, including the Rigaku XtaLAB Synergy-S and XtaLAB Synergy-R diffractometers. In addition, Rigaku will present a talk entitled “Advances in Crystallography,” highlighting the benefits of the company’s instrumentation for the study of macrocyclic and supramolecular materials. ROD was formed as the global single crystal business unit of Rigaku Corporation after the acquisition of the former Oxford Diffraction organization from Agilent Technologies in 2015. ROD is a leader in the field of single crystal analysis, both in the field of chemical crystallography as well as well as macromolecular crystallography. Formed in 1951, Rigaku Corporation is a leading analytical instrumentation company based out of Tokyo, Japan
News Article | February 15, 2017
A genomic study of baldness identified more than 200 genetic regions involved in this common but potentially embarrassing condition. These genetic variants could be used to predict a man's chance of severe hair loss. The study, led by Saskia Hagenaars and W. David Hill of The University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom, is published February 14th, 2017 in PLOS Genetics. Before this new study, only a handful of genes related to baldness had been identified. The University of Edinburgh scientists examined genomic and health data from over 52,000 male participants of the UK Biobank, performing a genome-wide association study of baldness. They pinpointed 287 genetic regions linked to the condition. The researchers created a formula to try and predict the chance that a person will go bald, based on the presence or absence of certain genetic markers. Accurate predictions for an individual are still some way off, but the results can help to identify sub-groups of the population for which the risk of hair loss is much higher. The study is the largest genetic analysis of male pattern baldness to date. Many of the identified genes are related to hair structure and development. They could provide possible targets for drug development to treat baldness or related conditions. Saskia Hagenaars, a PhD student from The University of Edinburgh's Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology, who jointly led the research, said: "We identified hundreds of new genetic signals. It was interesting to find that many of the genetics signals for male pattern baldness came from the X chromosome, which men inherit from their mothers." Dr David Hill, who co-led the research, said: "In this study, data were collected on hair loss pattern but not age of onset; we would expect to see an even stronger genetic signal if we were able to identify those with early-onset hair loss." The study's principal investigator, Dr Riccardo Marioni, from The University of Edinburgh's Centre for Genomic and Experimental Medicine, said: "We are still a long way from making an accurate prediction for an individual's hair loss pattern. However, these results take us one step closer. The findings pave the way for an improved understanding of the genetic causes of hair loss." In your coverage please use this URL to provide access to the freely available article in PLOS Genetics: http://journals. Funding: This research was conducted, using the UK Biobank Resource, in The University of Edinburgh Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology, part of the cross-council Lifelong Health and Wellbeing Initiative (MR/K026992/1). Funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and Medical Research Council (MRC) is gratefully acknowledged. WDH is supported by a grant from Age UK (Disconnected Mind Project). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.
News Article | December 16, 2016
Brain connections that play a key role in complex thinking skills show the poorest health with advancing age, new research suggests. Connections supporting functions such as movement and hearing are relatively well preserved in later life, the findings show. Scientists carrying out the most comprehensive study to date on ageing and the brain's connections charted subtle ways in which the brain's connections weaken with age. Knowing how and where connections between brain cells - so-called white matter - decline as we age is important in understanding why some people's brains and thinking skills age better than others. Worsening brain connections as we age contribute to a decline in thinking skills, such as reasoning, memory and speed of thinking. Researchers from the University of Edinburgh analysed brain scans from more than 3,500 people aged between 45 and 75 taking part in the UK Biobank study. Researchers say the data will provide more valuable insights into healthy brain and mental ageing, as well as making contributions to understanding a range of diseases and conditions. The study was published in Nature Communications journal. Dr Simon Cox, of the University of Edinburgh's Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology (CCACE), who led the study, said: "By precisely mapping which connections of the brain are most sensitive to age, and comparing different ways of measuring them, we hope to provide a reference point for future brain research in health and disease. "This is only one of the first of many exciting brain imaging results still to come from this important national health resource." Professor Ian Deary, Director of CCACE, said: "Until recently, studies of brain scans with this number of people were not possible. Day by day the UK Biobank sample grows, and this will make it possible to look carefully at the environmental and genetic factors that are associated with more or less healthy brains in older age." Professor Paul Matthews of Imperial College London, Chair of the UK Biobank Expert Working Group, who was not involved in the study, said: "This report provides an early example of the impact that early opening of the growing UK Biobank Imaging Enhancement database for access by researchers world-wide will have. "The large numbers of subjects in the database has enabled the group to rapidly characterise the ways in which the brain changes with age - and to do so with the confidence that large numbers of observations allow. "This study highlights the feasibility of defining what is typical, to inform the development of quantitative MRI measures for decision making in the clinic." The University of Edinburgh Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology receives funding from the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). UK Biobank was established by the Wellcome Trust, MRC, Department of Health, Scottish Government and the Northwest Regional Development Agency. It has had funding from the Welsh Assembly Government, British Heart Foundation and Diabetes UK. UK Biobank is hosted by the University of Manchester and supported by the NHS. Article: Ageing and brain white matter structure in 3,513 UK Biobank participants, Simon R. Cox, Stuart J. Ritchie, Elliot M. Tucker-Drob, David C. Liewald, Saskia P. Hagenaars, Gail Davies, Joanna M. Wardlaw, Catharine R. Gale, Mark E. Bastin & Ian J. Deary, Nature Communications, doi:10.1038/ncomms13629, published online 15 December 2016.
News Article | May 6, 2016
The Valkyrie robot designed by NASA is taking shape, and that form is surprisingly human. This robot, built in the image of humans, could help lead the way to Mars. The units are also surprisingly modular, providing several advantages over previous designs. This humanoid robot, also known as R5, has recently been updated by designers and sent to research facilities in the United States and Europe. Copies of the current version are known as Unit Ds. "The NASA Valkyrie is one of the most advanced humanoid robots in the world ... Valkyrie will enable breakthroughs in humanoid control, motion planning and perception," The University of Edinburgh reported. This is one of the institutions granted use of a Valkyrie for research purposes. The R5 is designed to carry out vital tasks in environments deadly to human beings. In the short term, these humanoid robots could venture into disaster scenes that threaten human lives. In the longer term, however, designers hope the R5 will be capable of traveling to Mars and other alien landscapes. These robots could prepare a landing spot, readying a region of the Red Planet for human occupation. Valkyrie was designed to look like a human in order for people with limited experience dealing with robots to have an easier time interacting with the mechanical units. The robot is as large as an adult male, standing 5' 9" tall and weighing in at 275 pounds. With a humanoid shape and size, the units will also be able to operate side by side with people without requiring any special accommodations. The robot is easy to take apart for travel and reassemble after the unit arrives at its intended destination. Limbs of the robot can be easily switched out and replaced following damage. The two arms are identical, so right and left arms may be interchanged. Valkyrie is powered by a removable battery on its back that lasts around one hour on a single charge. This power pack can be replaced by a human in just a few minutes. In 2015, NASA promised to provide three of the units to universities in the United States, as well as a handful in Europe, hoping the robot will learn new skills. The first model of the Valkyrie robot debuted to the public in December 2013. © 2016 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.
News Article | August 23, 2016
The University of Edinburgh's Roslin Institute and Hendrix Genetics, a global leader in animal breeding, have established a research agreement to improve the sustainability of animal production.
News Article | February 21, 2017
Rare breeds of chickens could soon come from entirely different types of hens. The University of Edinburgh's Roslin Institute with help from US biotechnology company Recombinetics used gene editing techniques to create surrogate hens that grow up to produce eggs with all the genetic information of different breeds. We've seen gene editing and transfer techniques used to create better yeast, bigger trees and even glowing pigs, among numerous other examples, but this is believed to be the first gene-edited bird to come out of Europe. The team used a gene editing tool called TALEN (for transcription activator-like effector nucleases), which is similar to the more widely publicized CRISPR/Cas9, to delete part of a chicken gene called DDX4 that is related to fertility. Hens with this modification did not produce eggs but were healthy in all other ways. The researchers could then take primordial germ cells – specialized cells that lead to the formation of eggs – and implant them into eggs that would eventually hatch into the genetically edited surrogate hens. These hens would then mature to produce eggs that are genetically whatever breed they had been implanted with at that early stage. "These chickens are a first step in saving and protecting rare poultry breeds from loss in order to preserve future biodiversity of our poultry from both economic and climate stresses," said lead researcher Dr. Mike McGrew.