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Researchers’ Weekly Bulletin: the Blog

News for researchers at the Manchester Metropolitan University

Researchers create first 3D structures of active DNA

Monday, March 20th, 2017

“Scientists have determined the first 3D structures of intact mammalian genomes from individual cells, showing how the DNA from all the chromosomes intricately folds to fit together inside the cell nuclei.”

“Researchers from the University of Cambridge and the MRC [Medical Research Council] Laboratory of Molecular Biology used a combination of imaging and up to 100,000 measurements of where different parts of the DNA are close to each other to examine the genome in a mouse embryonic stem cell. Stem cells are ‘master cells’, which can develop – or ‘differentiate’ – into almost any type of cell within the body.”

“Most people are familiar with the well-known ‘X’ shape of chromosomes, but in fact chromosomes only take on this shape when the cell divides. Using their new approach, the researchers have now been able to determine the structures of active chromosomes inside the cell, and how they interact with each other to form an intact genome. This is important because knowledge of the way DNA folds inside the cell allows scientists to study how specific genes, and the DNA regions that control them, interact with each other. The genome’s structure controls when and how strongly genes – particular regions of the DNA – are switched ‘on’ or ‘off’. This plays a critical role in the development of organisms and also, when it goes awry, in disease.”

The research has been published in the journal Nature here:

[Source MRC news: ]

#UKDSChat: Data Impact Chat, 24 March

Monday, March 20th, 2017

“Developing impact from your research as an early career researcher: perspectives from the UK Data Service Data Impact Fellows.”

“On 24 March 2017 between 13.00 and 14.00 the UK Data Service’s Data Impact Fellows will be presenting their perspectives on how to develop research impact. They will share their experiences and the challenges of developing the impact of their research.”

“Join the Data Impact Chat on Twitter by tweeting using the #UKDSChat hashtag.”

[Source UK Data Service news: ]

Report on interdisciplinarity conference

Monday, March 20th, 2017

“The British Academy, Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and Research Councils UK have [] published the report of a conference on interdisciplinarity in UK higher education held at the British Academy in December 2016. The report is available on the HEFCE website here:,110328,en.html

“Bringing together funders, strategic leaders and UK researchers from across disciplines, institution types and career stages, the conference considered policy and practice for interdisciplinary research. It drew on a wide variety of evidence, including the British Academy’s Crossing Paths report, which identified the opportunities and barriers to interdisciplinary research.”

[Source British Academy news: ]

Ageing can be good for you (if you’re a yeast)

Tuesday, March 14th, 2017

“It’s a cheering thought for anyone heading towards their golden years. Research from the Institute has shown that ageing can be beneficial – albeit so far only in yeast.”

“The biological process of ageing is remarkably similar from fungi to plants to animals and the key pathways involved in ageing can be traced back to our ancient shared origins as simple single-celled organisms.”

“By looking at the growth ability of budding yeast, a single-celled fungi, in different environmental conditions, researchers at the Institute have found that ageing is not necessarily damaging to all organisms in all conditions. In fact, changes that occur during ageing in yeast were shown to have potential benefits.”

“As described in the latest issue of the journal Aging Cell, older yeast cells were able to grow more successfully than the younger cells when their food source was switched from glucose to galactose.”

[Source Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) news: ]


Mathematics predicts the molecular biology of cells

Tuesday, March 14th, 2017

“Scientists at Heriot-Watt University, and funded through the Next Generation Optical Microscopy Initiative led by the MRC [Medical Research Council], have challenged a long-held theory about the way cells behave on the nanoscale, which could revolutionise future research into diabetes and neurological treatments.”

“Biologists have long agreed that cells that secrete hormones, like insulin, or neurotransmitters, like serotonin, package their cargo in vesicles (bubble-like intra-cellular structure) and move them in a very regulated way, following the same paths to similar places in the cells, akin to a railroad.”

“Although the world’s most powerful microscopes couldn’t see these specific tracks, biologists were convinced they were there because of the observed behaviour of the vesicles. Clusters of nano-sized molecules inside cells were believed to overlap with the vesicles but this theory has now been challenged using state-of-the-art mathematical modelling.”

[Source MRC news: ]

International study finds education does not protect against cognitive decline in later life

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

“A European-wide study published [] in the journal Neuroepidemiology has found that whilst older people with a higher level of education have better memory function, it does not protect them from cognitive decline as they age.”

“In one of the largest and most comprehensive studies on education and cognitive decline to date, researchers at University College London (UCL) and funded by the MRC and Alzheimer’s Society, explored changes in memory and cognitive performance over an eight-year period in over 11,000 Europeans aged 65 and over from 10 different countries.”

“The participants were tested at first entry into the study, referred to as baseline, and then again at two-year intervals. Participants were asked to recall a 10-word list immediately (known as immediate recall) and then again after five minutes (known as delayed recall).”

“Previous studies have found that people with a higher level of education tend to have lower rates of dementia, but studies looking at the link between education and rates of cognitive decline in healthy older people have produced mixed results. With an ageing population across Europe, it is extremely important to identify factors that can help to support healthy cognitive ageing.”

To access the article in Neuroepidemiology go to:

[Source Medical Research Council news: ]

EPSRC to study diversity and inclusion barriers in ICT research

Tuesday, February 14th, 2017

“Why do many women not continue a career in ICT research? What are the barriers faced by some minority groups, such as black and ethnic minorities, in pursuing an Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) research career? These are among the questions being considered in a study commissioned by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).”

“The review is investigating what the barriers are, how they manifest themselves and what can be done to support underrepresented groups in ICT.”

“Working with partners the British Computer Society, NMI and the UK Computing Research Committee, EPSRC has commissioned the Employment Research Institute at Edinburgh Napier University to complete the study which is commencing with an online survey. The purpose of the survey is to receive data from a wide range of researchers within the ICT community, not just people within underrepresented groups.”

[Source Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) news: ]

Attackers can crack Android devices within five attempts

Tuesday, February 14th, 2017

“Research showing that Android phones can be cracked within just five attempts has generated widespread interest.”

“Researchers at Lancaster University, the University of Bath and Northwest University in China have demonstrated that video and computer vision algorithm software can be used to crack the popular Pattern Lock system, with more complicated patterns the easiest to crack.”

“The Pattern Lock system, which allows users to access their phone or tablet by drawing a pattern on an on-screen grid of dots, is used by around 40 per cent of Android device owners.”

“Devices become locked after five incorrect attempts to draw the right pattern, but the researchers say that is all that is needed for attackers to use the algorithm software to crack their phone or tablet.”

“Researchers believe this form of attack would enable thieves to access phones after stealing them to obtain sensitive information or install malware.”

[Source Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) news: ]

Paracetamol study could open door for way to treat liver damage

Tuesday, February 14th, 2017

“Scientists have shed new light on how the common painkiller paracetamol causes liver damage.  Their findings may offer valuable insights into poisoning caused by an excess dose, which can be difficult to treat and may prove fatal.  The discovery could inform research into therapies to counteract harm caused by the drug, which is the leading cause of acute liver failure in the Western world.”

“Scientists at The University of Edinburgh studied the impact of paracetamol on liver cells in human and mouse tissue.  Tests showed that even relatively low doses of paracetamol can damage the liver by harming vital structural connections between adjacent cells in the organ.  When these cell wall connections – known as tight junctions – are disrupted, the liver tissue structure is damaged, cells are unable to function properly and they may die.”

“This type of cell damage is known to occur in liver conditions including hepatitis, cirrhosis, and cancer, but until now it was not linked to paracetamol toxicity.”

The paper ‘Low-dose acetaminophen induces early disruption of cell-cell tight junctions in human hepatic cells and mouse liver’ is published (Open Access) in Nature Scientific Reports:

[Source Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) news: ]

Research reveals surprising health benefits of chewing your food

Tuesday, February 14th, 2017

“Scientists have shown that chewing your food properly can boost your mouth’s immune system to protect you against illness.”

“The study led by teams at The University of Manchester and National Institutes of Health in the USA, revealed that a specific type of immune cell, the Th17 cell, can be stimulated when you chew.”

“The immune cell is important in protecting against bacterial and fungal infections that are commonly found in the mouth.  Although it has long been known that the nutrients from food can support a healthy immune system the findings establish that the action of eating itself is important too.”

“In other parts of the body, such as the gut and skin, Th17 cells are stimulated by the presence of friendly bacteria; it was previously assumed this was the case in the mouth. However, the team found that damage caused by the abrasion of chewing induced factors from the gums that could activate the same pathways as friendly bacteria and act upon Th17 cells.”

[Source Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) news: ]