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The winners of the inaugural ReelLife Science Science Communication video competition for primary and secondary schools were announced this week.

First place in the Secondary Schools competition went to “Life in Space” (click here to view video) created by St. Enda’s College Transition Year student Michael McAndrew, under the direction of Mr. Fahey and Mr. Conroy. The short film combines a fantastic concept and animation style with an intelligent script, wonderful delivery and original score. The film describes the fascinating field of Astrobiology, encompassing the origin and future of life on earth and the search for extraterrestrial life in other “Goldilocks Zones”. In Michael’s own words “it is very exciting what the future might bring us“.

In the Primary Schools competition, first place went to a video as Gaeilge about Seed Dispersal called “Scaipeadh siolta i Rosmuc” (click here to view video). This memorable video was made by the 5th and 6th class students in Scoil Mhuire Rosmuc, under the direction of their teacher Ms. Ni Chonaola. The students took a very specific topic in Seed Dispersal and Germination, and produced three very amusing and informative sketches demonstrating different methods of dispersal. Furthermore, they performed some experiments of their own on the various seeds they found, identifying the different traits associated with them, based on their method of dispersal.

The winners (and the second and third runners up) will be invited to attend the Galway Science and Technology Festival at the end of November in NUI Galway, to receive their prizes and certificates, and to see the shortlisted videos on display to the general public.

To view the videos and for further information about the ReelLife Science project click here

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Professor Fergus Shanahan, from University College Cork (UCC), has been named this year’s SFI Researcher of the Year. Professor Shanahan, who is one of the leading international experts in the area of gastrointestinal research, was presented with the award by Mr Sean Sherlock, T.D, Minister for Research & Innovation in recognition of his significant contribution to understanding how intestinal bacteria influence both health and disease in the gut and beyond.

Professor Shanahan is the current Director of the Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre (APC) an SFI funded Research Centre, and we featured his work in the area of radiation dose optimisation for Crohn’s disease imaging in series one of The Science Squad. You can view the segment by clicking here: APC – Crohn’s Disease Imaging

Fergus, congratulations from everyone at The Science Squad!

For further information on Professor Shanahan and the SFI award click here

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New findings investigating the influence of a stress-sensitive genetic background on pain have been published in the leading journal in the field Pain, by NUI Galway researchers. The work, funded by Science Foundation Ireland and the Irish Research Council, was carried out by Dr David Finn and his research team in Pharmacology and Therapeutics, Centre for Pain Research and Galway Neuroscience Centre at the National Centre for Biomedical Engineering Science, NUI Galway.Heightened pain in individuals who are stressed, anxious or depressed is a widely recognized but poorly understood phenomenon. A key factor is the contribution of genetic background and its influence on stress responding and emotional processing. A particular genetic background can predispose individuals to higher stress, anxiety and pain responses but it is not known why.

Previous findings have shown that pain is subject to influence by marijuana-like chemicals called endocannabinoids in a brain region called the rostral ventromedial medulla.  Working with Dr Finn, first author Dr Kieran Rea was able to show that a genetic background associated with higher stress and anxiety responses was associated with a greater pain response and a blunted response of these endocannabinoids in the part of the brain called the rostral ventromedial medulla.

Furthermore, this enhanced pain response was prevented by a drug that increased levels of these endocannabinoids in this part of the brain.  Further experimentation revealed that blockade of the cannabinoid CB1 receptor, at which these endocannabinoids act, exacerbated the pain response.

An increased understanding of how genetic background associated with stress and anxiety can influence pain is important from a fundamental physiological perspective and may also aid the identification of new ways of treating  persistent pain and the impact of  stress-related psychiatric disorders such anxiety or depression.

Click here to find out more…