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pintofscience

New scientific discoveries are happening all the time, fascinating developments which will change the future of the human race. But how often are you given the chance to really understand how these discoveries are made and what they mean?

The Pint of Science festival 2014 will see some of Ireland’s best scientific researchers hit pubs in Dublin and Cork to discuss their latest findings. This is your chance to get face-to-face with the people involved in carrying out current research! You can listen to them talk, join in games and quizzes, or just enjoy a chat over a pint. Find out what’s really going on in our bodies, our minds, in technology and much more!

Check out www.pintofscience.ie for more details!

johnny_coleman

Irish scientists have outlined how they managed to make the “wonder material” graphene, incredibly using dishwashing liquid and a kitchen blender!! Graphene is thin, strong, flexible and electrically conductive, and has the potential to transform electronics as well as other technologies.

The Irish-UK team (led by Prof Jonathan Coleman from Trinity College Dublin whose research we profiled in Series One of The Science Squad) poured graphite powder into a blender, then added water and dishwashing liquid, mixing at high speed. The results are published in the journal Nature Materials and their work has been reported by BBC News.

Because of its potential uses in industry, a number of researchers have been searching for ways to make defect-free graphene in large amounts. The material comprises a one-atom-thick sheet of carbon atoms arranged in a honeycomb structure. Graphite – mixed with clay to produce the lead in pencils – is effectively made up of many layers of graphene stacked on top of one another.

Prof Coleman  and colleagues tested out a variety of laboratory mixers as well as kitchen blenders as potential tools for manufacturing the wonder material. They showed that the shearing force generated by a rapidly rotating tool in solution was sufficiently intense to separate the layers of graphene that make up graphite flakes without damaging their two-dimensional structure.

However, it’s not advisable to try this at home. The precise amount of dishwashing fluid that’s required is dependent on a number of different factors and the black solution containing graphene would need to be separated afterwards. But the researchers said their work “provides a significant step” towards deploying graphene in a variety of commercial applications.

The scientists have been working with UK-based firm Thomas Swan to scale up the process, with the aim of building a pilot plant that could produce a kilo of graphene per day by the end of the year. In addition to its potential uses in electronics, graphene might have applications in water treatment, oil spill clean-up and even in the production of thinner condoms.

Radiological_evaluation_through_HRCT

Scientists in Trinity College Dublin have identified a new process that causes scarring in the lungs of patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). The research was led by Professor Padraic Fallon, School of Medicine, Trinity College Dublin and was an international collaboration with scientists from University College Dublin, MRC-LMB Cambridge, the University of Edinburgh, and the University of Erlangen. The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Pulmonary fibrosis arises as a result of excessive scarring (fibrosis) of the lung tissue and is associated with shortness of breath.  IPF is a progressive chronic condition for which there are very few effective therapies available and consequentially there is a poor prognosis.  Despite extensive investigation, the causes underlying IPF remain unknown although it has been linked with exposure to cigarette smoke and other environmental factors such as occupational exposure to gases, chemicals and dust.  It is hypothesized that chronic and repeated injury to lung cells, in particular alveolar epithelial cells, results in the release of pro-fibrotic factors such as transforming growth factor β (TGF β). These factors induce fibroblasts to release collagen that leads to scaring of the lungs tissue and thereby compromising the function of the lungs.

In this new study the authors have used animal models of lung fibrosis to show an increase in expression of a cytokine, interleukin-25 (IL-25), in the lungs with the development of pulmonary fibrosis being dependent on the presence of IL-25. In addition, a new role for a novel immune cell type, the type 2 innate lymphoid cell (ILC2) previously discovered by Professor Fallon and colleagues, in the initiation of fibrosis was described. It was also shown that the ILC2, induced by IL-25, cells themselves can induce collagen deposition in the lung via the release of pro-fibrotic factors such as IL-13.

To address the relevance of these findings to human disease a cohort of patients with pulmonary fibrosis were recruited from clinical collaborators Professor Seamas Donnelly (St Vincent’s Hospital and University College Dublin), Dr Nikhil Hirani (University of Edinburgh) and Dr Ruairi Fahy (St James’s Hospital).  Lung biopsies samples were recovered from patients at initial diagnosis and on follow-up visits to assess progression. High levels of IL-25 in the lungs of patients at initial IPF diagnosed were associated with disease progression.  Furthermore, a population of ILC2 was also present in the lungs of IPF patients but not control patients.

These discoveries open up a new perspective on how scarring develops in the lungs of people, as well as in other sites of the body, and further identifies potential avenues to develop therapies.

Professor Padraic Fallon, Science Foundation Ireland Stokes Professor of Translation Immunology who led the study commented: “We have highlighted in laboratory models and in patients how the immune system can malfunction to stimulate specific cytokines and novel cell types that can lead to tissue damage which, in the context of this study, can induce lung fibrosis. We are now addressing how we can reverse such tissue scarring and identify why there are differences in severity of pulmonary inflammation and fibrosis between patients with lung diseases, such as IPF and asthma.”

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General, Science Foundation Ireland which funded the research jointly with the National Children’s Research Centre, and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland commented: “Pulmonary fibrosis is a devastating condition, with few treatment options. Professor Fallon’s research results provide a new understanding of the disease process and suggest new targets for future potential therapies – an example of excellent scientific research with potential future health and economic impacts.”

These studies may have broader implications to human disease. Professor Fallon and Wellcome Trust funded scientist Dr Sean Saunders in collaboration with Professor Graham Ogg (University of Oxford, UK) and Dr Andrew McKenzie (LMB Cambridge, UK) also just published this month in the leading medical peer-review journal The Journal of Experimental Medicine studies that implicate ILC2 and IL-25 in the development of atopic dermatitis (eczema) in patients.  The first author of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences paper Dr Emily Hams from Trinity College Dublin has also recently implicated a function for these cellular responses in regulation of obesity. These new studies raise the potential for therapies targeting the initial responses that evoke aberrant inflammation that leads to a range of major human inflammatory diseases.

The research was funded by Science Foundation Ireland and the National Children’s Research Centre.

BDI

Arizona State University (ASU) and Dublin City University (DCU), Dublin, Ireland – are joining forces to create the new International School of Biomedical Diagnostics, which will offer the first degree program of its kind. The initiative is at the cutting edge of establishing diagnostics as an independent discipline.

Diagnostics are at the center of healthcare innovation today. They are involved in over 60 percent of clinical decision-making and the industry employs more than 3.5 million people worldwide. Diagnostics are critical to personalized medicine – the process of targeting drugs to those for whom they will be most effective.

The new school will draw from several assets of each institution. At DCU, the school will build upon the award-winning M.Sc. in Biomedical Diagnostics program based at the Biomedical Diagnostics Institute, and upon expertise from its faculties of Science and Health, Engineering and Computing, and DCU Business School.

“This school has been designed and implemented as a result of ASU’s partnerships with Dublin City University and Ventana Medical Systems,” said ASU President Michael Crow. “This is a tremendous example of how higher education is being transformed on a global basis through new technology-enabled collaborations. The school will have a huge impact on personalized medicine, as well as lowering health care costs and focusing on earlier disease detection and on wellness rather than illness.”

“This is an important and exciting development of global significance. The field of diagnostics is changing rapidly, and education programs must keep pace with developments,” said DCU President Brian MacCraith. “By combining the expertise and geographical context of ASU and DCU, and by collaborating with industry partners such as Ventana, we will be in a strong position to provide programs that are always at the cutting edge.”

For more, click here

PaulMoynagh

Irish researchers have made a major breakthrough in the fight against bowel diseases such as Crohn’s, they have revealed.

Scientists at NUI Maynooth discovered what they described as a crucial role for protein in controlling unwanted inflammation in the intestine.

Professor Paul Moynagh, who led the research team, said the identification of the protein Pellino3 may protect against the development of the incurable Crohn’s disease.

The team discovered that levels of Pellino3 are dramatically reduced in Crohn’s disease patients.

It will now use the protein as a basis for new diagnostic for Crohn’s and as a target in designing drugs to treat the illness.

For more information click here

JohnnyColeman

The European Commission has announced that CRANN, the Science Foundation Ireland funded nanoscience institute based at Trinity College Dublin (TCD), has secured a primary role in the Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) Graphene Flagship project. The EU Commission has committed €1 billion to the Graphene Flagship, the largest ever research project funded in the history of the European Union.

CRANN and TCD’s School of Physics Principal Investigator Professor Jonathan Coleman has been selected as Deputy Leader of one of these work packages.

We featured Professor Coleman and his work on graphene in the second episode of The Science Squad – the segment can be viewed here

Graphene is the strongest, most impermeable and most conductive material known to man. It is just one atom thick, but is 200 times stronger than steel. Products enabled by graphene technologies could include fast, flexible and strong consumer electronics such as foldable laptops and paper-thin smartphones, and lighter and more energy efficient cars and aeroplanes. In the future, medical devices such as artificial retinas could also be made from graphene.

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NUI-Maynooth

Scientists at NUI Maynooth have pinpointed how control and regulation of a specific gene could combat debilitating diseases like multiple sclerosis.

After three years of research the team is in the early stages of trying to uncover how to manipulate the Pellino3 gene to tackle serious illnesses.

Research published in the US journal Nature Immunology showed the gene’s critical function is to regulate the amount of protective proteins released by our immune systems to fight a virus.

Professor Paul Moynagh said it was a significant breakthrough in viral immunology.

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bt-young-scientist-winners

TWO DUBLIN students have been awarded a European young scientist prize for their mathematical project that could be of value to Nasa.

Mark Kelly and Eric Doyle from Synge Street CBS, Dublin, were announced as winners of the first prize in physics at the European Union Contest for Young Scientists in Bratislava, Slovakia, yesterday.

The winning project, Simulation Accuracy in the Gravitational Many-body Problem, included a way to help keep satellites more closely on their expected path.

Ireland has out-performed all other countries in the EU competition’s 24-year history, taking home the top prize 14 times.

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