Background
BTYSTE 50th

In 1963 two physics researchers from the University College Dublin, Rev. Dr. Tom Burke and Dr. Tony Scott, came across the concept of ‘Science Fairs’ while conducting research in New Mexico, America. The pair decided that this type of hands-on science was something that students in Ireland could benefit from. And so the Young Scientist Exhibition was born.

Now in it’s 50th year, registration for the 2014 exhibition kicked off this afternoon and the winners will be announced in the RDS on Friday 10th January. Projects this year include a study into how our changing laundry habits could be causing E.coli infection, the development of “Moo Boots” to help heal bacterial infections that cause foot rot in cattle, and an investigation into how the principles of Lego building blocks might be able to help people trapped in crisis zones after an earthquake!

In series one of The Science Squad, we tracked down 3 former participants to find out what kind of impact the event has had on their careers, and met one former winner who’s now working on the greatest physics experiment the world has ever known! Check it out by clicking here

And for more on the BTYSTE check out www.btyoungscientist.ie

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New research from the National Children’s Research Center, funded by the Children’s Medical Research Foundation (CMRF), has identified a link between child obesity and decreased effectiveness in the innate immune system among obese children.

The research, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, showed that one of the most important immune cells in the innate immune system – the invariant natural killer T cell – was much reduced in number and much less effective at doing its basic job in obese children.

According to Dr Declan Cody, senior paediatrician said, “This cell – the invariant natural killer T cell – has been described as a sensor and manager of inflammation, and when deficient or defective has been linked to cardiovascular disease and cancer, so to see it already disappearing in children who are obese, is really worrying for their future risk”.

The study included 49 children from 6 to 16 years of age and showed that the children are switching on two types of genes that have been shown to be involved in type 2 diabetes and heart disease in adults. “These are very disturbing but fascinating findings” added Professor Carlos Blanco, head of the National Childrens Research Center, which funded the research.

Professor Blanco added: “The findings ultimately may allow us to predict those children most at risk of developing adult disease and therefore to target our interventions. In addition this work shows that the process of developing type 2 diabetes is well and truly underway at a genetic level in children as young as 6 years of age who are allowed to become obese”.

Professor Donal O’Shea, lead author on the study and Chairs the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland policy group on obesity.  He has presented the findings to the European Union Ministers for Health and The Coca Cola Company and said “These findings must be used to inform individuals, public policy and industry behaviour when it comes to our patterns of physical activity and food and drink consumption which are the main drivers of weight in children”.

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A consortium led by the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) and the new Science Foundation Ireland centre Amber has received €8.7m funding for research into heart disease.

Called Amcare (Advanced Materials for Cardiac Regeneraton), the group involves ten partners from five European countries and the funding is part of the EU’s Framework Programme 7.

The Amcare programme, which will create ten new positions, will carry out research to develop natural materials and new surgical devices to enhance the delivery of the body’s own stem cells to the heart to promote healing after a heart attack and prevent premature death.

The therapies being developed will replace heart cells that die due to the reduced blood flow that occurs during a heart attack, with new healthy cells derived from stem cells that come from the patient’s own bone marrow.

Amcare is co-ordinated by Dr Garry Duffy, Department of Anatomy and Tissue Engineering Research Group, RCSI and Amber investigator.

He said: “Regenerative medicine and stem cell therapies have the potential to revolutionise the treatment of patients who have suffered a heart attack, and through Amcare we will develop new technologies to enhance stem cell therapies for these patients by increasing targeting and ease of delivery using advanced biomaterials.

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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…
UCD science film fest
UCD Science Expression – Ireland’s first and only dedicated science film festival – kicks off tomorrow, Thursday 31st October.

If you love science, have a soft spot for scientists and relish the innovative thinking of researchers worldwide, UCD Science Expression is for you.

The 2013 edition of UCD Science Expression showcases some of the most exciting filmmaking inspired by and excavating science. From classic movies seen in a very different light to world-class features and shorts premiering at UCD Science Expression. We present screenings, events and debate for enquiring minds of all ages.  Festival 2013 takes a unique journey through key themes including The Curious Mind, Land & Identity, Frontiers of Discovery and Biodiversity and Ecology in The Lighthouse, IFI, Botanic Gardens and The Ark from October 31stNovember 3rd.

Click here to find out more…
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A software reminiscence therapy for sufferers of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia called Rempad has won the Clinical Innovation Award 2013, sponsored by Enterprise Ireland and Cleveland Clinic, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton TD announced on Wed 23rd Oct.

Julia O’Rourke, a senior speech and language therapist, was presented with the award by Minister Bruton at the Enterprise Ireland Med in Ireland event in Dublin today (Wednesday).

Rempad is a new software tool which uses multi-media content to connect carers and residents with memories from the past to enhance the overall wellbeing of nursing home residents suffering from Alzheimer’s.

There are 35 million people living with dementia worldwide, and this will triple by 2050. Rempad’s reminiscence therapy software uses historical artifacts such as photos and broadcast footage to stimulate memories from the past and help individuals or groups to communicate.

O’Rourke collaborated with the Adelaide and Meath Hospital and researchers at CLARITY in Dublin City University to develop Rempad.

 

Click here to find out more…

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Science isn’t about memorising equations and battling with proofs – it’s how we see, and understand and shape the world around us. Over the course of eight weeks, starting on the 21st of October 2013, Prof Shane Bergin, Prof Colette Murphy, Dr Jessamyn Fairfield and The Science Squad’s Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin turn Dublin’s DART into a laboratory and get the city thinking and talking about physics.

Discover and learn scientific concepts through tricky teasers, mind-melting facts and seemingly illogical questions that will be scattered throughout the DART. All you’ll have to do is look around you on your journey.

And if you want to know more, check out the website here

Genomic Selection - Cows in Field

Tyndall National Institute has launched a US-Ireland animal health research project, AgriSense, to diagnose Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD) – Ireland’s No.1 cause of calf death.

The research will be conducted under a €900,000 R&D partnership between Tyndall, Georgia Institute of Technology and Queen’s University Belfast. The team will work to develop a sensor-based diagnostic kit to enable simultaneous testing for the four primary viral agents responsible for the disease and could facilitate field side testing for the first time with results in as little as 15 minutes.

Speaking at the launch, Simon Coveney TD, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, said “Bovine Respiratory Disease is responsible for in the region of 30% of deaths in stock under one-year old in Ireland and costs Irish farmers millions of euros each year in treatment and lost time to market. Affecting both beef and dairy herds, it is also a major source of lost revenue to the global agri-food industry. We need innovative ways of tackling this scourge and I am delighted that Tyndall has been chosen as a lead partner to lend its expertise in sensor technology to revolutionise farm-side testing.”

Dr Alan O’Riordan, Nanotechnology Group, Tyndall National Institute said: “The AgriSense project will explore the application of nano and sensor technology to provide a low-cost yet extremely precise and quick method of testing for use in animal health and disease diagnostics. The international team will work across Ireland, the US and Northern Ireland to explore how this technology can help in the fight against BRD, with livestock testing planned within the next three years.”

The sensors will be fabricated on disposable plastic testers to keep costs down and could reduce diagnosis time by up to four weeks. It is hoped that early detection and diagnosis will enable infected cattle to be isolated and could also facilitate more tailored treatment programmes eradicating the current practice of costly indiscriminate dosing to stop the spread of infection.

For more, click here