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A New Cause For Mental Disease

Astrocytes, the cells that make the background of the brain and support neurons, might be behind...

R.I.P Portuguese Science

Portuguese government shuts down half of the research units in the countryThe Portuguese funding...

Schistosomiasis- New Urine Test Could Help Millions

Schistosomiasis is a parasitic disease that infects 243million people worldwide, and kills about...

When Bad News Is Good News For Neurodegenerative Diseases

Some genetic diseases caused by an abnormal repeat in the DNA are known to become more severe...

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Catarina AmorimRSS Feed of this column.

After many years as a scientist (immunology) at Oxford University I moved into scientific journalism and public understanding of science. I am still at Oxford Uni but now I write about any bio... Read More »

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Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) already account for one third of all global deaths and raising, with effective heart regeneration therapies yet to be developed despite worldwide research efforts. But a new study by scientists from Oxford University and the University of Coimbra in Portugal might have put us a step closer with the discovery of the key molecule regulating the development of several heart and blood vessels’ tissues in the zebrafish embryo. 
Scientists have identified a biochemical abnormality behind the potentially fatal neurodegenerative Machado-Joseph disease (MJD) and, using several models of the disease, were able to reverse the problem in what may be a crucial step towards a cure for humans.  Currently, the disease is incurable and the patients’ increasing neurodegeneration cannot be stopped. 
Mitochondria are better known as the power factories of the cell but in fact they are much more interesting than that. Contrary to the old image in textbooks of round static structures, mitochondria are now known to be incredibly dynamic, shape changing, fusing and dividing according to the multitude of functions they perform in the cell. And now, in a study to be published in the journal Nature Cell Biology, scientists in Italy and Portugal show that mitochondria can also be crucial for the survival of cells during stress. 
Portuguese researchers have discovered a "broad spectrum" cancer suppressor gene called LRP1B which acts by removing proteins crucial for cancer development from the tumor environment.

The fact that LRP1B does not act on the tumor itself (in this study thyroid tumors) but, instead, on molecules which are known to be important to many different cancers is what makes it so interesting. Because this means that LRP1B, and also therapies capable of inducing it (or mimicking its effect), could in theory be used to treat a variety of cancers.
A study just published in the journal Nature by researchers in France, Portugal and Spain looks for the first time at the effects of climate change on the tree of life (that aggregates species according to their evolution/genetic similarity) to find that the whole of it will be affected. But this is not all bad news because even if the tree is to become “thinner” it keeps its structure as there will be no major losses of biodiversity contrary to what other studies had suggested (this would occur if localized “branches” were totally eliminated).
A software that can drastically reduce CO2 emissions (and energetic costs) on computers all over the world has been developed by Portuguese scientists and is freely available to anyone interested.