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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 »


Portuguese scientists have just published a revolutionary new approach to treat rheumatoid arthritis (RA) which, if translated to humans, can change the way we treat autoimmunity (and so diseases like RA but also diabetes and MS) and, with it, the lives of millions of patients

The new treatment by Joana Duarte, Luis Graca and colleagues from the Instituto de Medicina Molecular (IMM) in Lisbon is remarkable because it specifically stops the abnormal immunological response behind RA without touching the rest of the immune system, and a short treatment has long lasting effects suggesting that it might even cure the disease.

For some years now a small group of scientists have been pioneering a revolutionary idea; that the vertebrate immune system could have a role in the regulation of iron in the body.

Now a study in the journal Immunology shows that human lymphocytes (white blood cells) actually produce hepcidin, the most important protein in the regulation of iron levels in the body. What was unexpected was the fact that hepcidin affected lymphocyte multiplication, which occurs for example during an infection, showing that the two systems seem to be much more interlinked than even previously imagined.

Doctors can now understand better chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML), including how it responds to therapy, thanks to a new mathematical model for the disease developed by scientists in Portugal, Belgium and the United States. The work, to be published in the June edition of the journal Haematologica, also reveals that current therapies – which are not believed to cure CML – with the right protocol can actually get rid of the disease, and provides guidelines on how to do that. CML although rare, because of effective life-extending therapies, is now one of the most common leukaemias in the world

Scientists have just identified several molecules capable of reversing the brain abnormalities of Parkinson’s disease (PD), while also uncovering new clues for its origin in a study just published in the journal Disease Models and Mechanisms (1). PD is characterised by abnormal deposits of a brain protein called alpha-synuclein throughout the damaged brain regions, but exactly what they do there is not clear.

Potentially fatal mosquito-borne West Nile fever (WNF) can become much more widespread in Europe than previously thought, say scientists in a new report just out in the journal BMC Evolutionary Biology(1). The disease in temperate climates is carried by a population of Culex pipiens mosquitoes that only bites birds - the disease reservoir host - but Bruno Gomes and colleagues from the Centre for Malaria and Tropical diseases and Institute of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in Portugal found high numbers of hybrids between this population and another one that bites on humans. These hybrids, by feeding on both humans and birds, can act as a bridge transmitting the disease to humans.