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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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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.
Abnormally high levels of P-cadherin – an adhesion molecule that enables cells to bind together – occur in about a third of all breast cancers and are associated with poor prognosis. Portuguese researchers , writing in the journal Oncogene1, found that the reason why these cancers are more aggressive is because excessive P-cadherin changes the cancer cells’ internal organization, making them mobile and invasive (invasiveness is the capacity to cross biological barriers such as membranes). Both these characteristics allow the formation of metastases - which is the spread of cancer cells from the original site of the tumour to other parts of the body - increasing the disease aggressiveness and explaining the poor prognoses associated with P-cadherin.
Cooperation is seen in every corner of life from microbes to humans, many times with no obvious advantages to those that provide it at high costs. Given the existence of “freeloading cheaters” ready to exploit the resources of those cooperating, why is it that cooperation persist? In an article now published in the journal Current Biology Nogueira and colleagues suggest that in bacteria this can result from highly mobile genes that “jump” from one cell to the next carrying the cooperative traits, effectively turning everyone into a cooperator. They also show that, at least in Escherichia coli (E. coli), this new population remains stable through “punisher” genes that impose a mafia-like strategy of “cooperation or death”, ensuring that the new cooperators do not revert to freeloading.