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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 »


Scientists in the UK, Portugal and Germany solved the structure of kynurenine 3-monooxygenase (KMO), a protein implicated in the neurodegeneration (destruction of nerve cells) seen in diseases associated with old age, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s.

 It also reveals how to block KMO in a major first step to develop a promising new therapeutic approach for a group of diseases that, despite affecting millions worldwide, remain without cure or treatment. 

Researchers have discovered new subgroups of stomach cancer patients with different disease characteristics, information that could help improve the clinical management of a disease that still kills a dismaying 3 out of 4 patients. 

About 200 million people across 75 of the poorest countries in the world are now infected by the blood parasite Schistosoma haematobium (S. haematobium). The infection causes severe urogenital disease, but also causes bladder cancer in a number of patients and why this occurs is not clear.
Bacteria have lived for millions of years in our planet where, with an impressive capability to adapt, they now colonize virtually every environment, including us. But as tiny one-cell organisms they had to learn to work together to be powerful enough to act on the environment and other organisms. And now, new research has discovered that their evolution is triggered exactly by these interactions, as scientists from Centre for Environmental Biology at the University of Lisbon in Portugal and the Institute Pasteur in Paris show that bacteria’s genes for secreted proteins - the ones that mediate the interactions with the outside - evolve faster than any others in the genome. 

Adverse childhood experiences, such as being raised in poverty, can be detrimental for cognitive development often leaving children struggling in school and trapped forever in a cycle of hardship. But a study is now suggesting a innovative (and easy) way to help.

Researchers have discovered that females with multiple sexual partners can be more fertile than those that are monogamous, and this because of an “overproduction” of sons.  The study,  published as a provisional article but already one of the most accessed in BCM Evolutionary Biology, helps to explain a puzzle haunting evolutionary biologist for decades: why so many females chase multiple sexual partners in a mating season, when this is costly and dangerous, and one is enough to fertilize all her eggs.