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Life Sciences headlines

A fossil snake with four legs

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Professor Susan Evans (UCL Cell & Developmental Biology) comments on the discovery of the first four-legged fossil snake. Read: National Geographic, More: The Times (£)

How acupuncture 'really can ease pain'

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Professor David Colquhoun (UCL Neuroscience, Physiology and Pharmacology) says: "There have been over 3,000 trials of acupuncture, some of them very well designed. Yet still there is no agreement that it works". Read: Daily Mail

Nightshades

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Professor Michael Heinrich (UCL School of Pharmacy) explains what is meant by the doctrine of signatures. Listen: BBC Radio 4 ‘Natural Histories’ (from 13 mins 43 secs)

Herbal food supplement labels 'can be misleading'

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A team led by Professor Michael Heinrich (UCL School of Pharmacy) tested 70 herbal food supplements and found not all of them contain what they claim on the label. Read: BBC News, More: Daily Mail, Huffington Post

The plant that can kill and cure

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Mandrakes have a deadly reputation but have been used for thousands of years for medicinal purposes. Professor Michael Heinrich (UCL School of Pharmacy) explains what happens if the wrong dose is used. Read: BBC News

Why so many pills are so difficult to swallow: And why it’s safe to crush or cut up some – but not others

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Dr Simon Gaisford (UCL School of Pharmacy) comments on the difficulty of swallowing pills, and the safety issues of crushing or cutting them up. Read: Daily Mail 

Building bigger brains

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A new study co-authored by Professor Judith Mank (UCL Biosciences) has found that a single gene called Angiopoietin-1 (Ang-1) drives brain size and intelligence in fish. Read: Guardian, More: UCL News

Extremophiles

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Dr Nick Lane (UCL Genetics, Evolution & Environment) joins a discussion on extremophiles and explains the work of Carl Woese. Listen: BBC Radio 4 ‘In Our Time’ (from 4 mins 54 secs)

What do rats dream of?

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New research by Dr Hugo Spiers (UCL Experimental Psychology), Dr Freyja Ólafsdóttir and Dr Caswell Barry (both UCL Biosciences) has found that when rats rest, their brains simulate journeys to a desired future such as a tasty treat. Read: Daily Mail, More: New Scientist, Belfast Telegraph, Discover, Metro, Huffington Post, Yahoo News, UCL News, Listen: BBC World Service 'Science in Action' (from 20 mins 4 secs)

Cancer drug lengthens fly lifespan

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Adult fruit flies given a cancer drug live 12% longer than average, according to a study led by the UCL Institute of Healthy Ageing. Read: Nature, More: Daily Express, UCL News

The Life Scientific: Kate Jones

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Professor Kate Jones (UCL Genetics, Evolution & Environment) discusses her research on bats. Listen: BBC Radio 4 ‘The Life Scientific’

Don't like your pills? Just turn them into dinosaur sweets

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A team from UCL's School of Pharmacy have been experimenting with 3D printing to produce small numbers of specialist tablets at a fraction of the cost of a drugs company's typical mass-production run. Read: Daily Mail

What's it like for women in science?

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Female scientists from across UCL discuss their experiences in the field and why they chose science. Read: BBC News

Milk digestion's 'more recent rise'

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Computer modelling work by Professor Mark Thomas (UCL Genetics, Evolution & Environment) has placed the genetic ability to digest lactose to the Middle Neolithic period. Read: BBC News

75-million-year-old dinosaur blood and collagen discovered in fossil fragments

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Dr Anjali Goswami (UCL Genetics, Evolution & Environment) said that if dinosaur soft tissues were found in many more fossils, it could have a transformative effect on research. Read: Guardian

Sir Tim Hunt comments

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Professor David Colquhoun (UCL Neuroscience, Physiology & Pharmacology) comments on remarks made by Nobel Prize winner, Sir Tim Hunt. Read: Daily Mail

Immunotherapy drugs and melanoma

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Professor David Taylor (UCL Pharmacy) explains the significance of new trial findings into the use of immunotherapy drugs to shrink melanomas. Listen: BBC London 94.9 ‘Vanessa Feltz’ (from 18 mins 27 secs), More: BBC Radio 5 live ‘5 live Daily’ (from 21 mins 35 secs)

The middle Pliocene gets crowded

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Professor Fred Spoor (UCL Cell & Developmental Biology) explains why newly discovered hominin fossils suggest that species diversity may have been as high during early human evolution as in later periods. Read: Nature

MPs call for police inquiry into bogus 'cancer cures’

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Commenting on video footage obtained from the Spirit of Health Congress, Professor David Colquhoun (UCL Neuroscience, Physiology & Pharmacology) said: “They are selling fake cures that will not only fail to cure cancer, but that will endanger the health of anyone who uses them”. Read: Telegraph

The Business of Genetic Ancestry

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Professor Mark Thomas and Debbie Kennett (both UCL Genetics, Evolution & Environment) explore the scientific lines some genetic ancestry companies cross, when they provide people with stories about their ancient ancestors. Listen: BBC Radio 4 'The Business of Genetic Ancestry', Read: Guardian

Stone tool discovery pushes back dawn of culture by 700,000 years

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Professor Fred Spoor (UCL Cell & Developmental Biology) says the discovery of the oldest known stone tools is “a very important find” and that he is impressed by the quality of the evidence. Read: Guardian, More: Wall Street Journal

What rats in a maze can teach us about our sense of direction

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PhD student Francis Carpenter and Dr Caswell Barry (both UCL Cell & Developmental Biology) explain how the brain joins local maps together into a single, overarching map when we figure out how places connect geographically. Read: The Conversation

Prince Charles’s letters reveal the extent of his lobbying for dangerous ‘alternative medicine’

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Professor David Colquhoun (UCL Neuroscience, Physiology & Pharmacology) comments on the publication of Prince Charles’ ‘spider letters’ and specifically his correspondence on alternative medicine. Read: Spectator

Microbes found at bottom of ocean are our long-lost relatives

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Dr Nick Lane (UCL Genetics, Evolution & Environment) explains that although we’re getting closer to an archaeal ancestor of the eukaryotes, we can’t call the newly discovered Lokiarchaea a missing link. Read: New Scientist

Genes in a bottle: why DNA testing is the new frontier in health and fitness

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Professor Mark Thomas (UCL Genetics, Evolution & Environment) comments on the range of personalised DNA testing kits available, saying we could “argue the rights and wrongs of such companies but I suspect that ship has sailed”. Read: Evening Standard

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