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Life Sciences headlines

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

The Vital Question

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Discussing his new book, Dr Nick Lane (UCL Genetics, Evolution & Environment) explores the link between energy and the origin of life. Read: Guardian, More: Telegraph, Sunday Times, Listen: BBC Radio 4 ‘Start the Week’ (from 1 min)

The Oxyrhynchus Papyri

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Commenting on his work translating the Oxyrhynchus papyri, Professor Vivian Nutton (UCL Neuroscience, Physiology & Pharmacology) said: “It is the largest single collection of medical papyri to be published”. Read: Daily Mail

Patrick Matthew

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Professor Steve Jones (UCL Genetics, Evolution & Environment) discusses whether horticulturist Patrick Matthew should have more recognition for his contribution to the theory of natural selection. Listen: BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ (from 2 hours 55 mins)

Spotlight on cancer research

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Professor Nicholas Luscombe (UCL Genetics Institute) says computer scientists working in genomics need at least a basic understanding of biology. Read: Nature

Could you track down your doppelganger?

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Dr Garrett Hellenthal (UCL Genetics Institute) doubts it is possible to calculate the probability of finding your doppelganger. Read: Telegraph

How men compete when donating cash to attractive women

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New research co-authored by Dr Nichola Raihani (UCL Genetics, Evolution & Environment) and the University of Bristol has found that men give more money through fundraising websites after seeing that other men have donated large amounts and when the fundraiser is an attractive woman. Read: Guardian, More: Independent, BBC News, Daily Mail, Daily Express, Times (£), Guardian (2), Huffington Post, The Conversation, Belfast Telegraph, TIME, LA Times, Washington Post, The Australian (£), New Zealand Herald, Sydney Morning Herald, UCL News, Listen: BBC Radio 5 live '5 live Science' (from 27 mins 23 secs)

Calls for bar on salesman promoting bleach to cure autism

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Professor David Colquhoun (UCL Neuroscience, Physiology & Pharmacology) says “This sort of quackery is simply preying on the vulnerable; it is only those who are truly desperate who are most at risk”. Read: Telegraph

Only pub sceptics will insist this isn't Richard III

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Explaining the statistical analysis of Richard III’s remains, Professor Mark Thomas (UCL Genetics, Evolution & Environment) says: “There is a 0.0003 per cent chance that it's not him – and wars have been started over less". Read: New Scientist

America is a melting pot

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A study by UCL, Oxford University and Universita' del Sacro Cuore of Rome has mapped the genetic ancestry of North and South America, revealing the genetic fingerprints of the slave trade and colonisation. Read: Daily Mail, More: UCL News

'Monster salamanders' found in fossilised mass grave

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Professor Susan Evans (UCL Cell & Developmental Biology) says the newly discovered Metoposaurus fossil was an impressive specimen, and noteworthy as the first such find in southern Europe. Read: BBC News

Return of the woolly mammoth

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Following the announcement that a scientist has inserted DNA from the frozen remains of a woolly mammoth into cells taken from a live elephant, Professor Mark Thomas (UCL Genetics, Evolution & Environment) explains the science behind the technique. Listen: BBC Radio Berkshire ‘Anne Diamond’ (from 2 hours 40 mins)

Britons still live in Anglo-Saxon tribal kingdoms

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A study by the University of Oxford, UCL and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute in Australia, co-led by Dr Garrett Hellenthal (UCL Genetics Institute), has created the first fine-scale genetic map of Britain. Read: Telegraph, More: Belfast Telegraph, UCL News

The Gambian despot who 'cured HIV-AIDS' and his British homoeopath allies

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Commenting on the Gambia Wellness Foundation, Professor David Colquhoun (UCL Neuroscience, Physiology & Pharmacology) says: "These are serious and treatable conditions and people should not be distracting from the efforts to improve things by giving people worthless remedies”. Read: Telegraph

The Life Scientific: John O'Keefe

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Professor John O’Keefe (UCL Cell & Developmental Biology) explains his research into 'place cells' in the brain and what it was like to win a Nobel Prize. Listen: BBC Radio 4 ‘The Life Scientific’

'First human' discovered in Ethiopia

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A state-of-the-art computer reconstruction of a Homo habilis fossil by Professor Fred Spoor (UCL Cell & Developmental Biology) indicates that the species has older evolutionary roots than previously thought. Read: BBC News, More: Guardian, Independent, The Week, NY Times, Los Angeles Times, NBC, New Scientist, National Geographic, Discovery, Science, UCL News, Listen: BBC Radio 4 'Six O'Clock News' (from 15 mins 45 secs), More: BBC Radio 4 'The World Tonight' (from 6 mins 39 secs)

Kew Gardens unveils science strategy

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Commenting on the future of Kew Gardens Professor Georgina Mace (UCL Genetics, Evolution & Environment) says: “More cuts could mean it simply cannot function as an international plant centre with the reputation it has at the moment”. Read: BBC News, Listen: BBC Radio 4 ‘The World Tonight’ (from 43 mins 19 secs)

Health chiefs dismiss fad diets as money-spinning ‘nutribabble’

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Professor David Colquhoun (UCL Neuroscience, Physiology & Pharmacology) says a lot of diet marketing can be summed up as “nutribabble”. Read: Times (£)

How unrequited love can make us more creative

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Professor Semir Zeki (UCL Cell & Developmental Biology) argues that creativity is a natural, though not necessarily inevitable, reaction to love’s frustrations. Read: Washington Post

We've got the evolution of complex cells inside-out

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Professor Buzz Baum (UCL/MRC Lab for Molecular Cell Biology) explains how complex cells evolved on Earth. Read: New Scientist (£)

Genomes reveal Darwin finches' messy family tree

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Commenting on a genetic study of Darwin’s finches, Dr Julia Day (UCL Genetics, Evolution & Environment) says the level of reported mixing between the finch species is "a textbook example of radiation". Read: BBC News

Darwin’s finches reveal role of genes in evolution

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Professor Steve Jones (UCL Genetics, Evolution & Environment) comments on a new study which has identified the genetic mechanism that allows for the development of different beak shapes in birds. Read: Wall Street Journal (£)

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