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Darwin gets festive with sciency baubles

The Darwin Common Room Christmas tree Xmas Bauble competition fired the imagination of some of our more creative researchers and there were some great entries to decorate our tree with this year.

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A new lineage of eukaryotes discovered by Jan Janouskovec at UCL GEE and coauthors

The origin of eukaryotes is tied to outstanding questions about how mitochondrial endosymbionts became integrated within them. A new study by researchers from UCL and universities in Canada, USA and Russia, describes a novel flagellated microbe (Ancoracysta), which represents its own lineage in the eukaryotic tree and provides original insights into mitochondrial evolution. Ancoracysta possesses one of the most gene-rich mitochondrial genome ever found and, uniquely, two indepedent systems for mitochondrial cytochrome c biogenesis. Analysing these characteristics across the eukaryotic domain refines scenarios for rooting the tree of eukaryotes and suggests that gene transfer from mitochondria has been highly parallel and exponentially decreasing in nature.

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Leverhulme to fund study to identify and analysis speciation genes in yeast

Different species are defined as groups that do not exchange genes. Even when viable hybrids can form, gene flow between species may nevertheless be prevented if genes from different species are incompatible, preventing hybrids from reproducing. The Leverhulme Trust has funded a project led by Duncan Greig (research profile) to identify such “speciation genes” causing sexual sterility  in yeast hybrids. The project will use genetic manipulation to generate recombinant hybrid genomes with compatible and incompatible combinations of two species genes. Sequencing many recombinant hybrid genomes will reveal the locations and identities of yeast speciation genes.

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GEE and NPP exceed the Russell group average in the National Student Survey 2017

We are proud to announce that Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment and School of Pharmacy exceeded the Russell group average for “academic support” in the most recent NSS Survey. Similarly, Department of Neuroscience, Physiology & Pharmacology excelled in “teaching”.

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Biosciences UG students contribution to iGEM team success

4 Biosciences undergraduate students: Paola Handal (BSc Molecular Biology), Anima Sutradhar (BSc Molecular Biology), Camillo Moschner (BSc Biomedical Sciences) and Hristina Dimitrova (BSc Biotechnology) were part of UCL’s gold medal awarded iGEM team.

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1st annual Mini Glia Symposium

On 21st Nov 2017 our NPP PhD student Yajing Xu and her committee brought together a group of 35 PhD students and postdocs across UCL to attend the 1st annual Mini Glia Symposium to encourage exchange of glia research.  From 2 - 4pm the 4 speakers below engaged the group and from 4 - 6pm 12 posters were hung and everyone liaised whilst enjoying refreshments and sandwiches.  

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Official launch of CLOE

November 2nd 2017 was the official launch of the UCL Centre for Life’s Origins and Evolution.

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Evans Lab round-up

The Evans lab welcomes a new PhD student from Mexico - Ivan Rodrigo Reyes Perez. Ivan, who has successfully obtained a CONACyT studentship from the Mexican government, will be working with Professor Evans and Dr Yamamoto on eye and skull development.

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UGI welcomes Dr Maria Secrier

UCL Genetics Institute is delighted to welcome Dr Maria Secrier, the new Lecturer in Computational Biology.

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2 new papers co-authored by CDB's Dr Gerold Baier published by Frontiers in Computational Neuroscience and Network Neuroscience

Electro-cortical activity in patients with epilepsy may show abnormal rhythmic transients in response to stimulation. Even when using the same stimulation parameters in the same patient, wide variability in the duration of transient response has been reported. These transients have long been considered important for the mapping of the excitability levels in the epileptic brain but their dynamic mechanism is still not well understood. To investigate the occurrence of abnormal transients dynamically, we use a thalamo-cortical neural population model of epileptic spike-wave activity and study the interaction between slow and fast subsystems. In a reduced version of the thalamo-cortical model, slow wave oscillations arise from a fold of cycles (FoC) bifurcation. This marks the onset of a region of bistability between a high amplitude oscillatory rhythm and the background state. In vicinity of the bistability in parameter space, the model has excitable dynamics, showing prolonged rhythmic transients in response to suprathreshold pulse stimulation. We analyse the state space geometry of the bistable and excitable states, and find that the rhythmic transient arises when the impending FoC bifurcation deforms the state space and creates an area of locally reduced attraction to the fixed point. This area essentially allows trajectories to dwell there before escaping to the stable steady state, thus creating rhythmic transients. In the full thalamo-cortical model, we find a similar FoC bifurcation structure. Based on the analysis, we propose an explanation of why stimulation induced epileptiform activity may vary between trials, and predict how the variability could be related to ongoing oscillatory background activity. We compare our dynamic mechanism with other mechanisms (such as a slow parameter change) to generate excitable transients, and we discuss the proposed excitability mechanism in the context of stimulation responses in the epileptic cortex.

Read full paper: Understanding epileptiform after-discharges as rhythmic oscillatory transients
Authors: Gerold Baier, Peter N. Taylor and Yujiang Wang

Electroencephalography (EEG) allows recording of cortical activity at high temporal resolution. EEG recordings can be summarised along different dimensions using network-level quantitative measures, e.g. channel-to-channel correlation, or band power distributions across channels. These reveal network patterns that unfold over a range of different time scales and can be tracked dynamically.
Here we describe the dynamics of network-state transitions in EEG recordings of spontaneous brain activity in normally developing infants and infants with severe early infantile epileptic encephalopathies (n=8, age: 1-8 months). We describe differences in measures of EEG dynamics derived from band power, and correlation-based summaries of network-wide brain activity.
We further show that EEGs from different patient groups and controls may be distinguishable based on a small set of the novel quantitative measures introduced here, which describe dynamic network state switching. Quantitative measures related to the sharpness of switching from one correlation pattern to another show the largest differences between groups.
These findings reveal that the early epileptic encephalopathies are associated with characteristic dynamic features at the network level. Quantitative network-based analyses like the one presented here may in future inform the clinical use of quantitative EEG for diagnosis.

Read full paper: Network dynamics in the healthy and epileptic developing brain
Authors:  RE Rosch, T Baldeweg, F Moeller and G Baier

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The Crick: Bringing Biomedical Research To Life!

This Student Selected Component (SSC) for 1st year medical students was set up this year by Drs Faye Gishen (NHS consultant physician at the Royal Free Hospital) and Gregor Campbell (Department of Cell & Developmental Biology) with the assistance of Dr Hazel Smith, the Faculty of Life Sciences (FLS) Faculty Tutor and teaching officers at the Francis Crick Institute.

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The relentless rise of migration in Europe over last 10,000 years - a new study led by researchers from GEE, University of Cambridge and King’s College London

Three major pulses of increased mobility in Europe over the last 10,000 years and a general upward trend in migration have been uncovered in a new study led by researchers from UCL, University of Cambridge and King’s College London.
The new method, published in PNAS, allows, for the first time, to directly quantify changes in prehistoric migration rates using ancient genetic data over the last 30,000 years.

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Congratulations to Helen Robertson

Please join us in congratulating Helen who has passed her PhD viva. Helen, who is part of Max Telford’s lab, successfully defended her thesis entitled ‘Molecular approaches for studying the evolution of the Xenacoelomorpha’.

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UCL-led ‘Museums on Prescription’ wins health awards

A UCL and Canterbury Christ Church University-led project ‘Museums on Prescription’ has won two prestigious Royal Society of Public Health Awards for ‘Health & Wellbeing’ and ‘Arts and Health’, with a special commendation for ‘Sustainable Development’.

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Dr Filipe Cabreiro receives the EMBO Young Investigators award

We are pleased to announce Dr Filipe Cabreiro has been awarded the prestigious EMBO Young Investigators award in recognition to his exceptional research and scientific potential.
Through the programme, EMBO identifies and supports some of the best researchers under 40 years of age who are in the process of establishing their own laboratory.
In the most recent round of applications the programme received 224 eligible applications out of which 28 young researchers were selected to join a network of 47 current Young Investigators.
Please join us in congratulating Dr Cabreiro.

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How $14 billion protected Earth's species

Study involving Dr David Redding shows how billions of dollars of financial investment in global conservation has significantly reduced biodiversity loss.

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Philanthropic Donation to the Institute of Healthy Ageing

David Gems’s research group is delighted to announce the receipt of a philanthropic donation from the entrepreneur and writer Jim Mellon, chairman of Burnbrae. This donation (~£100K) will allow the purchase of a new structured illumination microscope system (Zeiss Apotome) which will be used in studies of ageing in animal models, particularly the development of senescent pathologies. This lovely instrument with its technical innovations will significantly enhance the capacity of research at the Institute of Healthy Ageing to understand the causes of ageing.

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