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Latest papers published by the Evans Lab

"The first record of albanerpetontid amphibians (Amphibia: Albanerpetontidae) from East Asia"
Abstract: Albanerpetontids are an enigmatic fossil amphibian group known from deposits of Middle Jurassic to Pliocene age. The oldest and youngest records are from Europe, but the group appeared in North America in the late Early Cretaceous and radiated there during the Late Cretaceous. Until now, the Asian record has been limited to fragmentary specimens from the Late Cretaceous of Uzbekistan. This led to speculation that albanerpetontids migrated into eastern Asia from North America in the Albian to Cenomanian interval via the Beringian land bridge. However, here we describe albanerpetontid specimens from the Lower Cretaceous Kuwajima Formation of Japan, a record that predates their first known occurrence in North America. One specimen, an association of skull and postcranial bones from a single small individual, permits the diagnosis of a new taxon. High Resolution X-ray Computed Microtomography has revealed previously unrecorded features of albanerpetontid skull morphology in three dimensions, including the presence of a supraoccipital and epipterygoids, neither of which occurs in any known lissamphibian. The placement of this new taxon within the current phylogenetic framework for Albanerpetontidae is complicated by a limited overlap of comparable elements, most notably the non-preservation of the premaxillae in the Japanese taxon. Nonetheless, phylogenetic analysis places the new taxon closer to Albanerpeton than to Anoualerpeton, Celtedens, or Wesserpeton, although Bootstrap support values are weak. The results also question the monophyly of Albanerpeton as currently defined.

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New paper from Claudio Stern’s lab in PNAS: “Neural induction by the node and placode induction by head mesoderm share an initial state resembling neural plate border and ES cells”

During development, various organ systems are set aside from the rest of the embryo as a result of “induction” from specific signalling tissues, called organizers. This paper reveals that inductions of the nervous system and of cranial sensory placodes, by different organizers, begin by the same step, which resembles the pluripotent state of embryonic stem cells. This suggests that the first event in specifying organ systems is an “erasure” of information that reverts cells back to an earlier developmental state before redirecting them to their final fate.

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BBSRC will fund project to uncover proteins and cellular processes important for ageing in fission yeast

Ageing is highly complex and affected by diverse proteins and processes. Modern biological assays can simultaneously measure properties and interactions of thousands of proteins or genes, but it is challenging to make sense of such large datasets. Advances in computational data-analysis methods, called ‘machine learning’, provide exciting opportunities to get the most from large biological datasets and thus increase our understanding of complex processes like ageing. This interdisciplinary project involving three UCL Departments, led by Jürg Bähler in collaboration with Christine Orengo and John Shawe-Taylor, will use fission yeast as a genetic model organism, together with multi-step machine learning, to comprehensively identify biological processes with fundamental importance for ageing.

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GEE's Dr Johnathan Labbadia publishes paper in Cell Reports suggesting that low levels of mitochondrial stress can have beneficial effects on protein folding and ageing

The ability to react to, and counter, the deleterious effects of protein folding stress is crucial for cells to function optimally. As cells age, the capacity to prevent protein misfolding and aggregation declines, driving cell dysfunction and tissue degeneration in adulthood. At present, little is known about the factors that regulate this phenomenon. Therefore, identifying pathways that promote or suppress protein aggregation with age could help identify new ways to maintain tissue function later in life. Using the nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans, Labbadia and colleagues have found that low levels of mitochondrial stress early in life can suppress age-related protein misfolding in the cytosol, thereby enhancing cell robustness, and preserving tissue function with age. These effects are dependent on the conserved transcription factor HSF-1, suggesting that during times of adversity, mitochondria can communicate with the cytosolic protein quality control machinery to boost protein folding capacity and promote long-term health.

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"Gender equality from a European perspective: myth and reality" - new paper by Professor Patricia Salinas (CDB) published in Neuron

In the past 50 years, significant progress in women’s equality has been made worldwide. Western countries, particularly European countries, have implemented initiatives to attain a more gender-balanced workforce with the introduction of family friendly policies, by trying to narrow the gender pay gap and by promoting women’s career progression. In academia, however, fewer women reach top leadership positions than those in the political arena. These findings suggest that academia needs to carefully evaluate why these new policies have not been very effective. In this article, we report on the progress made in higher education, the shortcomings, and how new initiatives hold great promise for improving gender equality in academia around the globe.

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A novel strategy for ex vivo gene therapy using artificial chromosomes in human muscle stem cells published by CDB's Francesco Saverio Tedesco and colleagues in EMBO Molecular Medicine

In this new study Sara Benedetti et al. have shown that reversible immortalisation of human dystrophic muscle progenitor cells enables their genetic correction with novel human artificial chromosomes (HACs) containing the entire dystrophin genetic locus, providing evidence of translation of HAC technology for ex vivo gene therapy of Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The authors have first used lentiviral vectors to deliver specific genes to extend proliferation of different types of human skeletal muscle progenitor cells. Importantly, they have also made this process reversible. The extension of the proliferative ability of muscle cells derived from patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy allowed their genetic correction with a novel HAC. Finally, this strategy enabled the development of a next‐generation, multifunctional HAC containing several different genes, which could be one of the largest and most complex gene therapy vectors developed to date. This exciting study has been developed in collaboration with scientists at the University of Manchester, University of Milan (Italy) and Tottori University (Japan).

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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 Janouškovec 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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