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Weekly roundup 13/01/2017

Spider silk, the inspiration behind the latest 'click-chemistry' development.

13/01/2016

In the news recently:

Plans for the tidal lagoon in Swansea Bay have been backed by former UK energy minister Chris Hendry’s government-commissioned review. His independent report into the £1.3bn project concluded it would make a ‘strong contribution’ to the UK's energy supply, stated his belief that the technology was cost effective, and would bring ‘significant economic opportunity’. The Swansea Bay project would involve 16 turbines along a breakwater and is also being discussed as a prototype for more, larger lagoons.
The UK government has yet to agree on a deal and a marine licence would also need to be approved. You can read the report here.

‘Click-chemistry’, a class of biocompatible reactions intended primarily to join substrates of choice with specific biomolecules, has been used for the first time to attach molecules to artificially produced spider silk synthesised by E.coli bacteria. A research team from the University of Nottingham, funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), published the study in Advanced Materials after five years’ work. The chemically functionalised spider silk could be tailored to applications used in drug delivery, regenerative medicine, and wound healing. Read more about the work here.

Dr Mike Galsworthy and Professor Martin McKee, leading members of Scientists for the EU and Healthier in the EU, respectively, have put together an eight-point plan ‘to put UK science on the front foot’. It covers funding, immigration, regulations, IP, collaboration, and policy, among other aspects. You can read their report here.

The tightest knot ever made has been achieved by scientists at the University of Manchester, from a strand of atoms that curls around in a triple loop and crosses itself eight times. Made from 192 atoms linked in a chain, the knot is only two microns wide. Although the record is somewhat niche, the scientists involved hope to have opened a whole new world of materials. ‘We know how revolutionary knotting and weaving were for people in the stone age. It had an impact on clothing, tools, fishing nets and so on. Maybe we’ll see just as great advantages from being able to do this with molecular strands’ said David Leigh, a Professor of Chemistry at the University of Manchester. Read more about the ‘knotty professors’ here.

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