Weekly roundup: 24/03/2017

24 March 2017


In the news recently:

Stephen Metcalfe MP, Chair of the UK Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, has published a statement outlining the priorities for science as the country triggers Article 50 on 29 March and starts Brexit negotiations. A panel joined Metcalfe in Parliament to reaffirm the views of the scientific community that the UK must send a bold, positive message that it is one of the best places in the world to research and innovate, and capture the benefits stemming from this to improve the lives of people all over the UK. The statement can be found in full here.

Also in UK politics, Greg Clark, Minister for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy, unveiled plans for a new electric taxi factory in the Midlands. The £325 million project is being primarily funded by the private sector and will create 1,000 new jobs to develop the new zero emissions taxi and other hybrid technology vehicles. The Department for Transport has also promised a further £64 million investment, offering a £7,500 discount to taxi drivers who buy a new electric vehicle, as well as the creation of electric charging points throughout the UK.

A team of British scientists has used genome sequencing to make a crucial breakthrough in the treatment and diagnosis of TB. The researchers, based in Birmingham and Oxford, isolated different strains of the disease, which means patients can now be diagnosed and receive the most appropriate drugs in around a week rather than wait months. It is believed to be the first time the technique has been used on this scale anywhere in the world. Read more here.

The main cause of ageing in biological cells is the excited oxygen molecule singlet oxygen. To counter this, an enzyme called superoxide dismutase eliminates superoxide as a free radical. Superoxide also occurs in cell respiration for energy production and is the preliminary stage and thus source of singlet oxygen. A researcher from TU Graz, Stefan Freunberger, has applied his understanding of this process to make a breakthrough in battery systems. He said, ‘In essence, the battery needs the function of the enzyme superoxide dismutase. We were able to identify a class of molecules which can fulfil this function. There has to be a suitable way of getting the "enzyme" into the battery system -- either through the electrolyte itself or by means of an additive which dissolves in the electrolyte. This is an initial approach that works but it is definitely not the optimum way. Behind this big door which we pushed open, there is a lot of work to do.’ His article on this research can be found in Nature Energy.

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