Publication date: 2008-09-05
This week we celebrate the 300th edition of CORDIS Express. But before we raise our glass to the next 300, we will - as usual - provide a varied overview of the past week’s news and developments in research and technology: from EU science policy in the marine sector, through cloning, to the latest discoveries in animal reproduction science, water treatment and low-temperature plasma technologies.
News - Top Stories
The European Commission has set out its plans to strengthen links between the marine and maritime research communities. The Commission hopes its new European Strategy for Marine and Maritime Research will enhance the conservation of the fragile marine environment while facilitating the development of maritime activities such as shipping and fisheries. 'When it comes to major challenges such as reconciling maritime economic activities with the preservation of marine ecosystems, science and technology can play a major role,' stated EU Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potocnik. 'The Strategy for marine and maritime research should, therefore, be seen as one of pioneer actions for the implementation of the European Research Area.'
On 3 September the European Parliament adopted a resolution calling for a ban on the cloning of animals for food supply purposes, as well as an embargo on imports of cloned animals and their produce and offspring. The main concerns were threats to animal welfare, genetic diversity, consumer confidence and the image and substance of the European agricultural model. Animal cloning is usually carried out using somatic cell nucleus transfer (SCNT). This process involves inserting genes from the donor animal into an egg that has had its nucleus removed. This egg then forms an embryo, which is transferred to a surrogate mother.
EU-funded researchers have improved the survival rates of newborn piglets in just one generation by applying simple selective breeding techniques. The scientists hope their findings will lead to a reduction in use of the farrowing crate, a metal cage that has been widely criticised by animal welfare groups. Neonatal mortality is a serious problem for pig farmers: on average 20% of piglets per litter die. This is not just an animal welfare problem; at current prices, early piglet deaths would cost a farmer with 250 sows over €50,000 per year. At the moment, farrowing crates are commonly used to prevent sows from accidently crushing their piglets.
These articles have been taken from CORDIS News, a daily news service updated every weekday lunchtime. For more research and innovation headlines, go to the CORDIS News homepage.
Focus on Innovation
Researchers from Queen's University Belfast, Ireland, have developed a low-cost, eco-friendly and easy-to-use groundwater treatment technology that addresses the problem of widespread arsenic poisoning in southern Asia. The development came out of a project called TiPOT (Technology for in-situ treatment of groundwater for potable and irrigation purposes), which is part of the EU-funded Asia Pro Eco Programme. A 2007 report estimated that over 70 million people in eastern India and Bangladesh are regularly exposed to high levels of arsenic in drinking water and staple agricultural products such as rice. Worldwide, an estimated 137 million people in seven countries are affected.
Future of Research
Researchers from Ruhr University Bochum in Germany and the University of California, Berkeley in the US have discovered a mechanism for energy coupling in low-temperature plasmas that radically improves our understanding of how these versatile, manmade plasmas actually work. Plasma is an ionised gas, or a collection of free-moving electrons and ions, that is electrically neutral and constitutes a state of matter separate from gases, liquids and solids. It is electrically conductive and can be steered by electromagnetic fields, which makes it ideal for application in any number of innovative technologies. Low-temperature (or 'technological') plasmas make possible countless feats of micro-processing, lighting and engineering.
A Swedish study using data from the national registers found an increased risk for bipolar disorder (BPD) in the offspring of new fathers aged over 54. In particular, early-onset BPD was found to be closely linked with increasing paternal age. BPD is a brain disorder that causes unusually severe shifts in a person's mood, energy and ability to function. It typically develops in late adolescence or early adulthood, although it can occur during childhood or later in life. The symptoms of BPD range from euphoria and drug abuse to depression and chronic pain, and can lead to damaged relationships, impaired ability to function and suicide.
The CASCADE open forum is scheduled to take place in Brussels, Belgium, on 2 October. It will address issues of 'Endocrine disruption - present health threats and future research needs'. The mission of the forum is to provide the European science community and stakeholders with an open platform for debate and communication on endocrine disruption (ED). More specifically, topics to be covered include health threats, risk and hazard assessment, present position of European research, new detection methods and models, industry demands on method development, and global screening projects. The event is to present Europe's leading research trends in the research field of ED. It is an opportunity to discuss and influence the future of ED research and innovation in Europe.
The European research project RIGHT ('RNA interference technology as human therapeutic tool') is organising its final international symposium on ribonucleic acid interference (RNAi) in vivo applications from 3 to 5 November in Brussels, Belgium. New developments will be presented in three major RNAi-related research areas, namely chemical modifications of small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) and delivery strategies: modifications, formulations, targeted delivery, pharmacokinetics; vector systems for RNA interference approaches: viral delivery systems, microRNA regulated vector systems, non-viral vectors; RNA interference towards therapeutic approaches: in vivo models, clinical trials.
Calls and Tenders
The European Commission has published a number calls for proposals under the specific programmes Cooperation and Capacities of the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). The calls address the following areas: Cooperation (Security, Space, Health (two calls), Environment (including climate change), Food, agriculture and fisheries, and biotechnology, Energy (three calls), Socio-economic sciences and humanities (three calls), Biorefinery joint call (two sections)) and Capacities (Research for the benefit of SMEs (three calls), Activities of international cooperation (four calls), Science in society, Regions of knowledge).
Bioinformatics, drug discovery and computer-aided drug design are the areas of expertise of Selvita, a research service provider based in Poland. Offering this expertise, Selvita is looking to join research projects in various work programme areas of the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) related to various aspects of discovery of drug with a focus on designing new compounds in silico based on quantitative structure-activity relations, computer analysis of receptor interactions and similar methods. The company sees its core strengths in molecule discovery and development, high-throughput bioinformatics technologies, general chemistry and analytical development services, computer-aided drug design, cheminformatics, virtual screening and ADME (‘Absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion’) analysis.
The CORDIS Partners Service publish partner profiles and find research collaborators to take part in EU-funded research, join a consortium or run a private collaboration in your area of interest. You can also search by profile type, programme and/or country to Find project partners for FP6 and FP7. To find partners for the Sixth Framework Programme, go to our FP7 Partners Service, which also features an advanced search facility.
At the beginning of September, the SM4ALL (‘Smart homes for all; am embedded middleware platform for pervasive and immersive environments for all’) project has taken up its work. Its objective is to study an innovative middleware platform connecting smart embedded systems in various devices such as cars, home and office appliances, communication and control devices. By using the system design principle of composability and semantic techniques, the project consortium is hoping to make the platform scalable and fail-proof, while protecting the users’ privacy and the security of the system at the same time. SM4ALL brings together ten partners including universities, research centres and businesses from the sector. It will run for 36 months and receive €2.9 million from the EU under the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).
Finally and briefly…
How would you react if your potential girlfriend/boyfriend and/or prospective wife/husband told you: ‘Gee, you look just like my mum/dad!’? I, for one, would not appreciate it too much (i.e. throw a fit, cry and possibly never talk to that formerly potential, then definitely-not-boyfriend again). It’s not that my boyfriends’ mothers tend to be unattractive. It’s just something that I - like most people, I guess - wouldn’t want to hear. New research by Hungarian scientists, however, now indicates that there might be scientifically confirmable fact behind such observations. In a study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, they describe how ‘facialmetric similarities mediate mate choices’ through ‘sexual imprinting on opposite-sex parents’.