Is the end in sight for reading glasses?

A University of Leeds researcher is developing a new eye lens, made from the same material found in smartphone and TV screens, which could restore long-sightedness in older people. As people age, their lenses lose flexibility and elasticity. This leads to a condition known as presbyopia, common in people over 45 years old, and can require optical aids, such as reading glasses. Devesh Mistry, a postgraduate research student in the School of Physics and Astronomy, is now working with liquid crystal to create a truly adjustable artificial lens.   

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Learning the right lesson from Mendel's peas

Biologists arguing about whether the results of experiments by the man hailed as the father of modern genetics are "too good to be true" have been distracted from a more important debate. In a new paper in Science about Gregor Mendel, the 19th century Austrian monk whose experiments on peas revealed the basic principles of heredity, University of Leeds science historian Professor Gregory Radick suggests the time has come for a different perspective on the controversy, which over the years has encompassed allegations of fraud and Cold War political pressure.

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Leeds wins £4.2m funding to develop robot fixers of the future

The University of Leeds is leading a pioneering £4.2m national infrastructure research project with the vision of creating self-repairing cities. The project will develop small robots to identify problems with utility pipes, street lights and roads and fix them with minimal environmental impact and disruption to the public.The project is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and was announced on Friday 16 October by the Universities and Science Minister, Jo Johnson. The team also includes researchers from some of the UK’s other top universities including Birmingham, Southampton and UCL, with Nottingham, Sheffield, Oxford and Imperial as supporting partners. 

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Supercoiled DNA is far more dynamic than the “Watson-Crick” double helix

Researchers have imaged in unprecedented detail the three-dimensional structure of supercoiled DNA, revealing that its shape is much more dynamic than the well-known double helix. Various DNA shapes, including figure-8s, were imaged using a powerful microscopy technique by researchers at the Baylor College of Medicine in the US, and then examined using supercomputer simulations run at the University of Leeds. As reported online on 12 October in the journal Nature Communications, the simulations also show the dynamic nature of DNA, which constantly wiggles and morphs into different shapes – a far cry from the commonly held idea of a rigid and static double helix structure.  

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CUHK Jockey Club Institute of Ageing Holds Launch Conference on ‘Creating Age-Friendly Community'

The Chinese University of Hong Kong Jockey Club Institute of Ageing held a Launch Conference on ‘Creating Age-Friendly Communities’ on 8 October 2015 to enable experience sharing and discussion on various aspects of the theme. Topics covered in the conference included: Redesigning Communities for Aged Society, Frailty and Geriatric Syndromes, and Age-friendly Hospital and Service. The event attracted some 300 renowned academics in gerontology from the U.S., Singapore, Japan, mainland China and Hong Kong, as well as representatives from organizations working on improving seniors well-being and welfare.

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Unlocking the secrets of consumer behaviour

The Consumer Data Research Centre (CDRC) launched its data services on Thursday 1 October, offering new data for researchers to garner unprecedented insights into consumer behaviour. The multi-million pound Consumer Data Research Centre (CDRC) initiative, commissioned by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), is a collaboration between the UK's leading universities and a growing list of industry partners to better understand the millions of data points we generate each day. Bringing together the universities of Leeds, Liverpool, Oxford and University College London, the CDRC has created a safe and secure data infrastructure which seeks to share these insights with academia, industry and the public at large. Whilst protecting privacy, data will - for the first time - be routinely collected and shared with the CDRC by major retailers, local government organisations and businesses across the UK to improve understanding of these complex patterns of consumer behaviour.

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Icelandic volcano’s toxic gas is treble that of Europe’s industry

A huge volcanic eruption in Iceland emitted on average three times as much of a toxic gas as all European industry combined, a study led by the University of Leeds has revealed. Discharge of lava from the eruption at Bárðarbunga volcano, starting in August 2014, released a huge mass – up to 120,000 tonnes per day – of sulphur dioxide gas. These emissions can cause acid rain and respiratory problems. Researchers hope that their study, published by the Journal of Geophysical Research, will aid understanding of how such eruptions can affect air quality in the UK. 

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If you’re sitting down, don’t sit still, new research suggests

New research suggests that the movements involved in fidgeting may counteract the adverse health impacts of sitting for long periods. In a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, a team of researchers, co-led by the University of Leeds and UCL, report that an increased risk of mortality from sitting for long periods was only found in those who consider themselves very occasional fidgeters. They found no increased risk of mortality from longer sitting times, compared to more active women, in those who considered themselves as moderately or very fidgety.  

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Swinging on ‘monkey bars’: motor proteins caught in the act

The first images of motor proteins in action were published in the journal Nature Communications on Monday 14 September 2015. These proteins are vital to complex life, forming the transport infrastructure that allows different parts of cells to specialise in particular functions. Until now, the way they move has never been directly observed. Researchers at the University of Leeds and in Japan used electron microscopes to capture images of the largest type of motor protein, called dynein, during the act of stepping along its molecular track. 

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WUN Universities Use MOOCs to Expand Global Reach

The higher education sector is rapidly evolving as a result of new technologies and globalisation. WUN universities continue to innovate, using these new technologies to expand their offerings and global reach. The Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) is one such technology, allowing students from around the world to access world-class expertise from anywhere at any time. Below are ten free MOOCs, offered by WUN universities through FutureLearn, beginning over the coming months.

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New Australian Advisory Group for Australia Africa Relations (AGAAR)

The Foreign Minister of Australia, the Hon Julie Bishop launched the new AGAAR on Friday 4thSeptember. She stated that the group would advise her and the Australian Government on economic diplomacy and development of Australian African mutual interests within Australia’s overall international engagement. These equal partnerships in mid-term programs and a long term framework for cooperation would inform the government and stakeholders with evidence based policy options. The Advisory Group was charged to help develop such a framework. The emphasis would be on sustainable and specific activities, with Australian African characteristics, in key sectoral areas and with key countries. The approach would build teamwork between governments, academic and business, along with NGO’s and international agencies.

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CUHK Researcher Recognized by WMO for Global Food Security Study

Prof. Amos P.K. Tai of the Earth System Science Programme at The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) was recently conferred the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) Research Award for Young Scientists for 2015. The award was presented to Prof.Tai for his paper in Nature Climate Change, Volume 4, 2014, titled “Threat to future global food security from climate change and ozone air pollution”. Prof. Tai is the first Hong Kong scientist receiving the Award.

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Unravelling the mystery of pain

Patients with chronic whiplash experience long-lasting pain, but doctors and researchers struggle to explain the causes. Solbjørg Makalani Myrtveit wants to help these often misunderstood patients.

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