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Effective treatment for obesity remains a challenge and the only intervention proven to maintain weight loss is bariatric surgery. Intrigued by the beneficial effect that this procedure has on the composition of gut microbiota, Dr Fredrik Bäckhed explores the possibility of mimicking these changes to develop a treatment for obesity that won’t require going under the knife.
The abundant presence of a certain bacteria in our intestine, Akkermansia muciniphila, to give it its full name, is an excellent sign according to metabolism and nutrition specialist prof. Patrice Cani. With his team, they discovered the role of these bacteria in reducing cardiometabolic risk factors - like insulin resistance or hypertension – that are leading causes in the development of cardiovascular diseases and type-2 diabetes.
ELECTION SERIES #3
The traditional pencil-and-paper method to mark your vote in the polling booth has been gradually replaced by electronic voting machines in many countries, in Europe and beyond. Ensuring the security of electronic voting machines and quelling fears of vote-rigging have become ever more important. One ERC-funded researcher has been working tirelessly to develop such an e-voting system through two projects, SEEVS and its follow-up SEEVCA.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), more than 1.9 billion adults were overweight in 2016. Of these, over 650 million were obese and therefore at a higher risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders and some forms of cancers. In one of the largest studies of its kind, researchers have looked into the reasons why some people are more likely to gain weight while others manage to stay thin.
The increasing development of wearable technology sparks the need for new, innovative ways to interact with our shiny gadgets. Deviating from the conventional approach based on touch-sensitive devices, Prof. Jürgen Steimle aims at producing body-worn user interfaces that can be applied directly on the skin. Highly personalised, biocompatible and ultrathin, these devices will seamlessly blend with the human skin to create a technological extension of our body.
The amount of currently available biomedical data is overwhelming. Large databases exist at different scales, from genes, to proteins, to patients' histories. But what do scientists do with all this information? Serbian-born Professor Nataša Pržulj, from University College London, works with Big Data to establish patterns and gain knowledge that could revolutionise how we treat diseases.
Travellers already benefit from applications harnessing data from sensor networks and smartphone users. They calculate alternative routes, help plan carpooling routes, or support the optimisation of public transport. With her ERC grant, Prof. Vana Kalogeraki works on a comprehensive software framework that will simplify the development of such mobile human-centred systems and make them more predictable and reliable.
Acetylsalicylic acid, most commonly known as aspirin, was already part of the Egyptian pharmacopeia, used also in ancient Greece and in the Middle Ages to break fevers. Taken all over the world to kill pain and reduce inflammation, today aspirin helps to prevent heart attacks, strokes and blood clots. Its emerging role in preventing and treating cancer is on the rise too. But how does this drug act on your blood cells? ERC grantee Prof Valerie O’Donnell works on the answer.
Is a precise answer always better than a slightly less detailed one? Not necessarily. Some problems could take forever to compute and tie up vast IT capacity. Where solutions are needed urgently, e.g. in business or manufacturing, near-enough can be more than enough. ERC-funded research has produced a library of fast, powerful approximation algorithms.
We are nowadays in the middle of the second quantum revolution. The first one brought forward the rules that govern physics at the atomic level – the quantum mechanics. The second entails the use of these rules for developing new technologies. In his ERC-funded project, Prof. Andris Ambainis from the University of Latvia investigates new methods of developing quantum algorithms and the limits of quantum computing.