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A European biologist has pioneered a new way of looking at biodiversity change, with the help of the European Research Council (ERC). A key result of this work has been the launch of an open-access biodiversity database, which will help researchers and conservation managers find sustainable solutions to protect wildlife.
Quantum computers are the Holy Grail of information theorists. For years, scientists have been trying to crack their mysteries, to harvest their interesting applications. They are predicted to have tremendous computational power, exponentially larger than the computers available today. However, so far, they have been difficult to actually build. Prof. Ashley Montanaro will investigate the path from the theoretical foundations of quantum computing their applications to real-life problems.
The human brain is outstanding among mammalian brains, containing around 100 billion neurons (more than the number of stars in the Milky Way) and over 100 trillion connections between them. Yet, when it comes to making decisions, this impressive organ does not prevent us from making errors – even avoidable ones.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide. Over 2 million new cases were diagnosed in 2018. Although tools of diagnosis and the diversity of treatment have improved assuring now a 90% five-year survival rate, metastatic breast cancer remains incurable. But will they always be? Dr Manuel Thery works on the next generation of drugs that would promote novel strategies in the fight against breast carcinoma cells.
When you think of the Renaissance period in Europe, what springs to mind? Perhaps the Medici family in Italy where the Renaissance is said to have begun, or the discovery of the ‘New World’ by Europeans like Christopher Columbus or Abel Tasman. But have you heard of the Jagiellonians?
Food security is one of the grand challenges of our time, but many factors hinder meeting global targets set in the “Zero Hunger” UN Sustainable Development Goal. Two billion people are thought to be micronutrient deficient, yet in many poor countries, fish could provide a readily available and cheap source of micronutrients and protein. Prof. Christina Hicks is particularly interested in fish micronutrients and small-scale fisheries, a sector that holds potential for feeding people in coastal areas but is often forgotten in world strategies against malnutrition.
There is a web of filaments – essentially long strands of gas – that connects all the galaxies in the universe. This is known as the Cosmic Web and, so far, astrophysicist had only a partial idea of what it may have looked like. Now, ERC funded astronomer Michele Fumagalli, and his collaborators from the University of Durham and the RIKEN Cluster for Pioneering Research in Japan, are able to show the stunning images of this common thread that runs through our stars.
About the size of a big cherry, the first-of-its-kind 3D printed heart has cells, blood vessels, ventricles and chambers. This feat is the work of Prof. Tal Dvir and his team at Tel Aviv University. They managed to engineer such miniature organs using cells and biological materials that are originated from human patients. Besides the remarkable technical achievement, this breakthrough could potentially be the answer to the shortage of organ donors in the future.
Stressed plants typically stop growing. With her ERC grant, Prof. Ana Caño-Delgado has developed and is applying an innovative approach to generate drought-resistant plants that continue growing. This could play an important role in ensuring food security when water is scarce.
Two volunteers are the first above-knee amputees in the world to feel their prosthetic foot and knee in real time. Their bionic prosthesis, developed by a European team of researchers, has sensors that connect to residual nerves in the thigh. The resulting neurofeedback reduces physical and mental strain for prosthesis users as well as their phantom limb pain. They can also walk faster and with more confidence. Researchers, partly supported by ERC funds, recently reported on their achievement in Nature Medicine.