Friday, May 30, 2008

The first workshop of the PRBB Intervals programme, a success

The intervals programme of the PRBB has just started. It offers PRBB residents “a break from their normal day to day work, to step back and reflect on the world in which they are embedded and to discuss and learn from each other by sharing ideas”, in words of Elinor Thompson, the organiser of the programme.

The activities of Intervals centre on two main themes:

- Skills and learning for a flexible future
- Biomedicine and Society

So far, a ‘media skills’ workshop took place, given by Eric May. He is American but lives in Germany, and has loads of experience in communication, especially on TV, including 20 years as an editor/producer for CBS in San Francisco.

The workshop was one day and we were about 10 people, mostly PhD students and postdocs (and me! I still don’t know how to define myself…). It was great, and we learned a great deal: about the importance of understanding the audience you are talking to; about how the media professionals and scientists are not that different after all…; how to react in a crisis situation (e.g. a TV interview in which you are suddenly accused of fraud in your research); about how to choose an effective sound bite (and what a sound bite actually is!  a 15-20 seconds stretch of interview that is chosen to be introduced into a news story or documentary. The most important thing is that it has to convey a whole thought); etc.

It was very practical and good fun, and I hope there will be more like this! All partakers participated very actively and I think they all took some good messages home. I certainly did.


Next date for the diary: Tuesday June 3rd (next week!!). Nobel Prize laureate Sir Harry Kroto will come to the PRBB to give a general talk on "Science, society and sustainability” in the morning. At 4pm he will continue with a seminar for PRBB residents, to show us how to communicate science in a creative way…

I won’t miss it!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A successful capoeira workshop with continuity

I am very glad to say that the two-day capoeira workshop that took place at PRBB in May was very successful amongst the partakers. So much so that the movements and songs they learned felt too little and they all want to learn more about this Brazilian martial art. And they will, with the new capoeira regular classes that are being organised and that will start next June at the PRBB.

Capoeira classes will be once a week, from 7 to 9pm. The day is yet to be decided, but it's sure to be a lot of fun!!

Here's some pictures of the 'taster workshop'.

Heroine and other anecdotes of the brain

Did you know that heroine was first synthesized and commerciased by Bayer in 1898 as the 1st non-addictive analgesic opioid? Yep!

Opioids are substances that contain morphine or morphine-like molecules and have therefore two main characteristics: they are very potent analgesics (they decrease the pain), but they are also very addictive. Since they were discovered about 200 years ago, pharmaceutical companies have always tried to find the ‘perfect analgesic’, with zero addiction problem. Bayer thought it had got it right 110 years ago, but nope: heroine turned out to be even more addictive than morphine!

To date, still no miracle analgesic exists, and the addiction problem is ever bigger.

Brigitte Kieffer, from the Institut de Génétique et de Biologie Moléculaire et Cellulaire in Strasbourg, gave a talk at the PRBB yesterday precisely about opioid receptors and how they affect brain function. She was involved in the cloning of the very first opioid receptor, and has done a lot of research into the subject since then.

She fave a nice historical talk and explained what she has found out about two of the three opioid receptor families: Mu and Delta. In a nutshell, Mu receptors are involved with the pain and reward mechanisms, while Delta is more related to emotional responses.

There’s so much more to be learned about this exciting subject. The brain is a mistery that we might never decipher completely…

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A humanised mouse cell

This image is by David Domínguez, a researcher from IMIM, and it shows a heterocarion, a fusion between a mouse and a human cell, dyed with three different colours. In the first image, in blue, we can see the DNA and the granular chromatin of the mouse nucleus, compared with the human. The second one, in green, shows the DNA which is replicating (both the murine and human), and in the last one we can visualise the cytoplasmic vesicles in red and the two nuclei in black.

The creation of heterocarions is used to study proteins that come in and out of the nucleus. In this case, mouse cells synchronised at the beginning of the cell cycle (G1 phase) were fused with human cells in S phase, during which DNA replication takes place. The mouse nucleus, in G1, does not have the factors needed for DNA duplication, but the human one, in S phase, does. After the fusion, these factors can travel from the human to the mouse nucleus, giving it the capacity to synthesize DNA, as we can see in the green image.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Sant Jordi celebration at PRBB

Books and roses, but also ‘sardanes’, capoeira and rock and roll. This is what the nearly 200 people who participated in the Sant Jordi party at the PRBB could enjoy last April 22. And everything was done by the residents themselves. They brought the 275 books that were exchanged on the day; a collection of genre and language as varied as the PRBB community itself. And the residents organised also the shows that took place after the book exchange: a ‘sardanes’ workshop, the Catalan dance par excellence, and a ‘roda de capoeira’, a Brazilian martial art nowadays extended all over the world. In between the shows, sandwiches and drinks kept the public entertained. The final climax were the concerts by ‘ReStart’ and ‘Puri López’, two rock and roll groups in which Mara Dierssen (CRG) and Ferran (UPF) sing, respectively.

The Hospital del Mar also celebrated April 23 by publishing the Sant Jordi book of IMAS 2008. This was the 11th year of this initiative, which compiles narrative and poetry writing by professionals at IMAS. All together a very animated and colourful Sant Jordi!

** Sant Jordi is the patron of Catalonia - it's the equivalent of Saint George, on the 23rd of April, a very special day for all Catalan people!

*** Photos by Javier Sin

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Actually, a lot of love

The first café científico was a great succes!!! I could not be there, regretfully, but have been told there were about 130 people and they were all very interested and excitied about the topic, leaving their emails for follow up activities and giving lots of feedback. Well done everyone who helped in the organisation!

The coming cafés will be on June 10th (my birthday!) about transgenic food, and on July 1st about the human genome. Let's hope this success story is repeated!

Friday, May 2, 2008

Coffee, neurons and love

What happens in our brain when we fall in love? Can science help us find Mr. Perfect? These and other questions will be answered next Wednesday May 7 during the first Scientific Café organised by the “Science meets Society” group, an initiative of PhD students and postdocs working at the CRG. Mara Dierssen, researcher at the CRG, Adolf Tobeña, psychiatrist at the UAB and Elena Crespi i Asensio, psychologist, will briefly introduce the neurobiology of falling in love. Later on, the audience will be able to ask all those questions that are in their brains. Come to the CCCB cafeteria in Raval (Montalegre 5) at 7’30pm and learn what happens in your neurons when you see that sexy person, all while enjoying a coffee.

Remember, next Wednesday May 7 at 7'30pm @ CCCB. See you there!