Monday, December 21, 2009

The major scientific discovery of the year according to PRBB researchers

Every year there are hundreds of new scientific discoveries made in the world, many of them small steps, others bigger. Now that we reach the end of 2009, I have asked researchers of the different centres at the PRBB what has been, in their view, the most exciting scientific advance in their field. Their replies (below) were published in the 29th issue of El·lipse.

Toni Pascual (IMIM-Hospital del Mar)
“Christian Reichel from the Austrian Research Centre and a proteomics and doping researcher, has discovered that the SDS universally used in SDS-PAGE to separate proteins by their molecular weight, also binds to polymers such as polyethylene glycols, modifying their migration and making their recognition by antibodies more difficult. The use of sarcosyl instead of SDS avoids this problem. This finding is very relevant given the very frequent presence of these polymers in recombinant drugs”

Ben Lehner (CRG)
“Over the past year there has been a bit of a revolution in human genetics, and many variants have been discovered in the genome that influence the risk of common diseases such as cancer. The identity of these variants has the potential to tell us about the biology of such diseases, but in nearly all cases they only have a tiny overall effect on disease. This tells us that we still do not understand the genetics of complex diseases and traits - for example why tall parents have tall children. It's rather humbling considering the amount of money that has been spent.”

Arcadi Navarro (CEXS-UPF)
“One of the most remarkable discoveries of the year has been the description of a new hominid species, Ardipithecus ramidus. The discovery has everything: it gives us information about a part of our phylogeny that is very close to our common ancestor with chimpanzees and of which we had few fossils so far; confirms once more that Darwin was right; and it has been the subject of the usual media manipulation by the creationists. In Al-Jazeera they have showed a documentary in which they explain that “Ardi” “demonstrates” that the man does not come from the monkey. Spectacular!”

NĂºria Montserrat (CMRB)
"The reprogramming of umbilical cord cells has been one of the major advances this year, since it opens the door to the future cell therapy. These cells, because they are so young, have not had time to accumulate possible mutations and they are immunologically immature, which minimises the risk of rejection. Also, they can be reprogrammed in a short period of time and without the need to overexpress the oncogenes that so far have been used. All this makes me think they might be an optimal source for future studies in cell therapy and regenerative medicine”.

Jordi Sunyer (CREAL)
“Peter Gluckman, from the University of Auckland, has demonstrated how environmental influences during mammalian development lead to stable changes in the epigenome that alter the individual's susceptibility to chronic metabolic and cardiovascular disease, acceleration of pubertal timing or impaired cognitive development. Overall, it provides a model for how early life offers a potential point for preventative intervention.”

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