Fiona Dunlevy

Science writer

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European research

Network of experts join forces to fight rare disease

Collaboration between research groups is key in tackling rare diseases such as auto-immune disease Myasthenia Gravis (MG). Indeed, the rarity of the disease means that it can be difficult to collect enough samples of blood and tissues to perform quality research. Let alone to recruit enough patients into clinical trials.

Sonia Aknin-Berrih: How rare models suggest new treatment strategies

Myasthenia Gravis (MG) is a rare auto-immune disease-whereby patients' immune systems attack their own bodies- arising from a breakdown in communications between the nervous and muscular systems. The immune system mistakenly makes antibodies that block signals in neuromuscular junctions, where nerve impulses are translated into physical actions.

RAIN Project
Storm ahead - how to prepare Europe for extreme weather - RAIN Project

River floods are expected to become more frequent by mid-century, and rainstorms and coastal flooding by the end of the century From storms to flash floods, extreme weather events are becoming more common in Europe, and can wreak havoc on infrastructure such as transport, telecoms and energy systems. Policy makers, infrastructure owners and local authorities need data and decision-making tools to deal with extreme weather and its effects.

'Fintech' helps power the green energy revolution

Can "cryptocurrencies" encourage green-tech? Nowadays virtual means of payment are in use as an alternative to our existing currencies. Among them is SolarCoin (§), created to reward solar energy producers and to give an incentive to others considering installing solar panels.

Spotlight on Wallonia

How a cluster-centric strategy keeps Wallonia competitive. IN THE heady days of the industrial revolution, coal-rich Wallonia was the wealthier part of Belgium. Over the last century, though, its fortunes have been in decline. To combat this, the Walloons have staked their future on science.

The small wind turbines you'll want in your back yard

Opponents to wind turbines often claim that the noise and vibrations from the turbines affect their health, leading to sleep disturbance, headaches and a host of other problems. But is this backed up by evidence or a good example of the nocebo effect?

The green light for green buildings: retrofitting Europe

The move to energy efficient buildings is on. Two European directives are gently nudging things along, by requiring that 3% of public buildings be renovated every year and that public buildings be almost energy zero by 2018. A consortium of European researchers called BRICKER are trying to nail down the challenging combination of retrofitted technologies to suit different public buildings in different climates.

Efficient exploitation of energy efficiency research

Many research projects have exploitation plans where they consider in advance how to use research findings, either to get a product onto the market or to define how to share the new knowledge. The European project Bricker, which is developing configurable retrofitting solutions for energy efficiency in large public buildings, is no exception.

From passive to active: Face lifting facades

The biggest current innovation in façade design stems from a modular façade with smart materials that act as an active skin to make old buildings energy efficient. Today, newly built houses are designed to be as energy efficient as possible. This is good news for the planet and for homeowners' wallets - but what about the older houses?

Building teaching opportunities into energy efficiency renovations

The latest in energy efficient refurbishment is literally coming into the classroom for engineering students in the Higher Education Institution of the Province of Liège, in Belgium. In September 2016, their building will be retrofitted with the latest energy efficient technologies, as part of the EU-funded BRICKER project.

Science policy

EuroScientist Webzine
French scientists get on their bikes for research

French research is in trouble. A protest movement has arisen from the ranks of research centres and universities to protest against what French scientists consider a progressive assault on research funding, jobs and autonomy by successive French administrations. Research activists from Montpellier have devised a very French response to this problem: marching out on the street-albeit this time with a twist.

EuroScientist Webzine
Reward time for reproducibility - EuroScientist Webzine

Researchers are increasingly being judged on two interlinked criteria: the number of prestigious published papers, and success in pulling in grants and funding. The problem is that publishing and funding both prize one thing above all else: novelty. This obsession with shiny new science undermines the scientific tradition of self-correction.

EuroScientist journal
Are the disruptions of uberisation a bane or boon for science? - EuroScientist journal

For every characteristic of uberisation, there is a parallel in the world of research. This raises the question of whether research was "uberised" before Uber even existed? In this article EuroScientist explores which aspects in research have been most impacted by technology, and the challenges ahead to leverage uberisation for the good of science and scientists.

EuroScientist Webzine
Does the European Researchers Charter deserve its birthday cake?

On the 3rd of March 2015, university heads from around Europe will gather in Brussels to celebrate the 10th birthday of the European Charter for Researchers and the Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers . A decade after the charter's launch, it boasts over 600 signatories.

EuroScientist Webzine
How to balance a European research ecosystem with its national parts

Researchers across France, Spain and Italy are orchestrating a wave of national protests, which will culminate on the 17 th and 18 th October 2014 in their respective capitals. Their objective is to highlight how Europe's knowledge economy is being undermined by a lack of investment in research, amongst other factors.

EuroScientist Webzine
Crowdsourcing France's New Digital Law

Democracy in France is entering a new phase, with the first public online consultation of a new digital law. Over a three week consultation period this autumn, more than 20,000 citizens and organisations went online to vote and comment on the text of the new digital law.


Radiofrequency temporary tattoos: hiding sensors in plain sight

A UK research team in Kent is developing “temporary tattoos„ to detect vital signs, movement and sweat of wearers. The temporary tattoos will offer a discrete, forgettable way to monitor patient vital signs, transmitting the data to a recorder in the patients home.

Getting implants close to the bone using magnets

Dr Athina Markaki, wasn't planning to apply her engineering expertise to biology. She was working on a material sciences project with Cambridge colleague Professor Bill Clyne when work on controlling the orientation of ferritic (magnetic) stainless steel fibres led to the idea that the bonded fibre networks could be used on the surface of prosthetic implants surfaces. The fibres could help bone grow around the implant, increasing implant durability. Currently, hip prostheses only last up to...

Energy harvesting

Fiona Dunlevy April 2016 The field of energy harvesting from the body is hotting up, with pacemakers first in line for recharging. We first reported on body-powered pacemakers last year, when Andreas Haeberlin from the University of Bern explained how his team is powering pacemakers from energy harvested from sunlight, heartbeats and blood flow (1, 2).

Knitted removable airway stent

This isn't just good news for patients with airway narrowing, but for all patients who need stents. In the principle of what goes in must come out, the knitted stent could be used in all systems where tubes can become obstructed, such as in the gastrointestinal, respiratory, vascular, urinary and reproductive systems, explains Mattson.

Handheld scanner for cancer

Next the team tried the technique during surgery to remove glioblastoma from the brains of mice. The mice were injected with a new version of nanoparticle the day before surgery. During the operation the mice were scanned with a static Raman scanner, a handheld Raman scanner or normal white light.

Medtronic Eureka
Success with a new ovarian cancer screening technique

Sometimes success lies not in the medical device, but in the way you use it. A team from University College London (UCL) has been making waves with a new screening technique for ovarian cancer that doubles the rate of detection.

Medtronic Eureka
Solar power for medical devices

Many medical devices such as pacemakers rely on electricity to work. Batteries are obviously better than being tethered to a plug but as anyone who ever owned a Walkman or an iPhone will understand, batteries need to be recharged.

Medtronic Eureka
Body Area Networks

The era of the solitary mute medical device is over, displaced by fast networks of wireless sensors implanted in the body or worn externally.

Medtronic Eureka
Neurostimulation for blood pressure control

Millions of people worldwide take medication to control high blood pressure, but the treatment doesn't work for everyone. Kickstarting the brain into better controlling blood pressure using neurostimulation could help these patients.

Medtronic Eureka
New sight for sore eyes

A device that has partially restored sight to people with degenerative blindness is being evaluated for a European CE mark, which could see it on the market as early as the end of 2013.

Medtronic Eureka
Taking heart: innovation trends at Cardiostim 2014

In June, over 5000 of the best and brightest cardiologists will unite in Nice, France at the biennial Cardiostim conference to present and debate the latest in cardiac electrophysiology and device therapies.

Medtronic Eureka
2014 is over - long live 2015!

The year has drawn to a close, and as is tradition we take the chance to look back at the innovations that caught our eye in 2014, and to predict what 2015 has in store for the industry.

Medtronic Eureka
Gene therapy: the future of coronary stents

An Irish team believes that gene therapy could help coronary stenting evolve to deal with an aging population. Stents are tiny metallic scaffolds that prop open obstructed blood vessels, restoring blood flow to the heart and reducing the risk of heart attack.

Medtronic Eureka
Human-powered medical devices: harvesting the ear's potential

When we think of renewable energy, we tend to imagine epic wind farms on the horizon, or roofs tiled with solar panels. But the work of researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard could be about to change our perception of energy sources.

Medtronic Eureka
The forecast for 2014: long spells of innovation with scattered hurdles

For the medtech industry, 2013 was a mixed bag. Excitement about new innovations was tempered by a turbulent business environment that included regulatory and tax shakeups. Here we round up the shining stars of 2013 and gaze into our crystal ball to predict how 2014 will unfold.


Go forth and investigate! | Riviera Insider

Diabetes monopoly, stargazing, trying to out-trick your own memory - it was all on offer at the Parc Valrose in Nice earlier this month as part of the annual Europe-wide Fête de la Science. Maybe you brought the kids and discovered you have a future Marie Curie or Einstein in the family?

What exactly are we fundraising for? | Riviera Insider

There's no reason why new drugs and treatments cannot be developed for rare diseases, as they are for more common diseases. The problem is that low numbers of patients suffering from rare diseases often do not make up enough of a "customer base" to interest pharmaceutical companies in investing the tens of millions of euros it costs to discover, test and commercialise a new drug.
Sunlight can make this dirty water clean...and save lives

DIRTY DRINKING WATER is a known death trap...but Irish scientists may have a solution. Researchers from the RSCI can prove that simply exposing dirty water in a plastic bottle to sunlight can kill all but the most resistant bugs.