Friday, 29 September 2017

New Book Considers Likelihood of Alien Life on a Distant Planet

NUI Galway Professor discusses life on Earth, alien existence, and the vast Universe in his new book ‘Life through Time and Space’ Wallace Arthur, an NUI Galway Emeritus Professor of Zoology and Visiting Scientist at the Kielder Observatory in Northumberland, will launch his new book, Life through Time and Space next Tuesday, 3 October. Life through Time and Space brings together the latest discoveries in both biology and astronomy to examine our deepest questions about where we came from, where we are going, and whether we are alone in the cosmos. It also considers if intelligent aliens exist on a distant planet in the Milky Way, having similar evolutionary and developmental origins to life on Earth. In addressing this issue, Life through Time and Space tackles the many riddles of our place and fate in the universe that have intrigued human beings since they first gazed in wonder at the night time sky. A distinctive voice in the growing field of astrobiology, Professor Wallace Arthur combines embryological, evolutionary, and cosmological perspec­tives to tell the story of life on Earth and its potential to exist else­where in the universe. In this novel combination of biology and astronomy, Arthur provides detailed insights into the evolution of higher forms of life and the development of brains and intelligence. Speaking about his new book, Professor Wallace Arthur said:“This is a fascinating time to be alive. Our past speculations about the existence of planets and life beyond our own solar system are fast being replaced by facts, many of which are described in this book. Three years ago we found the first near-twin to Earth. We don’t yet know if it has life, but we have begun to analyse exoplanet atmospheres, and this may yield the evidence we seek. If life is indeed found soon, as seems likely, it will be one of the most significant discoveries in the history of humanity.” Along the way, readers can learn about the evolution of life from a primordial soup of organic molecules to complex plants and animals, about Earth’s geological transformation from barren rock to diverse ecosystems, and about human development from embryo to infant to adult. Professor Arthur looks closely at the history of mass extinctions and the prospects for humanity’s future on our precious planet. -Ends-

News Archive

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Dr Manus Biggs, Investigator at CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland Centre for Research in Medical Devices based at NUI Galway, has just published two separate research papers in top tier international journals, one in the Nature journal Nature Biomedical Engineering and another in the prestigious materials journal, Advanced Materials. Both research papers by Dr Biggs describe advances made in the fields of biomaterials and engineered bioreactor systems to direct the differentiation of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), in the laboratory. Advances in stem cells, gene therapy, biomaterials, medical device technology, growth and differentiation factors, as well as biomimetic environments have created unique opportunities to fabricate tissues in the laboratory from combinations of engineered extracellular matrices (scaffolds), cells, and biologically relevant stimulation or cues. In the study published in Nature Biomedical Engineering, the researchers from NUI Galway and University of Glasgow describe how they have used measurement technology, based on the sophisticated laser interferometer systems built for gravitational wave detection of astrophysical objects, to grow three-dimensional samples of mineralised bone in the laboratory for the first time. These 3D living bone grafts, when implanted into patients in the future, will be able to repair or replace damaged sections of bone. Mesenchymal stem cells, which are naturally produced by the human body in bone marrow, have the potential to differentiate into a range of specialised cell types such as bone, cartilage, ligament, tendon and muscle. Using patients’ own mesenchymal cells means surgeons will be able to prevent the problem of rejection, and can bridge larger gaps in bone. Dr Biggs describes his research into the stimulation of bone formation from stem cells using a nanovibrational bioreactor. This study, conducted in conjunction with Professor Matt Dalby, at the University of Glasgow, was focused on identifying the roles of high-frequency, low-amplitude mechanical stimulation in inducing mesenchymal stem cells to differentiate into bone cells (the process by which a cell becomes specialised in order to perform a specific function, as in the case of a bone cell). “After blood, bone is the most transplanted tissue used in patients in the form of bone graft. Autologous graft (bone grafts taken from the patient’s own body and commonly employed for the treatments of bone cancer, trauma or infection) is in short supply and can be associated with pain and donor site morbidity. Tissue engineered bone-like graft would help meet this clinical demand as well as provide researchers with a potential tissue model for drug screening”, Dr Manus Biggs explains.  Dr Biggs research showed for the first time, that high-frequency vibrations of nanoscale amplitude alone can be used to differentiate patient derived stem cells, to form mineralised tissue in 3D. To achieve this, Professor Dalby designed and developed a totally new genre of vibrational bioreactor (a bench-top cell conditioner, which constantly vibrates lab-grown cells). Using this bioreactor, Dr Biggs and the team from the University of Glasgow demonstrated that vibrations which produce tiny nanoscale deformations (1 millionth of a millimetre), to stem cells encapsulated in a collagen gel - a process termed “Nanokicking”  can induce these stem cells to become bone-like cells without any further conditioning. By doing this they have provided a scalable pathway to control the differentiation of stem cells to bone cells for the generation of lab-grown bone tissue. In his second study published in Advanced Materials, Dr Biggs and his team collaborated with Professor Shalom Wind at Columbia University. Speaking about the study, Dr Biggs said: “Pervious studies indicate that stem cells can be easily persuaded to become bone-like cells when grown on a material which physically and chemically resembles bone tissue. In particular, substrates posessing a rigidity similar to that of bone have been shown to be favourable in inducing stem-cells to become bone cells in the lab. Although tissues can easlily be classified as rigid (bone tissue) or easily deformable (brain tissue), microscopically, tissues are comprised of a variety of micron and nanoscale elements (such as fibres, cells, crystals) with widely differing rigidity. In this way an individual cell carrying out its work in a specific tissue is subjected to many kinds of small structures, some of these small features are rigid, like the mineral deposits found in bone, while some of these features are very elastic such as neighbouring cells.” Dr Biggs and his team investigated whether a fine beam of electrons could be used to alter the rigidity at discrete regions on a soft polymer, thereby enabling the development of a new class of 2D materials possessing patterned features of increased rigidity, ranging from the micron to the nanoscale level. Electron-beam patterning allows for the fabrication of devices with nanoscale features, and has been used extensively in the microelectronics industry for the production of integrated circuits or microchips. In this work, the team showed for the first time that a beam of electrons can significantly alter the rigidity of an elastic polymer. The team then went on to investigate the response of human mesenchymal stem cells when grown on electron-beam patterned polymers, which posessed millions of ordered dots of increased rigidity. Interestingly it was observed that cells were able to perceive the tiny ‘rigid’ features beneath them and responded by changing their function – becomning more bone and cartillage like when grown in the lab. Commenting on Dr Biggs success, Professor Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director of CÚRAM at NUI Galway, said: “This work will establish the groundwork for a new generation of biomimetic materials. Tissue engineering and regenerative medicine is a key area of research at CÚRAM with a goal of finding solutions to chronic health problems and addressing unmet medical need and the use of these technologies to develop clinically translatable reparative and regenerative approaches to chronic illnesses is a major goal.” To read the Advanced Materials paper in full, visit: To read the Nature Biomedical Engineering paper in full, visit: -Ends-

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Áirítear i measc na roghanna nua seo: Ceol, Scannán & Staidéar Digiteach, na Dána & Teicneolaíocht, Teangacha Idirnáisiúnta agus Domhanda D’fhógair OÉ Gaillimh, an tseachtain seo, seacht gcéim nua sna Dána a bheidh ar fáil in 2018. Is toradh iad na cláir nua seo ar aiseolas a fuarthas ó mhic léinn, ó earnáil na tionsclaíochta agus ó fhostóirí agus cuirfidh siad go mór leis an rogha leathan de shainchláir sna Dána atá ar fáil in OÉ Gaillimh. Díríonn na cláir seo go láidir ar scileanna ar leith a fhorbairt agus ar mhic léinn a ullmhú chun obair a aimsiú i dtionscail a bhfuil borradh mór fúthu, le béim ar shocrúchán oibre, infhostaitheacht agus cothromaíocht thábhachtach idir shaineolas i réimse faoi leith agus bhuneolas ar an staidéar leathan a bhaineann leis na Dána agus na Daonnachtaí a sholáthar do mhic léinn.   Agus Gaillimh ainmnithe mar Phríomhchathair Chultúir na hEorpa don bhliain 2020, is príomhchathair dhomhanda chruthaitheach í cathair na Gaillimhe. Bhí an méid seo a leanas le rá ag an Ollamh Cathal O'Donoghue, Déan Choláiste na nDán, na nEolaíochtaí Sóisialta agus an Léinn Cheiltigh in OÉ Gaillimh: “Leis seo cuirtear deiseanna gairme as cuimse ar fáil sna tionscail chruthaitheacha, lena n-áirítear gairmeacha sa drámaíocht, scannánaíocht agus amharclannaíocht chomh maith le réimsí nua eile lena n-áirítear léiriúchán cruthaitheach agus fiontraíocht a bhaineann leis na healaíona. Cuirfidh ceithre cinn de na cláir nua sna Dána a d’fhógair OÉ Gaillimh oiliúint ar mhic léinn chun gairmeacha beatha a bhaint amach sna réimsí seo.” Clár nua a bhfuiltear ag súil go mór leis is ea an BA (Ceol). Sa chlár céime ceithre bliana seo, déanfar staidéar ar an gCeol in éineacht le hábhar eile sna Dána. Tabharfaidh an BA (Ceol) léargas domhain do mhic léinn ar stair an cheoil, ceol traidisiúnta na hÉireann, scileanna gutha agus córúla, cumadóireacht, scileanna méarchláir, teicneolaíocht an cheoil agus bainistíocht ceoil. Ar cheann de shaintréithe na céime seo tabharfar deis do mhic léinn comhoibriú le mic léinn eile sna healaíona cruthaitheacha in OÉ Gaillimh (i réimse na scannánaíochta, drámaíochta agus réimsí gaolmhara eile) agus staidéar a dhéanamh ar champas fíorchultúrtha. Beidh deis ag mic léinn an BA (Scannán agus na Meáin Dhigiteacha) meascán faoi leith a fháil de theoiric agus de chleachtadh i réimsí a bhaineann le scannán agus na meáin dhigiteacha, mar aon le scileanna praiticiúla i scannánóireacht, scríbhneoireacht scáileáin agus forbairt dhigiteach agus dearadh. Cuirfidh an clár, a áiríonn intéirneachtaí le heagraíochtaí a bhaineann leis na healaíona agus na meáin móide taighde agus tionscadail chruthaitheacha faoi mhaoirseacht, céimithe ar fáil do réimse leathan ról sna tionscail chruthaitheacha ina measc:  léiriúchán teilifíse agus scannán, cruthú ábhar digiteach, riarachán cultúrtha, scríbhneoireacht scáileáin agus margaíocht dhigiteach san áireamh. Díreoidh an BA (na Dána Digiteacha agus Teicneolaíocht) ar úsáid na teicneolaíochta digití sna healaíona cruthaitheacha. Leis an gcomhtháthú cuimsitheach idir na dána agus na daonnachtaí agus teicneolaíocht faisnéise agus eolaíocht sonraí, cáileoidh mic léinn le rogha tharraingteach de scileanna cruthaitheachta, anailíseacha agus ardscileanna digiteacha. Sa chlár nua BA (Béarla agus na Meáin) déanfar staidéar ar theoiric na meán i bpeirspictíocht chriticiúil agus stairiúil agus cuirfidh sé ar chumas na mac léinn scileanna cumarsáide inaistrithe agus scileanna smaointeoireachta criticiúla a fhoghlaim, a chuirfidh ar a gcumas rath a bheith orthu sa mhargadh fostaíochta amach anseo. Dúirt an tOllamh O’Donoghue an méid seo a leanas chomh maith: “Leis an Ríocht Aontaithe ar tí imeacht ón AE, tiocfaidh ardú ar líon na gcéimithe sna Dána a bheidh de dhíth d’fhonn dearcadh domhanda a fhorbairt agus taithí idirnáisiúnta a fháil le linn a gcuid staidéar agus i dtús a saol oibre. Is ann do dhá chlár nua i ngeall ar an luach a chuireann fostóirí ar thréithe na gcéimithe áirithe seo.” Tá an BA (Idirnáisiúnta) dírithe ar mhic léinn ar spéis leo staidéar a dhéanamh ar na Dána agus taithí idirnáisiúnta a fháil (bíodh sin ag staidéar thar lear nó ar shocrúchán oibre thar lear) mar chuid dá gcéim le deiseanna lonnú i Meiriceá Theas, Meiriceá Thuaidh nó níos faide i gcéin, i mbliain a trí dá gcéim.  Céim teangacha thar a bheith solúbtha atá sa BA (Teangacha Domhanda), céim a chuirfidh ar chumas na mac léinn gairm bheatha a bhaint amach i réimsí éagsúla ar a n-áirítear teangeolaíocht, aistriúchán, na meáin, teagasc. Tabharfaidh an BA (na Dána le hEolaíocht Sonraí) deis do mhic léinn staidéar a dhéanamh ar ábhar sna dána chomh maith le modúil sa mhata, IT agus eolaíocht sonraí, ag cur céimithe cáilithe ar fáil chun tabhairt faoi róil éagsúla i gcur i bhfeidhm teicnící anailísíochta sonraí chun fadhbanna domhanda an tsaoil seo a bhaineann leis an duine a réiteach. Beidh Laethanta Oscailte fochéime OÉ Gaillimh ar siúl an 6 agus an 7 Deireadh Fómhair. CRÍOCH

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

BioExcel Accelerator programme at NUI Galway, supported by Enterprise Ireland is now open to applications from entrepreneurs working in the medical technology sector An Tánaiste and Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Frances Fitzgerald T.D., today announced the launch of the BioExel Accelerator programme at NUI Galway, supported by Enterprise Ireland, to further enhance the medical technology sector start-up ecosystem within Ireland and attract global talent to the Galway region. The BioExcel Accelerator programme is open to applications from potential teams or individuals both in Ireland and overseas, working in the medical technology sector. There are up to 14 slots available within the Enterprise Ireland supported Accelerator Programme over two cohorts with the first to commence later this year. Successful applicants of the BioExel Accelerator programme will receive membership and a place within NUI Galway for a period of six months, where teams will be able to build and commercially validate their technologies by working with existing entrepreneurial networks and mentors.  Announcing the launch of the BioExel Accelerator programme while on an Enterprise Ireland and IDA Multi Sectoral Trade Mission in Singapore, An Tánaiste and Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Frances Fitzgerald T.D., said: “Ireland is recognised as a key hub for medical technology and innovation and the launch of this new accelerator is an opportunity to further build on our strong international reputation for excellence and innovation in healthcare and medtech. The Accelerator programme located at NUI Galway and supported by my Department through Enterprise Ireland will further enhance the High Potential Start-up (HPSU) eco-system and develop start-up capability, infrastructure and capital investment within the Galway region. We are delighted to support the initiative, which will go towards sustaining Ireland’s status as a global leader in medical technology innovation.” Professor Lokesh Joshi, Vice-President for Research at NUI Galway, said: “The vision here is to create innovative medical technologies which are affordable and transformative for patients with both acute and chronic conditions. The BioExel Accelerator programme will bring us closer to this patient-focused vision, while also stimulating innovation and job creation though high-potential start-ups. NUI Galway is proud to promote and manage this MedTech Accelerator, which will in turn benefit from our strengths in biomedical science and engineering teaching and research, as well as the CÚRAM Centre for Medical Device Research and the entrepreneurial BioInnovate Ireland Fellowship Programme which are both based here.” The Medtech Accelerator programme is part of Enterprise Ireland’s overall strategy to increase the number and quality of start-ups that have the potential to employ more than ten people and achieve €1 million in export sales within three years. Tom Early, Start Department Manager from Enterprise Ireland, said: “Enterprise Ireland is committed to supporting early stage collaborative innovative opportunities between the enterprise sector and health system with the aim of internationalising medtech technologies. New and emerging enterprises will benefit from the Accelerator programme through direct collaboration and co-ordination with technology and healthcare sector stakeholders on opportunities within the marketplace. The BioExel Accelerator programme aims to improve the efficiency of the commercialisation process of new technologies, products and services, benefitting the health sector and society as a whole.” Other partnership sponsors for this Enterprise Ireland supported accelerator programme are the Western Development Commission, Galway University Foundation and the Bank of Ireland Seed and Early Stage Equity Fund.  -Ends-

Events Calendar

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Wednesday, 7 September 2016

The public are invited to a fascinating public lecture of a winter expedition with the German icebreaker “Polarstern” to Antarctica. The talk will be delivered by Professor Peter Lemke of the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI), Helmholtz-Centre for Polar and Marine Research, Germany on Wednesday, 14 September, at 7.30pm in the Colm O’hEocha Theatre in the Arts Millenium Building at NUI Galway. Professor Lemke has participated in nine polar expeditions with the German research icebreaker “Polarstern”, and has collections of stunning photographs depicting the Antarctic landscape and intriguing experiences to share. He is visiting Galway to participate in the Atlantic Ocean Climate Scholars Programme which is a week-long intensive, accredited workshop examining how climate and oceans interact, with particular examples from the Atlantic Ocean and higher latitudes. The lecture is open to members of the public and is part of a workshop organised by Dr Pauhla McGrane of the Strategic Marine Alliance for Research and Training (SMART) being held in Galway, from 12-19 September,offered to international postgraduate students of marine, atmosphere and climate-related sciences. “Polar regions play an important role for our climate, but direct observations are difficult to obtain and can only be achieved with greatest effort. This is especially true in wintertime” said Professor Lemke. “Severe blizzards, being trapped between thick ice floes and forced to drift with the ice, the darkness of the polar night and temperatures around minus 30°C. This presentation will take you along on an extraordinary winter expedition into the Antarctic Ocean. It shows the beauty of the frozen ocean, presents some insight into polar and climate research, and demonstrates everyday life on a research icebreaker,” he continued. High latitudes have received attention recently because of significant changes in the atmosphere, sea ice, and ocean, and on land, especially in the Arctic. The surface air temperature in the Arctic has increased about twice as fast as the global air temperature. The Arctic sea-ice extent in summer has decreased by 35% since 1979, and the sea-ice thickness during late summer has declined in the Central Arctic by about 40% since 1958. A warming has also been observed at depth in the Arctic Ocean and the Southern Ocean. But surprisingly there is no negative trend observed in the Antarctic sea ice. Both, the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are losing mass, and the sea level is rising. Most of these observed trends are in agreement with warming scenarios performed with coupled climate models, which indicate an amplified response in high latitudes to increased greenhouse gas concentrations. But details of the complex interaction between atmosphere, sea ice and ocean, and the impacts on the ecosystem and the human society are still only marginally understood. Results will be shown from the latest Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and from a winter expedition the speaker has lead into the ice-covered Weddell Sea (Antarctica). Dr Pauhla McGrane, coordinator of SMART said: “We are delighted that Proffessor Lemke has agreed to provide his unique insight into carrying out climate research in hostile polar environments, particulaly when accompanied by such beautiful stark images. This is especially relevant as this year we will run the second North South Atlantic Training Transect on-board the RV Polarstern from Germany to South Africa which will train 24 postgraduate students, including seven Irish students, in researching climate, ocean and atmospheric interactions at sea. These innovative offshore international collaboarations, developed with AWI, the Partnership for Observation of the Global Oceans (POGO) and funded by the Nippon foundation are essential in developing excellent climate and ocean scientists to measure and understand our changing planet”. Professor Lemke continues to work on the observation of climate processes in atmosphere, sea ice and ocean and their simulation in numerical models for the polar components of the climate system. On six expeditions on Polarstern he acted as chief scientist.  For more than 30 years he served on many national and international committees on polar and climate research. He was the Coordinating Lead Author for Chapter 4 (Observations: Changes in Snow, Ice and Frozen Ground) of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report published in 2007. The IPCC was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize together with Al Gore in 2007. For the Fifth Assessment Report of the IPCC published in 2013 Proffessor Lemke worked as Review Editor of Chapter 4 and as Lead Author of the Technical Summary. All members of the public are welcome and refreshments will be served afterwards. The Atlantic Ocean Climate Scholars Programme is a collaboaration between SMART, NUI Galway, AWI and the Partnership for Observation of the Global Oceans (POGO) that is funded by the Nippon foundation under NF POGO Regional Training fund.  -ends-