UCL is a world leader in science and technology research. Corlett Novis gives us a quick overview of what’s been going on at UCL over the last month.
New Bacterial Virus Discovered
As of the 29th of January, researchers from UC Berkley and UCL have discovered a whole new organism living in the human gut. According to the study, which has been published in Nature Microbiology, this new ‘megaphage’ (which has been named Lak) is part of wider efforts to better understand the bacterial cultures in our guts, also known as our ‘microbiome’. In addition, Lak has been found to infect the harmful bacteria Prevotella which is commonly associated with respiratory and periodontal infections. As a result, this new discovery may open up new and useful avenues for research in treating both these illnesses.
Genetic Evolution of Skin Colour
UCL geneticists have discovered some new genetic variations involved in skin colour while studying populations in Latin America. The study, covering 6,000 participants and published in Nature Communications, found that the lighter skin tone typically associated with Eurasian populations has evolved independently in Europe and also in East Asia. This means that populations in both regions, at higher altitudes, developed lighter skin as a result of natural selection. This study is especially encouraging since Latin American populations are traditionally underrepresented in genetic research and pigmentation research in particular.
Professor Wins Prize for Young Scientists
UCL Professor, Ewa Paluch, has been named ‘Laureate’ at this year’s Blavatnick Awards for Young Scientists in the UK. The prize, worth $100,000, has been awarded for Professor Paluch’s valuable research at the at the UCL MRC Laboratory for Molecular Cell Biology into the roles of cell shape and movement in development and disease. The Blavatnick awards began in the US in 2007 and are awarded to exceptional early-career scientists from across the world.
Social Media-Related Depression Twice as Likely in Young Girls
In a first of its kind study, researchers at UCL published research into the association between social media and mental illness in the journal EClinicalMedicine. The findings revealed that depressive symptoms associated with social media use were twice as common among young girls than among young boys based on results from 11,000 young people from the Millennium Cohort Study. The researchers found that 14-year-old girls were heavier users of social media than their male peers, with two fifths of them spending more than three hours per day on social media compared with one fifth of boys. Only 4% of girls reported not using social media compared to 10% of boys.