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Water, Water Everywhere....

9 December 2014

A recent article in the journal Environmental Microbiology points out the importance of water activity when considering microbiological habitable zones and geological conditions suitable for the emergence of life.

The article, “Multiplication of microbes below 0.690 water activity: implications for terrestrial and extraterrestrial life,” co-authored by Terry Kee, has also been the subject of a NASA news story and has been recommended as being of special significance in its field by Faculty of 1000, being selected for F1000Prime

First Prize!

18 November 2014

Christopher Hone from the Institute of Process Research and Development was awarded First Prize for Combined Oral and Poster Presentation at the SCI Early Career Research Meeting in Chester.

Chris received the award for his presentation on “Rate-based Experimental Design using Continuous Flow Reactors”. The research is funded by the EPSRC, University of Leeds and AstraZeneca, and involves developing a new approach for the design of scaled-up continuous flow processes from small scale experiments.

The meeting took place on the 6th of November and showcased work from universities and regional science and engineering companies. The event was co-organised by the SCI Process Engineering Group and the SCI Liverpool and North West Section. Second place prize was awarded to Radhika Bava from the University of Chester. The event concluded with the SCI Henry Armstrong Memorial Lecture from Dr Ian Wilson (University of Cambridge) titled “Soft Solids are Hard Work”.

More information about the event can be found

Molecule fights cancer on two fronts

14 November 2014

A multidisciplinary research team involving Prof. Colin Fishwick have made a new synthetic anti-cancer molecule that targets two key mechanisms in the spread of malignant tumours through the body.

The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, reports that the synthetic molecule JK-31, identified using computer-aided molecular design approaches developed in the School of Chemistry, blocks the signalling of a “growth factor” chemical that promotes the creation of networks of blood vessels to feed tumours.
The team observed the effect of the synthetically produced molecule, JK-31, on the growth and proliferation of a model human breast cancer cell line and found that it effectively blocked the protein cyclin-dependent kinase 1 (CDK1), which plays a key part in the process of the division of cancer cells, and therefore inhibited the proliferation of the cells.

In a separate laboratory experiment, they found that JK-31 also blocked a specific growth factor (VEGF-A) produced by the cancer to attract the growth of blood vessels. Other molecules exhibiting similar dual effects are known but JK-31 is the only compound so far shown to successfully target CDK1 and block VEGF-A.

The University press release is here and the article is here

Students and Staff contribute to a New NMR Book

13 November 2014

A new NMR book has been published involving contributions from staff and students from the School of Chemistry.

‘Modern NMR Techniques for Synthetic Chemists’ published by CRC Press/Taylor Francis is edited by Dr Julie Fisher, Reader in Biological NMR in the School.

The book includes a chapter on ‘Analysis of Complex Mixtures’, written by Dr. Cassey McRae who completed her PhD research under the supervision of Dr. Fisher. A chapter on ‘Applications of Advanced NMR Techniques’ includes a section describing ‘NMR studies of Carbohydrates’, written by Dr. Bruce Turnbull, and one of his current PhD students Kristian Hollingsworth. 

Other contributions are made by esteemed NMR spectroscopists from the UK, Australia and Canada. The book is the first in a new series of books called ‘New Directions in Organic and Biological Chemistry’.

Comet ‘flyby’ disturbs Martian atmosphere

11 November 2014

A “once-in-a-lifetime” chance to watch a comet flying close to Mars gave a unique insight into the effect of such a near miss on a planet’s atmosphere. The comet (C/2013 A1 Siding Spring’s) travelled within about 87,000 miles of Mars, less than half the distance between Earth and the Moon and more than ten times closer than any comet is known to have come to our planet.

This flyby encounter was watched by NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft on October 19, which by amazingly good luck was in the right place at the right time.

Professor John Plane, a member of the Atmospheric and Planetary Chemistry group in the School of Chemistry collaborated in the analysis and interpretation of the observations.

Data from observations carried out by the MAVEN, NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), and a radar instrument on the European Space Agency's (ESA’s) Mars Express spacecraft revealed that debris from the comet added a temporary and very strong layer of ions to the ionosphere, the electrically charged layer high above Mars.

Professor Plane was asked to advise the MAVEN mission on what the likely effects of the flyby would be and what the orbiter’s Imaging UV Spectrometer (IUVs) should be looking for. He modelled the amount of metals such as iron and magnesium that would be injected into the Red Planet’s upper atmosphere and what emissions could be expected.
See the full press release here

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