In the highly respected journal, Nature Communications, a team of Danish researchers reports that they have developed a new class of artificial proteins. In the long term, the results could lead to better treatment of cancer and diabetes.
Nature has created a host of proteins, which come in many forms, and which have many functions in our body. They are the body’s principal, and hardest working building blocks. For example, some of them provide our muscles with strength; while others make sure that our cells receive messages.
In spite of this natural diversity, in the past 20 years or so there has been great scientific interest in creating artificial proteins, in part stimulated by drug development opportunities.
Now a team of Danish researchers from University of Southern Denmark, University of Copenhagen and University of Aarhus report that they have developed a new method of creating artificial proteins.
Nature’s smallest building blocks
Artificial proteins are made from the smallest of nature’s building blocks. In this case the team of researchers have succeeded in combining so-called oligonucleotides (short DNA molecules) with peptides (small proteins). The peptides coiled around one another effectively, creating an artificial protein.
– We forced three building blocks together and managed to make them form a protein mimic, says Professor Jesper Wengel of SDU. He is the head of the BioNEC (Biomolecular Nanoscale Engineering Center) research centre.
He believes that the work has significant potential:
– We have shown that it is possible to enforce peptides together by this approach. It paves the way for testing countless new combinations, which could create new artificial proteins with functions, which nature itself has not created, but which we need.
Artificial proteins have a longer lifetime
Knud J. Jensen, Professor at the University of Copenhagen’s Chemistry Department, explains:
– When you work with artificial proteins, you have better control over the proteins’ properties. This is valuable when you are developing new, protein-based drugs and enzymes. In general, proteins have a very short lifetime in a body, a key parameter which can be improved for artificial proteins.
The researchers hope that, in the future, artificial proteins can be used to treat some of the major diseases like cancer or diabetes.
Founded in 1928, it is Denmark’s second oldest university and the largest, with a total of 43,600 enrolled students as of 1 January 2012, after a merger with Aarhus School of Engineering.
A young university with high aspirations, it belongs to the international elite. In most prestigious ranking lists of the world´s best universities, Aarhus University is placed in the top 100.
Denmark’s first professor of sociology was a member of the faculty of Aarhus University (Theodor Geiger, from 1938–1952), and in 1997 Professor Jens Christian Skou received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his discovery of the sodium-potassium pump. In 2010 Dale T. Mortensen, a Niels Bohr Visiting Professor at Aarhus University, received the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences together with his colleagues Peter Diamond and Christopher Pissarides.
Aarhus University research articles from Innovation Toronto
- Nanorobot for Transporting Drugs in the Body
- Blood pressure cuff may save lives in patients with acute heart attack
- Breakthrough in cryptography could result in more secure computing
- Climate change: Diseqilibrium will become the norm in the plant communities of the future
- Danish scientists ‘close’ to HIV cure
- Promising path to a sustainable bio-oil production
- Vitamin D With Calcium Shown to Reduce Mortality in Elderly
- Folding Our Way to a Revolution
Today, people of all backgrounds can contribute to solving serious scientific problems by playing computer games. A Danish research group has extended the limits of quantum physics calculations and simultaneously blurred the boundaries between man and machine further. We are still superior – in some ways.
The saying of philosopher René Descartes of what makes humans unique is beginning to sound hollow. ‘I think – therefore soon I am obsolete’ seems more appropriate. When a computer routinely beats us at chess and we can barely navigate without the help of a GPS, have we outlived our place in the world? Not quite. Welcome to the front line of research in cognitive skills, quantum computers and gaming.
Today there is an on-going battle between man and machine. While genuine machine consciousness is still years into the future, we are beginning to see computers make choices that previously demanded a human’s input. Recently, the world held its breath as Google’s algorithm AlphaGo beat a professional player in the game Go—an achievement demonstrating the explosive speed of development in machine capabilities.
But we are not beaten yet – human skills are still superior in some areas. This is one of the conclusions of a recent study by Danish physicist Jacob Sherson, published in the prestigious science journal Nature.
Certain drought-stressed wheat cultivars perform better when their roots are in symbiosis with beneficial fungi
Scientists at Aarhus University have discovered that fungi associated with plant roots may improve growth and yield of drought-stressed wheat.
Water scarcity has a negative impact on wheat production. As a consequence of exposure to drought, crops show poorer growth and lower yield. This is a serious problem as the predicted increase in frequency of extreme climate episodes will lead to multiple drought conditions during crop growth which in turn will reduce the yield of wheat, one of the world’s most important foods.
The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that drought stress in crops will become increasingly serious in the future. Globally, wheat yield is only 30-60 percent of its potential.
Fungi may help
A specific group of useful fungi – the so-called arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AM fungi) – may be able to help alleviate drought stress in wheat. These fungi live in a symbiotic relationship with plant roots. Recent research from Aarhus University demonstrates that the fungi can improve growth and yield in some wheat varieties under drought stress.
As global population rises and finite resources dwindle, farmers need new, more sustainable ways to control pests. Now, ecologists have found a safe, sustainable and cost-effective new pest control. But rather than a high-tech compound or genetic technology, it’s a tiny, low-tech organism: the ant.
Published today in the British Ecological Society‘s Journal of Applied Ecology, a review of more than 70 scientific studies provides evidence that on many crops from cocoa and citrus to palm oil and cedar, ants can control pests as efficiently – and more cheaply than – chemicals.
The review was conducted by Aarhus University‘s Dr Joachim Offenberg, an ecologist who has studied ants for almost 20 years. It includes studies of more than 50 pest species on nine crops across eight countries in Africa, south-east Asia and Australia.
Ants live on every continent except Antarctica and are the world’s most successful group of terrestrial animals. Although tiny in size compared with humans, their numbers are vast; some estimates suggest the mass of all ants on Earth is similar to that of humans.
People who have had an infection that made them so sick they had to be hospitalized may have IQs that are slightly lower than average, a new study suggests.
Researchers from the University of Copenhagen and Aarhus University in Denmark examined the hospital records of 190,000 Danish men born between 1974 and 1994. All the men took IQ tests at age 19, as part of the process of signing up for Denmark’s mandatory draft. The tests were designed to assess their logical, verbal, numerical and spatial reasoning.
After adjusting for factors known to track with people’s IQ scores, such as social conditions and the education levels of their parents, the researchers found that the average IQ score of the men who had been hospitalized for an infection before they took the IQ test — about 35 percent of the study cohort — were 1.76 points below the average of the men in the study who had not been hospitalized for an infection.
“Infections in the brain affected the cognitive ability the most, but many other types of infections severe enough to require hospitalization can also impair a patient’s cognitive ability,” study author Dr. Michael Eriksen Benrós, a researcher at the National Centre for Register-Based Research, said in a statement.
Using a computer game, a research group at Aarhus University has found a way to gain deeper insight into the human thought process.
The results have amazed the research director, who has discovered a kind of ‘atlas of thoughts’. And that is not all. The group can also reveal which gender is best at solving quantum problems.
Are humans born with the ability to solve problems or is it something we learn along the way? A research group at the Department of Physics and Astronomy, Aarhus University, is working to find answers to this question.
The research group has developed a computer game called Quantum Moves, which has been played 400,000 times by ordinary people. This has provided unique and deep insight into the human brain’s ability to solve problems. The game involves moving atoms around on the screen and scoring points by finding the best way to do so.
In this way, ordinary people contribute to quantum physics research. Associate Professor Jacob Sherson, director of the research group, explains that a player’s ability to make a strategy and solve a problem is markedly different from the way a computer works. Based on 400,000 game solutions, he can make a start on compiling the results.
Splash. A Weddell seal weighing almost 500 kilograms lands inside the tent and blocks the hole laboriously sawn out by researchers in the two-meter-thick ice to launch drones under the sea ice.
The tent is lovely and warm. Small petroleum ovens provide heat to keep the hole free from ice. Outside, the Antarctic sea ice stretches for miles around, and the thermometer shows -15 degrees. The seal finally glides back into the water foraging for more fish, and the researchers have access to the open water. The advanced technology drone is carefully lowered into the icy cold sea.
Working here (right next to the old hut used by polar explorer Robert Falcon Scott in the Antarctic winter) are researchers Lars Chresten Lund Hansen, Brian Sorrell and Ph.D. student Bibi Ziersen from Aarhus University, along with their colleagues from Australia and New Zealand. They are developing and testing a new method to map the distribution of ice algae on the underside of the sea ice in Antarctica.
The tent covers a hole in the ice measuring 3 m x 1 m, and the researchers send their torpedo-shaped underwater drone down through the hole to map the underside of the sea ice. Making the hole takes most of a day and requires a major equipment package with an oil burner and steam drill.
“The drone was actually designed to study the sea bed and map factors, such as sediment types, but our Australian colleagues modified the drone so that it now looks up towards the bottom of the sea ice and measures the light coming through the ice with a radiometer,” says Associate Professor Lars Chresten Lund Hansen, Aarhus University.
Water is used around the world for the production of electricity, but new research results show that there will not be enough water in the world to meet demand by 2040 if the energy and power situation does not improve before then.
Two new reports that focus on the global electricity water nexus have just been published. Three years of research show that by the year 2040 there will not be enough water in the world to quench the thirst of the world population and keep the current energy and power solutions going if we continue doing what we are doing today. It is a clash of competing necessities, between drinking water and energy demand. Behind the research is a group of researchers from Aarhus University in Denmark, Vermont Law School and CNA Corporation in the US.
In most countries, electricity is the biggest source of water consumption because the power plants need cooling cycles in order to function. The only energy systems that do not require cooling cycles are wind and solar systems, and therefore one of the primary recommendations issued by these researchers is to replace old power systems with more sustainable wind and solar systems.