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Hopes of sea snail painkiller after breakthrough

Scientists at the University of Leicester hope a major breakthrough in the fight against Alzheimer's and cancer may also lead to the development of a new painkiller, using a toxin produced by a sea snail.

We are very proud of this research. It has taken several years of hard work to master the chemistry techniques to create these new building blocks but now that we have conquered it we have access to new building blocks that people have only ever dreamed of before!

Amino acids are Mother Nature’s building blocks. They are used to make all proteins and so are essential for life, however Mother Nature only uses twenty of these building blocks. The Leicester research involves the chemical synthesis of unnatural amino acids that can be used to make unnatural mini-proteins with new 3D structures and importantly new functions.

We are actively using these building blocks to develop new treatments for cancer and Alzheimer's disease. We have also had a summer student use the building blocks to synthesise a toxin produced by a sea snail, and hope to develop this as a new painkiller.

– Dr Andrew Jamieson, lead scientist

Breakthrough in fight against Alzheimer's and cancer

Scientists at the University of Leicester have made a "breakthrough" in the fight against Alzheimer's and cancer, which they have described as "the stuff of dreams."

Dr Andrew Jamieson with Dr Boris Allard from the University of Leicester Credit: University of Leicester

Researchers have developed a new way to make "designer proteins" that can be used to make more effective drugs with fewer side effects.

The advance is announced by the Jamieson Research Group in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Leicester.

Their work, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), is published in the Royal Society of Chemistry journal Organic and Biomolecular Chemistry.

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Schoolchildren to solve first DNA fingerprinting case

It's 30 years since DNA fingerprinting was discovered Credit: PA

Leicestershire schoolchildren will get the chance to solve the first ever case where DNA fingerprinting was used.

The University of Leicester's Department of Genetics is running its annual outreach event Dynamic DNA today and tomorrow, which coincides with the 30th anniversary of DNA fingerprinting in the Department's 50th year.

Approximately 600 Year 9 children and their teachers from schools across Leicestershire will get the chance to take part in more than 20 fun, engaging and educational activities, to inspire young students to pursue scientific careers.

This year, the children will also be able to go back in time and try to solve Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys's first ever case at Leicester using DNA fingerprinting, in which he proved that a young boy was in fact the son of a British woman, and therefore entitled to UK nationality.

For the newly developed hands-on activity 'Be Sir Alec', the original DNA profiles of the disputed boy, his mother and three undisputed siblings have been replicated, allowing the children the opportunity to try and decide for themselves whether they think he was indeed his mother's son.

Top tips for seeing the best of Perseids meteor shower

The Perseids meteor shower seen last year Credit: Tim Ireland/PA Archive/Press Association Images

The Perseids meteor shower will be at its brightest tonight, and we've got some top tips if you want to see the best of it:

  • Best seen between 10pm and 2am
  • The meteors can appear anywhere in the sky
  • Avoid looking at the moon as its brightness will prevent other meteors being seen
  • Look away from towns and cities to avoid the bright lights
  • We are expecting patchy cloud across the Midlands tonight, so look for the breaks in the cloud

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Touchscreen tortoises studied by Lincoln academic

Tortoises have been the subject of a study led by a University of Lincoln academic.

The reptiles were monitored to test their navigational skills and managed to work out how to win a strawberry by pressing the screen.

A red triangle on the screen was followed by two blue circles. The tortoises were trained to press either the left or right circle to get a strawberry.

Dr Anna Wilkinson found that when food was given to the tortoises in two blue bowls, similar to the circles, the tortoises went for the food on the same side as the circle they were trained to press.

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Touchscreen tortoises lead scientific research

Scientists at the University of Lincoln have discovered the reptiles are really rather quick on the uptake in groundbreaking research using the kind of touch screen technology we are all accustomed to.

They might be on the slow side and give a rather ponderous appearance, but it seems the humble tortoise is actually something of a whizz when it comes to learning new skills.

Victoria Whittam reports:

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Tortoises learn to use touchscreen

Researchers at the University of Lincoln have trained tortoises to use touchscreens as part of a study to test the animals' intelligence.

The reptiles were given a choice of shapes on a screen and managed to work out how to win a strawberry by pressing a blue circle on screen. Watch them in action:

Researcher Dr Anna Wilkinson explains why the tortoises are willing to perform: