Episode 3: Can science defeat ageing? CRISPR for CF; How will autonomous cars change our cities?

Genetic map of Ireland charts impact of invasions and plantations

Researchers have found relatively high levels of West Norwegian-like (probably Viking) ancestry within Ireland [Source: irishhistorypodcast.ie]

The Irish DNA Atlas which has just been published in the journal Scientific Reports provides the first fine-scale genetic map of the island of Ireland.

The DNA Atlas, which was produced by researchers at the Royal College of Surgeons and the Genealogical Society of Ireland charts the genetic impact of major historical events such as the Norse Viking invasion and the Ulster Plantations as well as revealing genetic similarity in 10 distinct clusters.

The Atlas was developed by population geneticists and genealogists who came together to collect DNA samples from 196 Irish individuals with four generations of ancestry linked to specific areas across Ireland.

The analyses of the DNA, and comparison with thousands of further samples from Britain and Europe, are revealing seven clusters of Gaelic-Irish ancestry, and three of shared British-Irish ancestry.

Scientists expect that this genetic information will improve the diagnoses of diseases where genes play a strong role, particularly for people and populations with Irish roots.


The researchers involved in the study believe the work will help deliver on the vision of the new FutureNeuro Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre, which is seeking to improve the diagnosis of rare neurological disorders and to personalise treatments of those.

“Having a genetic map of the Irish population will be invaluable in future studies of the genetic component of some common diseases in the Irish population, especially those diseases which show a difference in prevalence rates across the island of Ireland,” said Dr Sean Ennis, UCD ACoRD and Genomics Medicine Ireland.

Some of the information the Atlas has so far revealed include the findings that there are relatively high levels of people of Northwest French and West Norwegian origin in Ireland; that there is evidence of continual, low level migration between the north of Ireland and the south and west of Scotland; and that there are three genetic clusters with shared Irish-British ancestry which are mostly found in the north of Ireland and probably stem from the Ulster plantations.

Schizophrenia linked to abnormal blood vessels in the brain

Dr Matthew Campbell, TCD, has, with co-workers, discovered a link between faulty blood vessels in the brain and the development of schizophrenia

Faults in in blood vessels in the brain may play a major role in the development of schizophrenia, a condition which affects about 1 per cent of Irish people.

That’s according to new research from scientists at at TCD and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) published in Molecular Psychiatry.

The network of blood vessels in the brain regulates the transport of energy and materials in and out of the brain, moving across the blood-brain barrier (BBB).

Abnormalities in the BBB may be a critical factor in the development of schizophrenia and other brain disorders, the Ireland-based researchers report.

“Our recent findings have, for the first time, suggested that schizophrenia is a brain disorder associated with abnormalities of brain blood vessels,” said Dr Matthew Campbell, Assistant Professor of Neurovascular Genetics at TCD.

“The concept of tailoring drugs to regulate and treat abnormal brain vessels is a novel treatment strategy and offers great potential to complement existing treatments of this debilitating disease,” said Dr Campbell.

“While it is very well accepted that improving cardiovascular health can reduce the risk of stroke and heart attacks, we now believe that drugs aimed at improving cardiovascular health may be an additional strategy to treating brain diseases in the future,” Dr Campbell added.


Is your cat dangerous? Microsoft aiming to ‘solve’ cancer problem; First human head transplant planned; Obesity gene & weight loss

This interview was first broadcast on the 22nd September 2016 on East Coast FM’s The Morning Show with Declan Meehan


Are cats a risk for to your mental and physical health, or have the risks been overblown? [Picture source: Wikipedia]

Scientists help insurers develop ‘death clock’; loneliness is bad for health; biological computers; dinosaur extinction story updated;

Listen to discussion on The Morning Show with Declan Meehan (21.04.16)


Loneliness puts people at higher risk from stroke, heart disease and many other illnesses (Credit: http://www.ucsf.edu)

Loneliness has been linked to a 30% increased risk of stroke. This is more evidence that being lonely, at whatever age, puts the person at higher risk of ill health.

Insurance companies, with the help of scientists,  are working on developing a ‘death clock’ which will better predict when their customers, with life insurance, will die.

Biological computers are on the way, made from genes, proteins and other living tissue, which may be used in future to diagnose and treat disease from inside the body.

The extinction of dinosaurs was prompted by the collision of a 10km wide piece of space rock with the Earth 66 million years ago, but, new evidence suggests that before the impact, the dinosaurs had already seen their best days.


Marriage protects against cancer; genetic ‘super heroes’; 55 years in space; harnessing energy from raindrops

The interview above was broadcast on The Morning Show with Declan Meehan on 14.04.16.

Yuri Gagarin

Yuri Gagarin was the first human launched into space on the 12th April 1961 (Credit: http://www.weebly.com)

It’s been 55 years since Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space. How far have we gone since then?

Marriage has been found to increase cancer survival rates in a wide-ranging US study.

Scientists are trying to understand why a small group of ‘genetic superheroes’ with the genes for Cystic Fibrosis show no symptoms for the disease.

Chinese scientists have found a way to improve solar panels by harnessing energy from raindrops when the Sun refuses to shine.



Short men earn less; Alzheimer’s microbe link; video gaming good for children; birds using language like humans

Short men

A large scale genetic study in the UK has found that very short men earn up to 6k per year less, on average than very tall men (Credit: http://www.telegraph.co.uk)

Click above to listen to a discussion on these topics on The Morning Show with Declan Meehan, broadcast on 10th March 2016 on East Coast FM.

Scientists at Exeter University, have looked at the genes of nearly 120,000 people, compared them to salaries, and found that short men, and fat women earn less than tall men and slender women.

A group of leading Alzheimer’s Disease researchers have written an editorial in a scientific journal suggesting that the disease is linked to the Herpes virus and the Chlamydia bacteria.

High levels of video gaming among European children aged 6 to 11 has been found to be linked with increased intellectual functioning and social intelligence, according to a US based study.

A bird species has been found to use language with syntax like humans, with a sequence of sounds having meaning in one direction, but having no meaning whatever when run in reverse.

This emerged from a Japanese study of Great Tits.

Dogs more loving pets than cats; The mysterious Tabby Star; Early risers have genetic differences; Why do Zebra’s have stripes

Click above to hear discussion on The Morning Show with Declan Meehan

(broadcast on 4/02/2016 on East Coast FM)


Could an artificial structure, built by aliens, called a Dyson Sphere (conceptualised here) be responsible for the huge dimming of a mysterious star, called the Tabby Star, about 1,500 light years away from Earth? (Credit: Market Business News)

Dogs love their owners more than cats, according to a new study, which found far higher levels of the ‘love hormone’ oxytocin in dogs when they were interacting with their owners – versus cats.

Scientists are struggling to understand why a mysterious Star – nicknamed the Tabby Star -has been steadily dimming for the past century, and flickering at irregular intervals.

The oft heard statement “I’m not a morning person” may be supported by science, as geneticists have found  genetic differences between people that refer to themselves as ‘early risers’ and ‘night owls’.

Zebras we all know, have stripes. The question is why, and it’s one that has baffled scientists at least as far back as Charles Darwin, who pondered what evolutionary advantage stripes gave to Zebras.