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Headlines Published on 13 June 2007

Title Nano2Life announces science writing competition winners

As part of the drive towards a “knowledge economy”, the European Commission is keen to keep people informed about the latest scientific developments and encourage youngsters to get involved in the subject. A recent competition has given young researchers the opportunity to showcase their ability to write about science and get their ideas across to a non-expert readership. Communicating complex ideas to the layman is an important task for researchers as the wider public is eager to find out more about new technical, medical and biological advances. Unfortunately, their curiosity often remains unsatisfied due to a shortage of suitable publications.

One award went to a study that observed cells on a spider’s web. © Matt+
One award went to a study that observed cells on a spider’s web.
In order to remedy this situation the Nano2Life (N2L) network launched a scientific writing competition to increase the dissemination of knowledge and create greater public awareness of important nanobiotechnological issues. The intention of Nano2Life is to make Europe a leader in the field of nanobiotechnology. Articles were submitted by young scientists who described their particular area of cutting-edge research in ways that would appeal to the ordinary reader.

Chris Spegel from the University of Lund, in Sweden, won first prize with his description of Parkinson’s disease. His article, Micro and nanotechnology - assisting in the battle against Parkinson’s disease, begins by outlining the development of techniques to monitor the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine from single cells, with the aim of producing a miniaturised test station. This station measures the effect of pharmaceuticals on the cell’s ability to respond to its micro-environment. Small electrodes are manufactured on microchips using nano- and micro-technology to detect dopamine through oxidation. Nano- and micro-technological inventions such as these will revolutionise the way information is gathered and help improve the lives of Parkinson patients and their carers.

In second place, Cells on surfaces - exploring new environments, by Petra Schneider from the University of Kaiserslautern, Germany, cites observations of cells on spiders’ webs as the starting point for research on the varied behaviour of cells according to the support they are built on. The author describes how structured surfaces, both on the micro- and nano- scale can influence the properties of cells, including how genes are expressed. The subject is explained in a novel and ingenious way, capturing the reader’s interest.

The third placed article by Santiago A. Rodriguez-Segui from the Barcelona Science Park, Spain approaches the hot-topic of stem cells in Stem cells differentiation as a "normal" human lifeline. The author explains why stem cells are so useful and the part that nanotechnology plays. The publication compares stem cells to human babies, while cells that have already “differentiated” are viewed as the equivalent of an adult person. Rodriguez-Segui goes on to compare the roles of cells in the human body with the role of individuals in society. The human body can be likened to a society where cells exist in harmony, respect certain rules and are able to communicate with one another.

More information:

  • Nano2life homepage
  • Descartes Prize for Science Communication

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