Spanish Wine Researchers Work to Preserve Rare Grape Varieties Reply

Fernando Martinez Toda

With 70% of the world’s wines coming from just 30 varieties, researchers started protecting the genetic diversity of grapes

Twenty-five years ago Fernando Martínez de Toda began to notice what he calls the “Coca-Cola-isation” of the wine market. Everywhere the agricultural engineer looked, he saw the same few grapes dominating the wine market: cabernet sauvignon, merlot and chardonnay.

For Martínez de Toda, based at the University of La Rioja in one of Spain’s best-known wine regions, the problem hit particularly close to home. Vineyards across Spain were being restructured at a rapid pace. “People were taking out lesser-known varieties to put in French varieties or better-known Spanish ones like tempranillo.”

The changes around him were being reflected on a global scale, with some 70% of the world’s wines coming from just 30 grape varieties. He decided he would start stowing away rare indigenous grape varieties with the goal of preserving as much diversity as he could. “People called us crazy, but we were losing them without even knowing what we were losing,” he said. “We decided just to keep it somewhere and see if we could find a future use for it.”



Barcelona Doctors Believe They’ve Found Cure for AIDS Virus Reply

AIDS treatment Barcelona

Nicole Akoukou Thompson writes for Latin–Spanish doctors in Barcelona believe they’ve found the cure to HIV. By using blood transplants from the umbilical cords of individuals with a genetic resistance to HIV, Spanish medical professionals believe they can best the AIDS-causing virus. The procedure has already been successful, “curing” a patient in just three months.

Five years ago, an infected 37-year-old man from Barcelona began receiving a transplant of blood from an umbilical cord, and he was cured. Unfortunately, the man died of cancer just three years later, after developing lymphoma. Nonetheless, the Spanish medical team involved remain committed to the technique, and they consider their work to be a breakthrough in the battle against HIV and related conditions, according to the Spanish newspaper, El Mundo.

According to Spanish news site The Local, the CCR5 Delta 35 mutation affects a protein in white blood cells, and it provides an estimated 1 percent human population with heightened resistance to HIV infection. Following cancer treatment, the HIV virus also disappeared for Timothy Brown, an HIV patient who developed leukaemia before receiving experimental treatment in Berlin. He was the initial subject for the technique, and he was given bone marrow from a donor who carried resistance to mutation from HIV.


Spain’s Model Organ Donor System in Jeopardy? Reply

Spanish organ transplant

Spanish transplant candidates are some of the most likely to receive an organ, since the country has the highest organ donation rate in the world: 35.1 donors per million.

Evangeline O’Regan writes for Al–Sonia Gallego, 30, was born with polycystic kidney disease. Since birth, she has had ongoing renal dialysis, and undergone three kidney transplants. Now, she is back on the waiting list and on stand-by to receive her fourth kidney. “He [the kidney] can come when he wants, as long as he arrives all right and stays for many years,” says Sonia with a touch of humour. “That’s the most important thing”. Worldwide, there are one million patients just like Sonia waiting to receive a much needed heart, kidney, liver, lungs, or pancreas. According to the Global Observatory on Donation and Transplantation (associated with the World Health Organisation) just 100,000 transplants are carried out each year. Only one in 10 patients will receive a transplant.


Sunscreen Floods Oceans as Warmer Waters Boost Tourism Reply

Sunscreen pollutes oceans

Scientific–Sunscreen runoff from beachgoers may already be altering coastal waters. Researchers have begun to focus on the environmental and health consequences of nanoparticles, tiny shreds of elements used in a range of commercial products. One of them is the impact of titanium dioxide (TiO2) nanoparticles used in sunscreens.

David Sánchez-Quiles, a doctoral candidate at the Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies in Spain, explained that nanoparticles of TiO2 act as ultraviolet light filters in sunscreens, but are often coated with silica or alumina to avoid undesirable reactions on the skin.


Neanderthal Faces Emerge from the Gloom of a Spanish Cave Reply

Atapuerca Neanderthal Spain

Bones and skulls found in the cave show Neanderthal facial features appearing for the first time 430,000 years ago

Ancient  skulls recovered from a deep cave in northern Spain are the oldest known remains to show clear signs of Neanderthal facial features, researchers claim. Scientists reconstructed 17 skulls from pieces of bone found in the mud at Sima de los Huesos, or the “Pit of Bones”, in the Atapuerca mountains. The skulls had some Neanderthal-like features, but their appearance was otherwise far more primitive. Juan Luis Arsuaga, professor of palaeontology at the Complutense University of Madrid, said the remains belonged to a “missing link” population that fell somewhere between the Neanderthals and a more archaic group of human forerunners.


Sun Sets on Spaniards’ Solar Dreams Reply

solar electricity Spain

The Malay Mail — “The sun could be yours,” the Spanish government promised in 2007, encouraging citizens to invest in solar power. Many who did now wish they could give it back. Tens of thousands of indebted Spaniards have found themselves lumbered with fields full of expensive solar panels whose subsidies have been unexpectedly cut in the financial crisis. “How do I feel? Completely fooled,” said David Utiel, a 37-year-old teacher who invested in a solar plant, recalling the government’s sunshine slogan. “Fooled, swindled, disappointed, disgusted.” He was one of the 62,000 ordinary citizens in Spain who campaign groups say have been caught in a financial sun trap.


Spain Still Leads World in Organ Donation and Transplants Reply


Euroweekly–Despite a series of cutbacks to the health service as a result of the economic crisis, Spain is still leading the way in organ donations and transplants. Since its inception 25 years ago in 1989, the Spanish National Transplant Organization (ONT) has overseen more than 90,500 organ transplant operations.

ONT has managed some 57,000 kidney transplants, 21,576 liver transplants, 7,024 heart transplants, 3,200 lung transplants and over 1,500 pancreas transplant operations. These impressive figures have been helped by the fact that Spain has the highest rate of organ donors in the world. Last year, around 1,655 people in Spain donated their organs, with an average of 35.1 donors per million people, well above the European Union average of 19.2 per million.


Spain’s Drone Ban Harms Film Industry Reply

Cromatica45 Spain

From–Last October, Ridley Scott and more than a thousand extras and film crew arrived in Andalusia, in southern Spain, to shoot Exodus, his new epic about the life of Moses starring Christian Bale. “They spent a whole month here”, Piluca Querol, the director of the Andalusia Film Commission, told Quartz: “It’s the first time unemployment has gone down in Almería at that time of year, thanks to all of the construction.” 

The movie industry is an important contributor to the economy in Andalusia, the region with the highest unemployment rate in all of Europe. “Film producers use drones a lot,” Querol said, “especially in pre-production to get things ready, prepare shots and look for possible camera positions.” She added, “of course [drone images] promote Spain abroad, in our case as a great place to film movies.”


Atlas Flight Drone Test Center Opened in Andalusia Reply

Atlas Centre Inauguration

Suas, March 27, 2014–The president of the Junta de Andalucía, Susana Díaz, has inaugurated today the Atlas Flight Test Centre, Spain’s first facility exclusively devoted to testing technologies and light unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and Europe’s first centre specifically designed to research and development activities of this kind of technologies. This centre, located at Villacarrillo (Jaén), will offer the international aerospace community the first permanent technological-scientific facility to safely perform tests, simulations and validation of technologies to be applied to this kind of aircraft and its performance in the airspace.


El Hierro: World’s First Renewable Energy Island? Reply

El Hierro Canaries

Daniel C. Jones writes for, July 7, 2011–El Hierro, the smallest and southern-most island of the Canaries, made headlines recently after it announced plans to become the world’s first island to eradicate its carbon footprint and run completely off 100% renewable energy sources. The Huffington Post reported how El Hierro will be powered by an 11.5 MW wind farm, 11.3 MW of hydroelectric power and a whole bunch of solar thermal collectors and grid-connected photovoltaics.

The fact that oil will no longer be transported to this remote location will offset 18,200 tons of carbon dioxide alone. These are undeniably impressive statistics and the project represents a wonderful opportunity for Swiss-Swedish power giant, ABB. However there is one problem with the claim that El Hierro is “the world’s first renewable energy island” – it isn’t. More…