Spanish universities fail to make the grade

No Spanish institution has made the top 200 of the 2013 Academic Ranking of World Universities, and only four have been included in the top 300.

Spanish universities fail to make the grade
The ranking is based on international research and academic standing. Photo: AFP/CRISTINA QUICLER

Commonly known as the Shanghai Ranking, the list has been compiled annually by China's Jiao Tong University since 2003 to provide a reference for the academic standings of 500 universities around the world.

Like last year, no Spanish university was considered good enough to make the top 200, according to national daily 20 Minutos.

The four best were considered to be the Autonomous University of Barcelona, the Autonomous University of Madrid, Complutense University of Madrid and the University of Barcelona.

Topping the overall chart were Harvard, Stanford, MIT (Massachussets Institute of Technology) and Cambridge.

The Shanghai Ranking rates universities according to a formula based on the number of articles they have published in prestigious academic journals, the number of highly-cited researchers working there, the number of Nobel Prizes or Fields Medals (in mathematics) won and the per-capita academic performance of each institution.

It is generally considered to be one of the top three most widely consulted and influential international university rankings.

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Spanish scientists make breakthrough identifying HIV resistance gene

A rare genetic mutation that causes a form of muscular dystrophy affecting the limbs also protects against HIV infection, Spanish scientists reported Thursday.

Spanish scientists make breakthrough identifying HIV resistance gene
Photo: peshkova/Depositphotos

The breakthrough comes a decade after American Timothy Brown, known as the “Berlin Patient,” became the first person cured of HIV after a bone marrow transplant from a donor with a mutation of the CCR5 gene.

The newly-discovered mutation concerns the Transportin 3 gene (TNPO3) and is far more rare. 

It was identified several years ago among members of a family in Spain who were suffering from type 1F limb-girdle muscular dystrophy.   

Doctors studying the family learned that HIV researchers were interested in the same gene because it plays a role in transporting the virus inside cells.   

Role of TNPO3 in HIV infection (credit: Rodríguez-Mora S, et al., 2019).

They then got in touch with geneticists in Madrid, who took blood samples from those family members and infected the blood with HIV — revealing a welcome surprise.   

The lymphocytes — white blood cells that are an important part of the immune system — of people with the rare muscular illness were naturally resistant to HIV, it emerged.

“This helps us to understand much better the transport of the virus in the cell,” Jose Alcami, a virologist at the Carlos III Health Institute and co-author of a paper published in US journal PLOS Pathogens on the subject, told AFP.   

HIV is among the most studied viruses, he said, adding however that much remained to be learned, such as why five percent of patients who are infected do not develop AIDS.

“There are mechanisms of resistance to infection that are very poorly understood,” he said.

READ MORE: Spanish team develop biosensor to detect HIV within a week of infection