Stories about the people, science and research of the Medical Research Council.
28 Nov 2018
Fraser Shearer, MRC PhD student at the Centre for Cardiovascular Science, The University of Edinburgh was commended in this year’s Max Perutz Science Writing Award. He describes how understanding the impact of stress hormones during pregnancy on a child’s lifelong mental health, could help us treat poor mental health more effectively in future.
In just a few weeks my first child is due. I have unbuilt furniture sitting in a wholly unprepared ‘nursery’ which is also my partner’s office, a pram that I am still unsure about, sleep sacks that are apparently a thing babies use and, for someone who does not have breasts, I have a wealth of knowledge about breast pumps. This, however, pales in comparison to the list of things I do not have and the window for fulfilling that list is rapidly shrinking. Suffice it to say, my stress hormone levels are elevated. [...]
Continue reading: Keep calm and carry to term
20 Nov 2018
Our runner-up in this year’s Max Perutz Science Writing Award was Briet Bjarkadottir, an MRC PhD student at the University of Oxford. By understanding how chemotherapy drugs can cause infertility she’s hoping to find a less invasive way to protect fertility in girls and women with a cancer diagnosis.
Briet Bjarkadottir & Fiona Watt
Jane is experiencing the worst day of her life. Her six-year-old daughter, Lily, has just been diagnosed with cancer. The doctor is describing the treatment plan for the next few months: several rounds of chemotherapy to hopefully kill off the cancer cells. He even mentions the possibility of a bone marrow transfer. All of this is way too much to take in – how can a little girl, who was happily playing on holiday a few weeks ago, be so sick? [...]
Continue reading: Stopping the conveyor belt – cancer and fertility
12 Nov 2018
From the Atlantic Ocean to our own backyards, our researchers have been hunting high and low for inspiration to help better understand and tackle superbugs. For World Antibiotic Awareness Week Jonathan Pearce, MRC’s Head of Infections and Immunity, highlights some of the remarkable interdisciplinary teams carrying out this fascinating research.
Today, more than ever, we’re aware of antibiotic resistance as a growing, global problem that desperately needs an answer. According to recent reports, by 2050 superbugs could kill more people than cancer and diabetes combined.
Petri dishes showing bacteria cultures.
Over the past five years alone, in partnership with the other UKRI councils, we’ve made huge efforts to better understand this threat and find solutions – together investing £44 million in 78 UK projects and £41 million in projects worldwide. Collaboration helps fire up imagination, insight and innovation. That’s why we’ve brought together researchers with different skills and experiences across the sciences, engineering, arts and humanities. [...]
Continue reading: From deep-sea sponges to dragonfly wings: Superbug research from unexpected places
8 Nov 2018
Each year the Home Office publishes figures on the number of animals used in scientific procedures in the UK. For the first time, additional statistics have today been published on all animals involved in research – a welcome milestone for animal research transparency. But what are these additional statistics? And why are some animals not counted in the statistics on procedures? Dr Sara Wells, Director of the MRC Mary Lyon Centre MRC Harwell, explains.
The biology we share with animals makes them incredibly useful for studying how our bodies work when healthy and how they change when affected by a disease. Research using animals has helped us make great progress in our understanding and treatment of disease including high blood pressure and asthma. [...]
Continue reading: Increasing transparency in animal research numbers
26 Oct 2018
Congratulations to MRC PhD student Natasha Clarke, from St George’s, University of London, winner of our 2018 Max Perutz Science Writing Award. In her award-winning article she describes how teaching machines to detect changes in language could help with early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.
Award-winner Natasha (centre) with other shortlisted entrants (behind), judge Andy Ridgway
(front row left), MRC Executive Chair Professor Fiona Watt who chaired the judging panel
(front row, second from right) and Professor Robin Perutz, son of Max Perutz (front row right).
I’d like to give you a quick task. How do you make a cup of tea? Describe it out loud. Whilst this could lead to some controversies (milk in first, or last?) it seems fairly simple. But what if I told you that this task could help diagnose Alzheimer’s disease? [...]
Continue reading: How artificial intelligence, and a cup of tea, could help diagnose Alzheimer’s disease
25 Oct 2018
Freely available science papers enable research findings to be shared widely, helping to speed up the pace of science and advance research worldwide. That’s why we support open knowledge solutions like Europe PMC (Pub Med Central): a vast digital library of biomedical research articles, available for anyone to access. But that’s not the only perk, as Community Manager Maria Levchenko explains for Open Access Week 2018.
Image credit: Maria Levchenko
Every scientist hopes that their research will change the world. However, that change can only happen when science is shared with the wider community. Open access to research ensures that anyone, from fellow scientists to journalists and patients, can read the full story behind an important finding. [...]
Continue reading: The serendipity of openness
17 Oct 2018
Checking blood sugar levels
Could we be getting it wrong when avoiding dairy products in a bid to be healthy? That’s what Dr Fumiaki Imamura and Dr Nita Forouhi from the MRC Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge hope to find out. Here Fumiaki tells us about their latest research and why it may be time to question the link between high-fat dairy products and conditions like type 2 diabetes.
Many people believe that low-fat dairy products are healthier than high-fat dairy products. Indeed, many public health guidelines recommend low-fat dairy over high-fat dairy. However, our latest research, published in PLOS Medicine, found that people who had higher levels of biomarkers of dairy fat had a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Biomarkers are tell-tale molecules in the body that can be measured accurately and consistently, and act as indicators of dietary consumption. [...]
Continue reading: Could dairy products help prevent type 2 diabetes?
8 Oct 2018
We’ve recently funded Professor Sir Graham Thornicroft, a leading expert in research on mental health discrimination and stigma, to carry out a global study. On the day of the world’s first Global Ministerial Mental Health Summit, he sets out what stigma looks like across the globe and how his study will make a difference.
Around one in four people will experience mental ill health at some point in their lives, and this year alone around 450 million people worldwide have a mental health condition. Our research shows that in many countries 80 to 90% of them experience negative stigma and discrimination. [...]
It’s so important we carry out research on how to improve this situation globally. Over the last decade, in over a dozen countries including the UK, there have been national anti-stigma programmes and the evidence shows that these can be effective. But so far, all of these programmes have been in high-income countries.
Continue reading: Standing up to global mental health stigma
2 Oct 2018
Clare Elwell with infant taking part in the BRIGHT study: Image credit Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Since recording the first brain images of babies in Africa, Professor Clare Elwell (Department of Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering, UCL) has been leading a pioneering study to increase our understanding of early brain development. Here Clare tells us about bringing a new imaging technology to a remote Gambian village, and how it could help babies suffering from malnutrition reach their full potential.
Before they reach five years of age, one in four children across the globe are malnourished. There’s a lot of research showing the detrimental impact this has on their development. But we know very little about what’s going on inside their brains. [...]
Continue reading: Shining a light on brain development
27 Sep 2018
Regenerative medicine is a fast-moving, interdisciplinary field, looking for ways to repair or replace parts of the body that are diseased or damaged. Now there’s an established and growing UK research community, we’re changing the way we fund this type of research. Two researchers explain why our continued support for this field – from the early discovery stage to translation into the clinic – will help deliver life-changing treatments for currently incurable conditions. [...]
Adult stem cells from the tissue lining the human knee joint, grown in a dish. These cells can repair
damaged cartilage and are being trialled in the clinic. Individual stem cells are labelled with different fluorescent colours. Image credit: Nathan White, University of Aberdeen.
Continue reading: Regenerative medicine: from the lab to the clinic, and back