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Insight blog: Posts from the "From the community" Category

Stories about the people, science and research of the Medical Research Council.

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How drones are helping in the fight against malaria

11 Jul 2018

By combining high-tech drones with low-tech methods, researchers are embarking on an MRC-funded project to map out where mosquitoes breed in Malawi. But how could this help with fighting malaria? MRC Fellow Michelle Stanton of Lancaster University and Christopher Jones of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, currently based at the Malawi Liverpool Wellcome Trust (MLW) Clinical Research Programme in Blantyre, Malawi, are leading the way.

High tech plus ‘bucket and spade’ employed in the fight against malaria. Michelle Stanton, Author provided [...]

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The power of big data

26 Jun 2018

Patient data has the power to revolutionise our approach to medical research and help improve human health. We’re funding scientists to use big data to tackle some of the biggest health challenges, including neurodegeneration. Here Ed Pinches, from Alzheimer’s Research UK, tells us why access to large data sets is so important in our fight against dementia.

It’s the hot topic, the subject dominating much of the latest news. Data. Your data. How it is used, how it is stored, who gets to access it, and for what purpose?

[...]

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Meal timings: do they matter?

19 Jun 2018

Could something as simple as when we eat influence our body weight and health? That’s what Professors Alexandra Johnstone and Peter Morgan, of the Rowett Institute at the University of Aberdeen, are investigating. In the aptly named MRC-funded Big Breakfast Study, they’re aiming to distinguish whether meal timings are important – and if so, why.

Professors Peter Morgan and Alexandra Johnstone. Image credit: The Rowett Institute

Do you eat breakfast or usually skip this meal to rush to work, or to sleep for longer? If you don’t eat breakfast is it because you don’t feel hungry and can’t face food first thing? Not feeling hungry in the morning might be because you consumed a lot of calories before sleeping.

If you prefer to hit the snooze button, or eat much later in the day, you’re not alone. The most common pattern of eating in the UK is to consume most of our daily calories in the evening – roughly 40% of our daily energy intake – and fewer calories in the morning. [...]

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A parliamentary lab meeting

13 Jun 2018

Each year scientists pair up with UK parliamentarians to gain an insight into each other’s worlds, as part of the Royal Society’s Parliamentary Pairing Scheme. Glenn Masson, a postdoc from the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, shares his experience of welcoming an MP into his lab.

Daniel Zeichner, MP for Cambridge, arrived on my doorstep at midday. My lab doorstep that is, at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB). He was here to shadow my day and see what we researchers spend our days doing with public funding.

Glenn Masson and Daniel Zeichner at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology

Image credit: MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology

My week in Parliament – the first leg of our exchange – exposed me to the breadth of MP’s interests. As we briskly made our way around Westminster, national and European headlines ran alongside constituents’ concerns; Daniel’s attention was dragged from one issue to the next at an unrelenting pace. [...]

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Outfoxing the flu

23 May 2018

With this year’s flu season over, most of us can breathe a sigh of relief. But taming a virus as notorious and unpredictable as influenza requires year-round research efforts. Carmen Chai looks back at how far we’ve come since the deadly 1918 outbreak of Spanish Flu, and what lies ahead.

Virus particles of the H3N2 subtype of influenza, known as the Hong Kong Flu virus.
Image credit: CDC/Science Photo Library

It’s been labelled as one of the greatest pandemics in history. 100 years ago, the 1918 influenza virus, more commonly known as the Spanish Flu, brought the international medical community to its knees. [...]

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GDPR: What researchers need to know

16 Apr 2018

The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and new Data Protection Act come into force on 25 May. Both apply in the UK and will influence research involving personal data. So what’s changing and how should you, as a researcher, prepare? Sarah Dickson, Head of the MRC Regulatory Support Centre, is here to help.

What is GDPR?

The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), along with the new UK Data Protection Act, will govern the processing (holding or using) of personal data in the UK.

Although the new regulations haven’t been designed specifically for research, we’ll need to make some changes to research practice. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is the UK regulator. The Health Research Authority (HRA), in collaboration, is providing official guidance for people working in health and social care research. We‘re working with both organisations. [...]

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Nutrition research: taking a broader view

12 Apr 2018

The UK Nutrition Research Partnership for health and disease aims to take nutrition research to the next level by building up a strong research base. On the day of the first partnership meeting, Chair Professor Sir Stephen O’Rahilly, Director of the MRC Metabolic Diseases Unit at the University of Cambridge, explains why nutrition matters to you and your research area.

Image credit: University of Cambridge

The food we eat has a huge impact on our bodies. One of the key conclusions of last year’s review of nutrition and human health research in the UK was that we need to gain a deeper insight into how changes in diet affect our health.

We also need more accurate information about how we might better use nutrition to prevent and treat certain important diseases. The UK Nutrition Research Partnership is focused on strengthening the UK science base in basic and translational nutritional research. [...]

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Pushing dementia research forward through US-UK collaboration

22 Mar 2018

For MRC grants that involve collaborations, almost half (43%) are international. We’re running a symposium in Washington D.C to encourage more of this, by joining up UK early career researchers and National Institutes of Health (NIH) researchers working in neurodegeneration. But what’s the international incentive? Three researchers with MRC-NIH Partnership Awards share how they hope to benefit.

Dr Chi-Hun Kim, Dementias Platform UK, University of Oxford

Dr Chi-Hun Kim

Dr Chi-Hun Kim

The UK and US each have rich data sources for dementia research. But there aren’t any efficient UK-US data access channels which make it easier for researchers in the two countries to collaborate.

I plan to use the Dementias Platform UK (DPUK) Data Portal as a channel for more efficient and long-standing collaboration. The portal is a secure one-stop website where researchers can upload their data and analyse it for free. By using this robust MRC-funded facility, I’ll conduct a study using data from both sides of the Atlantic. I’m aiming to get a better picture of how conditions that block or reduce blood flow to the brain might affect the development of dementia.

DPUK and I have been helping South Korea make a similar facility to help with international collaboration. My experiences from the MRC-Korea collaboration will set me up well for this exciting new collaboration.  [...]

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Celebrating women in science

8 Mar 2018

By supporting schemes like Athena SWAN and the WISE campaign we’re committed to advancing women’s careers in STEM. For International Women’s Day 2018, Deborah Barber shares quotes and career insights from some of the many inspiring women in research who we’ve featured on the blog over the past year.

Professor Janet Darbyshire

Professor Janet Darbyshire

“The hospitals used to be completely full of patients with HIV/AIDS, but now things are very, very different.”

Janet is the recent recipient of our most prestigious award, the MRC Millennium Medal. Her research into clinical trials and epidemiology has prevented disease and saved lives around the world. Janet provides an insight into her successful career, from her earliest memories of medicine to the difference her research has made to people’s lives. [...]

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Taking science into school: why both sides benefit

15 Feb 2018

Colin Plumb PhD researcher at MRC CRM

Colin Plumb, PhD researcher at MRC-CRM

Science fascinates people of all ages. But for interested young people, higher education and a career in the lab can feel like a daunting and distant prospect. Colin Plumb is a PhD researcher at the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine (CRM) at the University of Edinburgh, where an unexpected collaboration with a local school is inspiring the next generation of researchers and even refuelling his own passion for his work.

Researchers don’t always make the best teachers. We’re prone to getting caught up in small details, which can consume our thoughts and divert attention away from the bigger picture. It’s unfortunate, because the big questions in science are often the most interesting. They’re the reason many of us were seduced by science when we began studying it in school. Helping to mentor young science students at Castlebrae High School has forced me to examine why I got into science, and I think in many ways re-learn things I had forgotten. [...]

Continue reading: Taking science into school: why both sides benefit