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Insight blog

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

Connecting students with science

13 Jan 2020

Applications are now open to find 25 MRC researchers and technical experts for the next ‘I’m a Scientist Medical Research Zone’ in March 2020. Shonna Johnston, Flow Cytometry Facility Manager at the University of Edinburgh Queen’s Medical Research Institute, shares why more technicians should give it a go.

Image credit: Shonna Johnston

Last year, I took part in the I’m a Scientist MRC Festival Zone – an online competition giving school students the chance to connect with researchers and technical experts. The students challenged competitors in fast-paced live chats, asking anything they wanted, then voted for their favourite person to win a prize of £500 towards a public engagement activity of our choice. [...]

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Establishing a new Precision Medicine Accelerator

23 Dec 2019

Early in the new year, we’re launching a scheme to help speed up progress in translational research – and take research from the lab to the clinic faster. Here, our Clinical Director Professor Patrick Chinnery tells us more about the plans.

An independent report, published in September 2019, showed that our funding schemes for translational research – building on basic research to create new therapeutics and diagnostics – have been boosting the UK’s life sciences industry since we introduced them in 2008.

We commissioned the report to determine if these funding schemes had delivered innovation into health care and strengthened the return on investment from discovery research. We were pleased to find that the report showed the schemes had been successful. [...]

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Celebrating ten years of the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine

23 Dec 2019

Over the past year, the University of Edinburgh MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine has been celebrating a significant milestone: 10 years as an MRC Centre. Robin Morton, the centre’s Science Communication Manager, guides us through the celebrations.

Image credit: Douglas-Robertson

Birthdays are a time of celebration, a time to reflect and to look forward to the future. When I joined the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine (CRM) in 2016, I marvelled at its successes, excellent facilities and sense of community. [...]

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Working life: epidemiologist Dr Sema Nickbakhsh

19 Dec 2019

Dr Sema Nickbakhsh is a research epidemiologist at the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research. She describes the surprising relationships she’s found between flu and cold viruses, and why she enjoys looking at the bigger picture.

Sema Nickbakhsh

Image credit: University of Glasgow [...]

Career in brief:

  • BSc (Hons) in Equine Science, The University of the West of England, Bristol
  • MSc in Veterinary Epidemiology, The Royal Veterinary College / The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
  • PhD in Veterinary Preventive Medicine, Epidemiology and Public Health, The University of Glasgow
  • Research Assistant, Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health & Comparative Medicine, The University of Glasgow
  • Postdoctoral Research Fellow, School of Biological Sciences, The University of Edinburgh
  • Postdoctoral Research Associate, MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research

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New investment in mouse research to enhance national coordination and collaboration

13 Dec 2019

Following on from previous blog posts discussing our commitment to mouse-based research and our strategic review of mouse genetics, here our Executive Chair Professor Fiona Watt sets out the MRC’s plans for a national network of mouse research excellence, with the Mary Lyon Centre positioned at its heart.

Small experimental mouse is on the researcher's hand

The MRC Council recently considered the recommendations of the MRC strategic review of mouse genetics and the role of the MRC Harwell Institute, which comprises the Mammalian Genetics Unit (MGU) and the Mary Lyon Centre (MLC). The Council concluded that future investment in mouse genetics should move away from large, hypothesis-free genome-wide programmes and focus instead on more targeted programmes that are integrated with human disease modelling. [...]

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Smartphones for healthcare research: data at our fingertips

10 Dec 2019

Anna Beukenhorst, a PhD student at the University of Manchester, was commended in this year’s Max Perutz Science Writing Award. She sets out the challenges of studying the link between the weather and arthritis symptoms – and how collecting smartphone data from patients could help them better manage their pain.

with MRC Executive Chair Professor Fiona Watt

Anna with MRC Executive Chair Professor Fiona Watt

When motorcycle legend Barry Sheene moved to Australia, it was not for another Grand Prix victory. It was for the weather. Sheene had retired from racing because of his arthritis. Like many arthritis patients he believed that the damp British weather worsened his arthritic pains. [...]

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The enemy of my enemy is my friend

19 Nov 2019

PhD student Erin Attrill, of the Living Systems Institute at the University of Exeter, is the runner-up of our 2019 Max Perutz Science Writing Award. She explains how she’s aiming to harness the power of ‘viruses that infect bacteria’ to overcome antibacterial resistance.

Erin with MRC Executive Chair Professor Fiona Watt

Erin with MRC Executive Chair Professor Fiona Watt

The year is 2050, the stench of plague fills the air and 10 million people are dying from cuts and grazes due to an enemy that cannot be seen. You would be forgiven for believing that we had entered a dystopian, parallel future, but alas not. This is the current future of mankind if we do not address the ever-growing threat: antibiotic resistance. [...]

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Getting on your nerves

16 Oct 2019

Congratulations to PhD student Akira Wiberg of the University of Oxford, the 2019 champion of our Max Perutz Science Writing Award! In his winning article, he describes how looking at our genes could help surgeons predict who is most likely to benefit from surgery for a painful condition of the hand – carpal tunnel syndrome.

Akira receiving his prize from MRC Executive Chair Professor Fiona Watt

“Does this feel sharp?”, I ask my patient, as I use my forceps to pinch the skin of her hand. She says no, so I proceed to make a 2-inch incision in her palm. I dissect through the layers of fatty tissue to expose a greyish-white structure called the transverse carpal ligament. [...]

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Mental health audio tour makes young people’s voices heard

9 Oct 2019

This month, a new audio tour has launched at the National Gallery to dispel myths surrounding mental health. Tour project lead, Dr Helen Fisher from King’s College London, tells us why she thinks that getting people thinking about mental health is so important. The tour is funded by the MRC, part of UK Research & Innovation.

Image credit: The National Gallery, London [...]

My research work focuses on why young people develop mental health problems. A lot of the benefits from the work I do are quite far in the future – it might take 20 or 30 years for outcomes of our research to trickle through to actual practice. That’s a long time to wait to make a difference. There’s an element of frustration that it takes such a long time, while knowing that right now, out there in the world there is still a lot of stigma surrounding mental health, which is preventing many young people from getting the help they need.

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Running datathons for dementia

23 Sep 2019

What’s a datathon – and why should you care? Professor John Gallacher, the Director of Dementias Platform UK, reveals the inspiration behind their popular data-tastic events and the benefits they offer.

We started the datathon events to help equip scientists with the skills that they need to use our secure online environment, which contains health data for dementia research. In a nutshell, for three days up to 50 data scientists work together in small teams to begin tackling a research question using our data resource. [...]

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