Stories about the people, science and research of the Medical Research Council.
15 Aug 2018
Are you interested in coming along or taking part in next year’s MRC Festival of Medical Research? Deborah Barber explores some 2018 highlights and shares tips learnt along the way for making public engagement a success.
For the last three years we’ve kicked off our summer with the MRC Festival of Medical Research. This year, over 10 days in June, 43 events were held by MRC institutes, units and centres, and teams of MRC grant holders. [...]
Continue reading: MRC Festival: Bringing research to life
24 Aug 2017
Reproducibility isn’t something that can be solved without considering the bigger research picture. So as part of efforts to improve the quality of research, we’ve collected tips and resources – relevant to each stage of the research process – from across the MRC community to help. Isabel Baker reports.
Methods are us
Good science needs good methods. Good methods ensure that health research and policy are built on the best possible evidence. Using robust, bullet-proof methods that are reliable and repeatable can also improve efficiency. Efficiency is important, as it’s not just taxpayers’ money at stake; valuable samples from humans and animals can often be used only once, and time donated by volunteers is precious. [...]
Continue reading: Raising the research quality bar
3 Nov 2016
To understand the roles of different genes, Dr James Brown and colleagues at the MRC Harwell Institute are part of a project trying to find out what every single mouse gene does. To help speed things along, they have developed new software to analyse images of mouse embryos.
Our 20,000 genes provide the instructions for everything our body does. But we don’t yet know what each one is responsible for. We share 90 percent of our genes with mice so finding out their ‘function’ could help us understand more about human disease. [...]
Continue reading: New tools help show what genes do
3 Feb 2015
Dr Mary Lyon, an important figure in the field of mouse genetics, died in December. Here Katherine Nightingale looks back on her career, from a ‘titular’ degree to her impact on generations of scientists, via a discovery in the early 1960s which explained a fundamental difference between men and women in the inheritance of disease.
A portrait of Mary Lyon by artist Dr Lizzie Burns (Image copyright: Dr Lizzie Burns)
It’s not often that the MRC names a building after a scientist, even with our roll-call of scientific greats. But at MRC Harwell in Oxfordshire, the MRC Mary Lyon Centre teems with life — murine life that is. Opened in 2004, the centre is a national facility for mouse genetics where genetically modified mice are produced, cared for and studied.
Mary Lyon, who died on Christmas day 2014 aged 89, worked with mice throughout her scientific career, becoming one of the foremost geneticists of the 20th century through her research on mice with mutated genes. She made her most famous discovery, named ‘lyonisation’ in her honour, during her time at MRC Harwell. [...]
Continue reading: Remembering Mary Lyon and her impact on mouse genetics
5 Mar 2014
How are mice helping with hearing research? Professor Steve Brown, the Director of the MRC Mammalian Genetics Unit, carries out research investigating the genetic basis of deafness by changing specific genes in mice to find out their role in hearing. His work has led to the identification of a potential new treatment for glue ear in children. Here he describes the work of the MRC Mary Lyon Centre and shows us a hearing experiment in which an anaesthetised mouse is tested for its response to a particular tone.
[Video link for access.] [...]
Continue reading: Video: Using mice in hearing research
2 Oct 2013
Studying the genetics of the laboratory mouse is crucial to understanding the function of genes in disease, and developing treatments for them. Isabel Baker talks to Greg Joynson, animal technician at the Mary Lyon Centre at MRC Harwell, to find out how the skills of dedicated animal technicians are key to such research.
Greg in the Mary Lyon Centre’s mouse house (Image copyright: Mary Lyon Centre)
How did you become an animal technician?
I learnt about the industry through my brother, who also works here. I have an MSc in Industrial Product Design but wanted a complete career change, so arrived at the MLC with no previous experience.
What qualifications are required to become an animal technician?
The basic requirement is five GCSEs. I received training in how to handle mice and look after them. I’ve done a lot of extra training including the mandatory Home Office modules, a level 2 NVQ and a level 3 CPD course in animal technology. I have picked up a lot of knowledge on the job over the past six years. [...]
Continue reading: What’s it like to be an animal technician?
6 Dec 2012
Handled with care: a mouse in the mouse house (Copyright: BBC 5 Live)
Victoria Derbyshire’s BBC 5 Live show was broadcast from the ‘mouse house’ at MRC Harwell this week. MRC senior press officer Cathy Beveridge was there to witness journalists working alongside animal researchers, and reflects on talking about animal research ‘from behind closed doors’.
One of the first rules I learned as a science press officer is that the word ‘ground-breaking’ should be used sparingly, if at all. Yet it was one of the first things that BBC 5 Live presenter Victoria Derbyshire said as she began her broadcast from within the Mary Lyon Centre, the mouse house at MRC Harwell, this week. By producing a two-hour live radio programme from within an animal research laboratory, we were making history.
BBC 5 Live first approached us back in the summer to find out whether we could take part in a live programme that would showcase the issue of animal research ‘from behind closed doors’. For an issue so often the source of considerable ethical debate, animal research remains strangely intangible to the wider public. BBC 5 Live had previously tackled the issue of abortion from within a clinic and terrorism from Guantanamo Bay, so were clearly no strangers to controversial topics. [...]
Continue reading: Access all areas: BBC 5 Live and mouse research
12 Sep 2012
A mouse in a laboratory (Credit: Flickr/Rick Eh?)
Dr Ilaria Bellantuono of the MRC-Arthritis Research UK Centre for Integrated Research into Musculoskeletal Ageing is one of the founders of ShARM (Shared Ageing Research Models), a new, not-for-profit facility aiming to boost research into ageing by encouraging scientists to share resources and information, including the mice they use in research. Here, Ilaria explains what ShARM is and why it is so important for researchers to get involved.
As we age, we become more likely to fall ill. As well as the effect on the individuals, illness in old age puts a great burden on society — a burden that will only get bigger as people live longer.
Research into ageing-associated diseases, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s disease, is therefore very important. Mice share many of our genes and age in a similar way, so using older mice as ‘models’ for ageing-associated diseases is one of the ways that researchers learn about disease processes and test treatments. [...]
Continue reading: Accelerating ageing research