Stories about the people, science and research of the Medical Research Council.
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.
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. [...]
Continue reading: New investment in mouse research to enhance national coordination and collaboration
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
12 Jul 2017
Jennah Green, a PhD student from Newcastle University’s Institute of Neuroscience and based at the MRC’s Centre for Macaques, is trying to develop new ways to assess the psychological wellbeing of rhesus macaques in research environments. Here she explains why it is so important to monitor monkeys’ welfare, and how improving animal welfare can lead to better science.
Macaques and a staff member at the MRC Centre for Macaques
My interest in captive primate welfare was first sparked when I became involved in the Monkey Sanctuary in Cornwall. As I helped to build enrichment equipment for the rescued monkeys’ enclosures, I learnt about their varying psychological states, and was inspired to work on improving the lives of animals in captivity.
I’m now bringing my background in conservation into studying how we can use animal behaviour to interpret and assess the psychological wellbeing of these animals, particularly primates. [...]
Continue reading: For primates and people: The benefits of researching stress in non-human primates
7 Apr 2017
Alistair Jones is a PhD student at the University of Liverpool, funded through the MRC Discovery Medicine North (DiMeN) Doctoral Training Partnership. He explains how using worms and fish in research could help us find new ways of treating drug-resistant epilepsy.
Zebrafish. Image credit: Kazakov Maksim/Shutterstock.com [...]
Continue reading: Why worms and fish are good models for epilepsy
10 Feb 2017
Last year we brought you the news that MRC scientist Dr Rosa Beddington’s papers were to become the first collection of personal papers from a female Fellow archived by the Royal Society. As we celebrate the International Day of Women and Girls in Science tomorrow, the Royal Society’s Laura Outterside delves deeper into the archive, which is now available for viewing at the Royal Society in London.
Beddington was one of the most skilled and influential mammalian experimental embryologists of her generation, and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1999. The collection comprises the contents of Beddington’s office at Mill Hill, where she was Head of the Division of Mammalian Development at the MRC’s National Institute for Medical Research.
Her archive strikes a balance between the personal and professional. You’ll find photographs of Beddington, her old passport (reference number BED/1/1), and her undergraduate notebooks (reference number BED/1/4), including brief forays into diary keeping. And you’ll find ample evidence of Beddington’s surgical and experimental skills, reflected through a series of lab books (reference number BED/2/1) and microscope slides of mouse embryos (reference number BED/5/1). [...]
Continue reading: The lab notes and doodles of Rosa Beddington
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
9 Aug 2016
Dr Jacqui Shields and Dr Angela Riedel at the MRC Cancer Unit explain the science behind these brightly-coloured blobs that show us how cancer cells prepare their road ahead so they can spread around the body.
Breaking down your defences: cancer cells send signals to a healthy lymph node (left) that distort its shape and damage its function (right) making it easier for a tumour to take hold.
One of cancer’s deadliest features is its ability to move through your immune system’s ready-made network of vessels and nodes.
Often, we don’t know a cancer has spread through the immune system until it’s too late, but now we may have found something that could help us predict when that’s going to happen: our findings suggest that before cancer cells even begin to move, they emit signals which send the new area into chaos. [...]
Continue reading: Preparing to move – how cancer can use your immune system as a highway
1 Jul 2016
Today, Professor Tim Bliss will be awarded The Brain Prize alongside Graham Collingridge and Richard Morris. Bliss worked at the National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) from 1967 to 2015 and is now a visiting worker at The Crick. Archivist Emma Anthony found this photo of the young Bliss in the NIMR records and Sylvie Kruiniger finds out more.
The work on ‘long term potentiation’ (LTP) by Bliss, Collingridge and Morris has demonstrated how our brains change as we build memories. Bliss and Terje Lømo were the first to detail how LTP worked back in 1973 when they published the results of their studies conducted in anaesthetised rabbits. [...]
Continue reading: To the Crick! Part four: Think long and hard
7 Apr 2016
A study published today in Stem Cells Translational Medicine shows that microRNAs could be used to treat paracetamol overdose. Lead researcher Dr David Hay from the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Edinburgh spoke to Sylvie Kruiniger about his findings, made possible by growing and testing their own stem cell-derived liver cells.
Why is it important to study paracetamol overdose?
Taken at recommended levels, paracetamol is usually safe, effective and is used widely in adults and children, either alone or in combination with other drugs.
However, it can damage the liver and the risk of liver damage increases with doses over the recommended levels. Each year we see around 200 deaths involving paracetamol (National Office for Statistics).
What happens in your liver when you take paracetamol?
When the liver processes a recommended dose of paracetamol, most of the drug is broken down by acid into water-soluble forms that can be passed in the urine or exported to the bile: this is called the sulfation pathway.
Around five per cent is turned into a toxin called N Acetyl-p-Benzo Quinone Imine (NAPQI). At this low level, the liver can clear the toxin with an antioxidant that reacts with NAPQI so it can be excreted in urine and bile. [...]
Continue reading: Giving the liver a new way to deal with paracetamol overdose
8 Mar 2016
In ‘To the Crick! Part 1: Moving home after 100 years’ we talked about how items like personal papers from the MRC National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) archives are in need of a new home. The papers of one of NIMR’s most famous names, Rosa Beddington, are being rehoused in the archive of The Royal Society. Royal Society archivist Laura Outterside is celebrating the arrival of the first collection of personal papers from a female Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS). This post was originally published on The Respository and has been adapted and reproduced here with kind permission from The Royal Society.
Rosa Beddington on admissions day in 1999 when she became a Fellow of the Royal Society. ©The Royal Society
What better way for the Royal Society archive to celebrate International Women’s Day than by welcoming our first collection of personal papers from a female Fellow? We’ve recently had the good news that the Royal Society archive will be the new home for the papers of Rosa Beddington, a developmental biologist at the NIMR who became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1999. [...]
Continue reading: To the Crick! Part two: The Royal Society welcomes its first collection of personal papers from a female Fellow