Stories about the people, science and research of the Medical Research Council.
20 Oct 2017
Kirstin Leslie, MRC PhD student at the Institute of Health and Wellbeing at the University of Glasgow, is the 2017 winner of our Max Perutz Science Writing Award. In her award-winning article she explains how she’s trying to find out why people stop taking drugs prescribed for preventing heart disease, and why this matters.
“When you do things right, people won’t be sure you’ve done anything at all”
That’s actually a quote from the TV show Futurama but it’s also a clear way of explaining why people are not always good at taking their medications. Imagine: you‘re taking a drug to prevent yourself from having a heart attack. But if you don’t feel any different after taking the drug, how can you know it’s even worked? Maybe you weren’t going to have a heart attack anyway? Maybe the drug you’re taking is giving you side-effects and besides, it isn’t worth it because you felt fine before. You don’t want to bother your doctor getting a new prescription and your blood pressure wasn’t that high anyway…So you stop taking your drugs and you hope for the best.
But heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. And it’s preventable. [...]
Continue reading: Can big data mend a broken heart?
13 Oct 2016
Research published in BMC Medicine, based on the Million Women Study, reports women with lower levels of education and living in more deprived areas of the UK are at higher risk of coronary heart disease due to differences in behaviour. Here, study co-author Dr Sarah Floud discusses what these findings mean in the context of addressing social and health inequalities.
Heart disease is a leading cause of death worldwide for men and women. Many observational studies show that individuals with lower socio-economic status have a higher risk of heart disease than those with higher socio-economic status. [...]
Continue reading: Explaining inequalities in women’s heart disease risk
5 Sep 2013
Scientists at the MRC Human Genetics Unit at the University of Edinburgh won the British Heart Foundation’s Reflections of Research image competition last month. MRC Science Writer Isabel Baker looks at the picture, created with a technique invented by an MRC scientist.
(Image copyright: Dr Gillian Gray, Megan Swim and Harris Morrison/University of Edinburgh/The British Heart Foundation)
It looks more like something that you might find hanging in a modern art gallery than an image produced by one of the most advanced scientific imaging techniques.
But rather than a paintbrush, Dr Gillian Gray and Megan Swim from the Queen’s Medical Research Institute*, and Harris Morrison from the MRC Human Genetics Unit at the University of Edinburgh, created this stunningly detailed image of a mouse heart using a technique called Optical Projection Tomography (OPT). [...]
Continue reading: The art of hearts
11 Dec 2012
Could research into the extraordinary regenerative properties of the zebrafish heart one day help people who’ve had heart attacks? In an article taken from our Annual Review 2011/12, Sarah Harrop speaks to Roger Patient from the MRC Molecular Haematology Unit to find out.
Every six minutes someone dies of a heart attack in the UK. Heart attack is a frightening and debilitating condition that can cause permanent damage to the heart in those who survive it, drastically altering the patient’s health. But what if there was a way to repair the heart and allow these patients to lead a normal life again?
That is one of the many quests of Professor Roger Patient at the MRC Molecular Haematology Unit (MHU) in Oxford, who is investigating the possibility of using stem cell therapy to regenerate damaged heart muscle.
Roger started his scientific career as a chemist, but soon decided that DNA was by far the most interesting chemical he’d studied and made the leap to genetics. At that time, the first experiments to transfer animal genes into bacterial cells were taking place, and Roger recalls being accosted by news reporters on his way into work who wanted to know if he was making a ‘test tube monster’. [...]
Continue reading: Profile: Roger Patient
28 Jun 2012
Zebrafish can repair their own hearts (Copyright: Novartis AG)
At an MRC-sponsored session at the Cheltenham Science Festival in June, researchers discussed why scientists are taking lessons from the humble zebrafish when it comes to helping the body heal itself.
Scientists are pretty good at growing cells. They can take stem cells, a kind of cell that has the potential to develop into many — and sometimes any — cell types, and coax them into developing into heart cells, liver cells, retinal cells, nerve cells … the list is long.
The idea is that transplanting these healthy cells into damaged organs could cure disease. There are even attempts to grow entire organs; a new heart grown from a patient’s own cells wouldn’t be rejected so they wouldn’t need immune-suppressing drugs.
But growing heart cells in the lab is a million miles from building an entirely new heart, with its specific and complex structure of muscle and blood vessels. Wouldn’t it be better to fix the old one? [...]
Continue reading: Taking tips from zebrafish