Tag Archives: Research

Drug Discovery Institute announced by Alzheimer’s Research UK

By Alicia Simpson

image source: reuters
The Drug Discovery Institute will develop new treatments for dementia (image source: reuters)

 

Alzheimer’s Research UK  announced a first of its kind in Europe this week with the launch of a Drug Discovery Institute to develop new treatments for dementia.

With the G8 Dementia Summit one month away, the UK’s leading dementia research charity will fund the new institute to address a gap it says the pharmaceutical industry has failed to fill. It will unite the divide between academic research, which provides much of the fundamental insight into neurodegenerative disease, and the development of new treatments.

The charity has today called  for the UK’s foremost universities to apply to host the Institute. Its work will be guided by Alzheimer’s Research UK and leading drug discovery experts from the dementia field, and is set to have its lead scientists in place by next year.

The Director of Research for Alzheimer’s Research UK, Dr Eric Karran, is launching the Drug Discovery Institute. Dr Karran said: “We currently have no treatments that act against the disease processes that cause dementia; this Institute will change that. The Institute will be the first of its kind in Europe, and will follow successful models established in other disease areas like cancer. As the population ages, numbers of people living with dementia will grow; the need for treatments that can improve quality of life or slow or stop diseases like Alzheimer’s cannot be overstated.”

Finding medicines for complex diseases such as this solicits an amalgamation of clinical expertise, pioneering basic science and patient involvement. The new Drug Discovery Institute will aim to combine all three by setting up its home with a leading academic group that has close access to clinical research units and hospitals.

Dr Karran said: “The Drug Discovery Institute is the missing link between the UK’s considerable expertise in fundamental science, and industry who can turn discoveries into benefits for people with dementia. Alzheimer’s Research UK is in a unique position to bring the academic and industrial sectors together in the interests of tackling our greatest medical challenge and it is the right time to launch this drive.”

Dementia currently affects at least 35.6 million people worldwide, and the numbers are projected to almost double every 20 years, according to the World Health Organization. 60,000 deaths a year are also directly attributable to dementia.

Professor Bart de Strooper was awarded the MetLife Foundation Award for Medical Research in 2007 for his contribution to dementia research. De Strooper said: “The Drug Discovery Institute is exactly the kind of long-term thinking that we need to develop effective new treatments for people with dementia. Dementia researchers from across Europe and beyond will be watching its progress with anticipation.”

Dementia costs the UK economy £23 billion a year, which is more than both cancer and heart disease combined. It is hoped that the launch of the Drug Discovery Institute will enable reductions to the economic cost, as well as the huge personal cost, of dementia.

Rosemary Goddard is the Alzheimer’s Research UK champion. Her husband was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s seven years ago. Goddard said: “I’m delighted to see Alzheimer’s Research UK taking the lead in this search for more effective drugs. With the population living longer, dementia is hanging over us all like the sword of Damocles, and I have to hope that research will defeat this dreadful condition.”

Gene linked to life threatening flu

A lack or low content of the protein IFITM3 due to genetic mutation can change a harmless flu into a life-threatening disease. This information was announced in a collaborative study which included contributions from Edinburgh University and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute among others.

While most people recover well from a flu, some have to be hospitalized with life-threatening symptoms.”We had little idea why this small number of people was so severely affected,” says Professor Tim Walsh from the Critical Care Medicine Department at the University of Edinburgh. Previous studies showed that protein IFITM3 plays a crucial role in blocking the growth of influenza viruses. The protein, which sits in the membrane, is suspected to hinder viruses from entering cells and subsequently their replication.

The initial study was done on mice lacking the IFITM3 gene and showed that these mice were more likely to express severe symptoms of flu when exposed to the viruses. A subsequent screening of patients who had been admitted to hospital with severe flu revealed a mutation in the IFITM3 gene in some of the patients.

“Our research is important for people who have this variant as we predict their immune defences could be weakened to some virus infections. Ultimately as we learn more about the genetics of susceptibility to viruses, these people can take informed precautions, such as vaccinations to prevent infection,” says Professor Paul Kellam from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute.

Relating the genetic composition of a person to their susceptibility to viral infections will help scientists find the best cure for patients.

“Hibernation” Could Help Stroke Recovery

A technique which cools the human body, inducing a kind of hibernation, is to be used to see if it will help the recovery of stroke victims. The technique, which recuduces body temperature from 36.8C to between 34C and 35C has already been used to treat brain injury after cardiac arrest or birth defects.

Inducing hypothermia by use of cooling pads and intravenous fluids, the procedure has been successful in small-scale trials, but the process by which it helps is not yet fully known. Theories suggest that when cooled, the brain requires less oxygen, so giving doctors more time to help prevent damage.

The clinical trials are being run by Friedrich-Alexander-University in Germany in collaberation the University of Edinburgh and are likely to last until 2016 or 2017 . They will involve around 1500 people across Europe, with 200 from the UK.

It is hoped that if these trials are successful, the chances of a complete recovery from a stroke will be increased from 1 in 13 to 1 in 10. Currently there are few treatments available for stroke victims.

Dr Malcolm Macleod, head of experimental neuroscience at the Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences at the University of Edinburgh commented that  “every day 1,000 Europeans die from stroke – that’s one every 90 seconds – and about twice that number survive but are disabled. Our estimates are that hypothermia might improve the outcome for more than 40,000 Europeans every year.”

Currently in Scotland a third of all strokes are fatal and although survival rates have improved over the last decade they are the third highest killer after cancer and coronary heart disease.

The Language of Faces

By Sam Khan-Mcintyre

What appears to be a single face, however it is a mix of multiple different people.

Psychologists at the University of Edinburgh have found that levels of facial symmetry
can show mental decline in men between the ages of 79 and 83.

Researchers have discovered that those with less symmetry in their faces are more likely to have an increased slowdown of brainpower.

Subjects’ results in reasoning and reaction time tests at the university were used alongside the Scottish Mental Health Survey from 1932.

Dr Lars Penke, who led the work, said: “This kind of research is not meant to lead to new treatments, though facial symmetry could become a diagnostic indicator in the long run.”

He added: “Facial symmetry is only an indirect indicator of insults to developmental stability that accumulated over the lifespan, so there’s no expectation that treating symmetry could ever help against mental decline.”

Developmental stability is the ability of an organism to undergo stable development of the observable characteristics (or phenotype) under given environmental conditions.

Disease (such as diabetes or high blood pressure); toxins; alcohol and illicit drugs; lack of activity (mental or physical); stress; malnutrition; or genetic mutations during development, all contribute to developmental stability and therefore mental decline.

Robin Morton, a scientist at Edinburgh University added that stresses on a mother could affect the baby while in the womb and affect symmetry. He also explained that fingerprints can also become asymmetrical in this way.

He said: “Those with higher mental ability tend to age better due to higher thinking ability. Therefore they will have less of a decline. This could help inform a patient’s clinician.”

Comparable results have not yet been found in females, but research is on-going. Dr Penke said: “We still do some work on this topic, but there are no new results worth reporting yet.”

Scottish Scientists Make Cancer Breakthrough

By Gabriel Neil

It was announced last week that scientists from the University of Dundee have made a discovery which could lead to a deeper understanding of how cancer occurs. The research team, led by Dr Joost Zomerdijk discovered a “previously hidden link” within the ways in which human cells make the structures they need to function, a process called “transcription” – specifically the way in which genes regulate ribosomes which produce proteins vital for growth. Understanding transcription is important in cancer research as when the genes controlling it fail, cells can grow out of control, creating cancers.

Dr Joost Zomerdijk
Dr Joost Zomerdijk led the study.

This breakthrough was hailed by Dr Zomerdijk, claiming that it “advances our understanding of how normal transcription is maintained in human cells” adding that this may help to discover how to reverse the damaging “deregulation” of transcription.

Dr David Wright a biologist from the University, who was not involved in the research, cautioned that this finding is “a tiny crucial cog in a complicated machine… it is not particularly important on its own” but it “ties the information that we already have about the ways in which cancer cells go wrong to our understanding of how normal cells do their jobs” which could possibly lead to new kinds of cancer therapies.

Dundee University’s College of Life Sciencesreceives over £40million of research funding annually is renowned for research into cell Biology, having recently been ranked 1st in the UK for Biological Sciences.

New research unveils deeper understanding of body fat

Scientists have recently discovered why some people are apple shaped and others pear shaped.


The optimum body shape is pear as opposed to apple. (Photo accreditation: yahoo.net)

University of Edinburgh researchers have defined one particular protein that plays a crucial part in determining how fat is stored and distributed in the body. By obtaining a greater understanding of how this protein works, medicines can be developed to treat obesity.

Dr Nicholas Morton, from the University’s Centre for cardiovascular research said “this study opens up new avenues for research, and gives us a much better idea of why some fat in the body becomes unhealthy while other fat is safely stored for energy”. Continue reading New research unveils deeper understanding of body fat

Napping Found to Raise Diabetes Risk

By Vibecke Gudmundsen

Regular napping is dramatically raising the risk to develop diabetes, according to new research.

The study conducted by scientists at the University of Birmingham has found that people who sleep for short periods during the day are up to 26% more likely to evoke type-2 diabetes.

“There is an obvious link between sleeping for short periods and type-2 diabetes, even with other factors taken into account”, said Dr Shahrad Taheri, from the University of Birmingham.

Other contributing factors are the weight of the subjects and unhealthy life styles. These were confirmed by the study, in addition to poor night time sleep.

The research examined the sleeping habits of 16,480 older people in China. A large proportion of the group, 68%, took regular naps and the research found that napping just once a week increased the likelihood of developing the condition.

Dr Taheri said the study was satisfying. He said: “Our research provides us with an additional insight on the risk factors behind type-2 diabetes”.

“As the number of people with type-2 diabetes keeps increasing, it is crucial that we do everything we can to help prevent people from developing the condition.”

The results of the study is due to be presented at Diabetes UK‘s annual professional conference in Glasgow on Wednesday March 11.

Napping found to raise diabetes risk

By Vibecke Gudmundsen

Regular napping is dramatically raising the risk to develop diabetes, according to new research.

The study conducted by scientists at the University of Birmingham has found that people who sleep for short periods during the day are up to 26 per cent more likely to evoke type-2 diabetes.Day time nap

“There is an obvious link between sleeping for short periods and type-2 diabetes, even with other factors taken into account”, said Dr Shahrad Taheri from the University of Birmingham.

Other contributing factors are the weight of the subjects and unhealthy life styles. These were also confirmed by the study, in addition to poor night time sleep.

The research examined the sleeping habits of 16,480 older people in China. A large proportion of the group, 68 per cent, took regular naps, and the research found that napping just once a week increased the likelihood of developing the condition.

DiabetesDr Taheri said he is satisfied with the study. He noted: “Our research provides us with an additional insight on the risk factors behind type-2 diabetes”.

“As the number of people with type-2 diabetes keeps increasing, it is crucial that we do everything we can to help prevent people from developing the condition.”

The results of the study is due to be presented at Diabetes UK‘s annual professional conference in Glasgow on Wednesday.

Scotland Proves to Be the “Best” in Europe for Living and Learning

By: Dustin L. Gee

student-1When you hear the word “Scotland,” what’s the first thing comes to mind? Is it the world famous St. Andrew’s golf course, the rugged Highland Mountains, or perhaps it’s what lies underneath the famous Scotsman’s kilt!     

Either way, one thing is for certain, Scotland is growing in reputation and quickly becoming known for more than just a great holiday destination for tourists, but rather an inspiring place for talented individuals to pursue a wide range of higher education degrees.

In fact, according to a recent survey conducted by I-Graduate titled “Tracking the University and College Experience in Scotland: What do International Students Think?,” Scottish education institutions are without questions leading the way in providing the best living and learning experiences for International Students.

I-Graduate states, “the purpose of this study is to give a snapshot view of what international students in Scotland think is important and find out how satisfied they are with their experience.”  

A total of 5,680 student responses were received from seven participating universities and ten participating colleges, which represents approximately 14.1% of the international student body population in Scotland.

More so, the students who took the survey were asked questions that allowed them to reflect on their first impressions of Scotland upon arrival, the learning experience, the student support services offered at their institution, and the living experience.  

Each student response was then compared with results from a 2006 study and also against two groups of competitors; the rest of the United Kingdom and a European grouping that included: Germany, Belgium, Republic of Ireland, and the Netherlands.

The results are in and the British Council is pleased to announce that 86% of university students and 85% of college students in Scotland would recommend their educational experience to others. Of this group, 39% would actively recommend that others study in Scotland. This shows an increase from the 33% figure that was calculated in 2006.  

Researchers for I-Graduate, Neeta Barot and Felice Nightingale, stated in their summary of the survey, “91% of International Students think Scotland is a good place to be. This compares with 86% in the rest of the United Kingdom and 87% of students in Europe.”

In general, students rate learning and living in Scotland better than in the rest of the United Kingdom and Europe.  

Better yet, Barot and Nightingale noted, “90% of students claim they are satisfied with studying with expert lectures, feeling safe and secure, the surroundings outside the university or college, and course lectures.” 

Noticeably, Scotland has quite a lead on the rest of the United Kingdom and Europe, but this lead is earned, not owned, and others have the potential to catch up quickly.

For this reason, the survey was also meant to identify areas that Scotland universities and colleges need to work on to develop in order to retain and keep attracting students. The major concerns stressed bystudent-2 international students were issues with opening a bank account, accommodation costs, living expenses, and meeting students from Scotland.

The task now is for Scottish universities and colleges to work on addressing and improving these concerns and troubles for international students.

The web-site for the British Council assures all current and prospective international students, “ Scotland has been leading the way in education since the early part of the 15th century and though constantly evolving, our approach remains focused on the needs of the student, and is designed to create time and space for individual development for breadth as well as depth of study.”  

Overall, the survey provides valuable information and insight that Scottish universities and colleges can use in order to make sure Scotland remains the leader of the pack. 

Most importantly, universities and colleges should acknowledge and take pride in the fact that Scotland is ahead on most measures of the student experience, despite student expectations are changing, and that it is imperative for us to keep our eyes and ears open to student feedback and opinions.  

To learn more about this and other studies conducted by I-Graduate, please visit the British Council web-site at www.britishcouncil.org/scotland