Research news

28 July 2017 

Genetic data from half a million released for research. The information, having been checked and strengthened over the past two years by genetics experts at Oxford University, was released to researchers on 20 July. Scientists will be able to use the data to investigate, among a host of other things, whether changes in DNA we inherit from our parents are associated with particular diseases. They will be able to carry out more sophisticated analyses of our genes to help unlock the causes of disease and explore how our genetics, lifestyle, diet and environment come together to affect our health.

14 July 2017 

Multi-million pound award boosts research into neglected tropical diseases. The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) has awarded the Global Health research team at BSMS a £5.7 million four-year award to establish a global research unit at BSMS. The grant includes support for seven major projects across three often-neglected NTDs: podoconiosis, mycetoma and scabies.

27 June 2017 

Scientists awarded £5m for cancer research. A group of scientists in Newcastle have been awarded £5 million from Cancer Research UK to extend their ground-breaking cancer research. This latest investment from Cancer Research UK brings their recent funding total in Newcastle to over £12 million, which includes £5.9 million as part of the centre review process and £2 million awarded to the Newcastle Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC), by the charity and the National Institute for Health Research. As part of their work the team will use techniques like CRISPR, which allows scientists to make precise changes to a cell’s DNA. It can help them explore the underlying biology of ALL cancer cells and figure out what these cells depend on to survive.

19 June 2017 

New blood test opens door to precision treatment for prostate cancer. By testing cancer DNA in the bloodstream, researchers found they could pick out which men with advanced prostate cancer were likely to benefit from treatment with exciting new drugs called PARP inhibitors. They also used the test to analyse DNA in the blood after treatment had started, so people who were not responding could be identified and switched to alternative therapy in as little as four to eight weeks. The researchers, at The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) and The Royal Marsden, say their test is the first developed for a precision cancer therapy targeted at specific genetic faults within tumours.

12 June 2017 

The emerging blood test helping to spot cancer earlier. Research into a blood test that may spot cancers sooner and allow more targeted treatment was presented by a University of Leicester researcher. The lecture explained how the liquid biopsy could offer an effective alternative to detect and monitor cancer through blood based tests, rather than through a tissue biopsy. It summarised key highlights of Professor Shaw’s liquid biopsy research at Leicester focussing on clinical studies and trials in breast and lung cancers.

8 June 2017 

Molecular profiling of signet ring cell colorectal cancer provides a strong rationale for genomic targeted and immune checkpoint inhibitor therapies.

1 June 2017 

New insights into how the Zika virus causes brain birth defect. A study published today in Science shows that the Zika virus hijacks a human protein called Musashi-1 (MSI1) to allow it to replicate in, and kill, neural stem cells. Almost all MSI1 protein in the developing embryo is produced in the neural stem cells that will eventually develop into the baby’s brain, which could explain why these cells are so vulnerable to Zika. Researchers from the CRUK Cambridge Institute, together with colleagues at the University’s Department of Pathology and the Cambridge Institute for Medical Research, studied a variety of cell lines, including human neural stem cells, to investigate how Zika virus infection can lead to microcephaly. They suspected that MSI1 – and RNA binding protein - might be important in this process because it is involved in regulating the pool of neural stem cells that are required for normal brain development. 

June 2017 

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) have produced a Research Engagement Toolkit, with support from the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR). The toolkit gives real insight into how you can get involved in research – no matter what stage of your career you might be in. It includes individuals sharing first-hand experiences, information about the different pathways into research, signposting to useful resources and practical guidance about how to go about conducting research for the first time.

30 May 2017 

Academic and alumnus team up to take hassle out of journal searches. A Spotify-like app that lets scientists quickly access research papers online has been developed by an Imperial researcher and an alumnus.

24 May 2017 

Findings could represent breakthrough in how autopsy practice is conducted in UK and worldwide. A ground-breaking study by Leicester pathologists and radiologists could represent a breakthrough in how autopsy practice is conducted in the United Kingdom and around the world. The research was led by Professors Guy Rutty and Bruno Morgan from our University and the East Midlands Forensic Pathology Unit. It was funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and is published in the Lancet.

16 May 2017 

New research on the role played by ‘memory’ cells in the immune system. Researchers at the Royal Free Hospital have discovered that new memory T cells, which are a vital part of the immune system, are being produced by the body all the time.The research, carried out by scientists at the UCL Institute of Immunity and Transplantation (IIT) and the University of Glasgow, increases our understanding of how vaccines work and the capacity of the immune system to cope with numerous vaccinations at once. The immune system is made up of a variety of different cells which each have a role to play in fighting infection. When the body fights off an infection, memory T cells are produced which specifically remember that infection. If the same virus or bacteria gets into the body, these memory cells can quickly respond to prevent the infection taking hold.

10 May 2017 

Winners of the Research Medal Awards 2016. The standard of applications received this year was incredibly high. The Research Committee would like to acknowledge the quality of the work produced by all applicants, and had a difficult time selecting the five medallists.  There would be an article featuring the winners in the July issue of the College Bulletin.

5 May 2017 

NIHR Biomedical Research Centre opens in Leicester. Pioneering research into medical advancements in Leicester will continue for the next five years, thanks to an £11.6 million grant. The investment from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) will enable the newly formed NIHR Leicester Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) to push the boundaries of knowledge in illnesses linked to respiratory conditions, cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, chronic kidney disease and the consequence of inactivity. Research teams in Leicester and Loughborough are now working together to host the development of ground-breaking treatments, diagnostics, prevention and care for people who have a wide range of diseases.

5 May 2017 

Over 100 genetic hotspots linked to type 2 diabetes found, giving disease clues. Research by Imperial College London and University College London (UCL), has found 111 new regions involved in developing the disease – 93 (84 per cent) of which are found in both African American and European populations. In addition, for risk genes previously only observed in Europeans, the study was able replicate about one third of these genetic locations in African Americans.

May 2017 

PD-L1 research approved by North West England Medical Research Council. Dr Alex Haragan, trainee Histopathologist in Cellular Pathology at Liverpool Clinical Laboratories, has been awarded a highly prestigious North West England Medical Research Council (MRC) Fellowship. Alex will spend the next three years studying how the expression by lung cancer tissue of a protein known as PD-L1, which is used is to predict how these cancers will respond to the new immune modulating drugs, relates to other features of the tumour, such as the pattern and load of genetic mutations and the tumour’s immune environment.  The ultimate aim of the project is to improve the predictive power of PD-L1 testing and permit more accurate and effective use of these powerful immune modulating therapies in individual patients.