Could bacteria help save amphibians?

Faculty members have teamed up with the Institute of Zoology to investigate the effectiveness of probiotic bacteria in treating Chytrid (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) – a fungus that is devastating global frog populations.

Chytrid is a fungus that is thought to be the reason why over 200 different species of frog have gone extinct. This has resulted in 31% of all amphibian species becoming ‘threatened’ according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

A Belize frog, courtesy of Dr R Antwis.

The team, led by former PhD student Dr Rachael Antwis, used bacteria taken from frogs in Belize to investigate the potential benefits of using probiotic bacteria in the treatment of Chytrid. Whilst previous studies have shown that certain bacteria that live on an amphibian’s skin have slowed down the progression of Chytrid, probiotics have not been used in long term field studies.

In assessing the efficacy of probiotics, the team used bacteria on a number of different strains of the disease. Chytrid mutates extremely quickly, so the bacteria must be able to treat different forms of the virus to be effective in the wild. Early results from this investigation suggest that a combination of different bacteria will increase the probability of halting the progression of Chytrid.

The paper resulting from this study, published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, will act as an important basis for future research into the use of bacteria to help fight Chytrid.

Dr Antwis concludes:

“A lot more work is definitely needed before we can identify an effective cure for this devastating disease. But as a scientist, I believe we not only have a moral obligation to keep searching, but an ecological one too. Amphibians inhabit the middle of food chain, making up a vital part of our ecosystem. If they go, then that could spell disaster for many more species.”

Chaim Weizmann continues to inspire Manchester research 100 years on

A century after the first President of Israel made his vital discovery about acetone at The University of Manchester, we are celebrating his legacy through a collaboration with the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel.

In 1915, Chaim Weizmann discovered a more sustainable way of making acetone which was required for the manufacture of cordite. His work attracted the attention of the British Government and six distilleries were requisitioned for the mass production of this explosive powder. As shell production rose from 500,000 in the first five months of the First World War to 16.4 million in 1915, Weizmann was credited with a significant impact on the war effort.

Today, the Faculty has eight links with the Weizmann Institute all of which are undertaking significant research. Now, thanks to the Alliance Family Foundation, funding is in place for seven further partnerships.

The Weizmann Institute hosted a two day symposium on March 24 to celebrate the scientific discoveries already made through Professor Steffen Jung (Weizmann Institute of Science), Lord Alliance and Professor Werner Muller (University of Manchester)the Lord Alliance Get Connected Grants. Faculty scientist Professor Werner Muller’s partnership with Stefan Jung was awarded the Lord Alliance Prize of £100,000. Their work has shed light on how the cells in our gut respond to foreign parasites such as worms and how they may trigger diseases. Other discoveries made possible through the grants have impacted neural conditions, food security, wound healing, and cancer. Professor Martin Humphries, Dean of the Faculty, says:

“In establishing the concept of the Get Connected scheme, Benny Geiger and I aimed to build on this historical link and provide a means for the excellent scientists in both institutions to forge new interactions. The Get Connected programme is a shining example of what can be achieved when such researchers are given the freedom and resources to join forces with other like-minded teams. Put simply, what is achieved is progress at an accelerated rate.”

Sea slug provides new way of analysing brain data

Sea SlugScientists say our brains may not be as complicated as we once thought – and they’re using sea slugs to prove it.

Led by Chicago-based graduate student Angela Bruno, Faculty researchers and colleagues at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science in Chicago have been investigating how neurons ‘fire’ in the brain of the sea slug while it moves. Dr Mark Humphries explains why they made this interesting choice of animal:

“What happens in the brain during movement is currently only well understood for small, dedicated neural circuits. The sea slug brain has some of the complexity of higher organisms, yet has large neurons that make it possible to record a substantial amount of what is happening in the brain during movement.”

Until recently, scientists have had to study brain activity one neuron at a time. However, the latest imaging methods make it possible to take a systems approach and record entire neural networks. The resulting data flood is creating fruitful new collaborations such as this study. Dr Humphries adds:

“My role in this project was to find the hidden organisation within the data collected by the Chicago team. Describing the dynamics of a neural population and decoding the neural programme is still very challenging. We hope that this research will help to build a language and toolkit for future researchers using any network-scale recording technology.”

The researchers demonstrated how the sea slugs’ complex locomotion network can be dramatically simplified and interpreted. They found that co-active neurons formed large groups that were laid out like tiles across the network. One group’s activity was repeatedly drawing a loop across the network, leading researchers to believe that this loop is the source of constant activity needed to sustain movement. Dr Humphries concludes:

“This research introduces new methods for pulling apart neural circuits to expose their inner building blocks. Our methods could be used to help understand how brain networks change in disease states and how drugs act to restore normal brain function.”

Scientists make surprising finding in stroke research

Faculty scientists have made an important discovery that could lead to new treatments for stroke and other related conditions.  Brain Scan

Inflammation is activated in the brain after stroke, causing potentially devastating damage. Stroke is actually responsible for approximately 10% of deaths worldwide and is the leading cause of disability. Understanding how inflammation is regulated in the brain is vital for the development of drugs which can limit the damage caused by stroke.

Working alongside Professors Dame Nancy Rothwell and Stuart Allan, Dr David Brough has been studying the role of inflammasomes in stroke. Inflammasomes are large protein complexes essential for the production of the inflammatory protein interleukin-1, which contributes to cell death in the brain after a stroke. Dr Brough says:

“Very little is known about how inflammasomes might be involved in brain injury. Therefore, we began by studying the most well characterised inflammasome, called NLRP3, known to be activated when the body is injured. Surprisingly, we found that this was not involved in inflammation and damage in the brain caused by stroke, even though drugs are being developed to block this to treat Alzheimer’s disease.”

Further studies demonstrated that it was actually the NLRC4 and AIM2 inflammasomes that contribute to brain injury. This was unexpected because NLRC4 was previously known as a fighter of infections. This will help the team to understand more about inflammation’s involvement in brain injury and aid the development of new drugs to treat stroke.

Faculty scientists closer to treating osteoarthritis using stem cells

Repair of rat cartilage defect by human pluripotent stem cells-derived chondrocytes, courtesy of Aixin ChengFunded by Arthritis Research UK, Professor Sue Kimber and her Faculty team have developed a protocol to grow and transform embryonic stem cells into cartilage cells (also known as chrondrocytes). This could one day be used to treat osteoarthritis. Professor Kimber said:

“This work represents an important step forward in treating cartilage damage by using embryonic stem cells to form new tissue, although it’s still in its early experimental stages.”

During the study, the team analysed the ability of embryonic stems cells to become precursor cartilage cells. They were then implanted into cartilage defects in the knee joints of rats.

After four weeks, cartilage was partially repaired. Eight weeks after that a smooth surface resembling normal cartilage was observed. Further study showed that cells from the embryonic stem cells were still present and active within the tissue.
Despite the fact that this still needs to be tested on humans, researchers see this as an extremely promising outcome. Not only did this protocol generate new, healthy-looking cartilage but there were also no signs of any side-effects. Further work will hope to demonstrate that this could be a safe and effective treatment for people with joint damage. Prof Kimber added:

“We’ve shown that the protocol we’ve developed has strong potential for developing large numbers of chondrogenic cells appropriate for clinical use. These results thus mark an important step forward in supporting further development towards clinical translation.”

Osteoarthritis affects more than eight million people in the UK, and is a major cause of disability. It occurs when cartilage at the ends of bones wears away and it causes joint pain and stiffness. Dr Stephen Simpson, Director of Research at Arthritis Research UK, said:

“Current treatments of osteoarthritis are restricted to relieving painful symptoms, with no effective therapies to delay or reverse cartilage degeneration. Joint replacements are successful in older patients but not young people, or athletes who’ve suffered a sports injury. Embryonic stem cells offer an alternative source of cartilage cells to adult stem cells, and we’re excited about the immense potential of Professor Kimber’s work and the impact it could have for people with osteoarthritis.”

How tuna stay warm with cold hearts

Working with colleagues at Stanford University, Dr Holly Shiels and her team have discovered how bluefin tuna keep their hearts pumping during temperatures that would stop a human’s heart from beating. The research answers important questions about how animals react to rapid temperature changes, knowledge which becomes more important as the earth warms.

Bluefin tunaPacific bluefin tuna are top predators renowned for their epic migrations. They are unique among bony fish as they are warm-bodied and capable of elevating their core temperature up to 20°C above that of the water that surrounds them. They are also capable of diving down to the colder waters below 1000m, which affects their heart temperature. Dr Holly Shiels said:

“When tunas dive down to cold depths their body temperature stays warm but their heart temperature can fall by 15°C within minutes. The heart is chilled because it receives blood directly from the gills which mirrors water temperature. This clearly imposes stress upon the heart but it keeps beating, despite the temperature change. In most other animals the heart would stop.”

 

The team conducted their research at Stanford University’s Tuna Research and Conservation Center, one of the only places on the planet with live tuna for research. They used archival tags to track and monitor the fish in the wild, measuring the depth they swam to, their internal body temperature, and the ambient water temperature. They then used the data to set experimental conditions in the lab with single heart tuna cells, investigating how they beat. Dr Shiels explained the findings:

“We discovered that changes in the heart beat due to the temperate, coupled with the stimulation of adrenalin by diving, adjusts the electrical activity of the heart cells to maintain the constant calcium cycling needed to keep pumping. If we went through this temperature change our calcium cycling would be disrupted, our hearts would stop beating, and we would die.”

The next step for the team will be to test other fish species to see if this method of keeping the heart pumping at low temperatures is unique to bluefin tuna. Dr Shiels concluded:

“This research was about understanding how animals perform under dramatic environmental changes. This gives us a clear insight into how one species maintains its heart function over varying temperatures, something we will need to study further given recorded changes in the earth’s temperature.”

 

 

Minister in Manchester to announce £40 million funding boost

Vince Cable MP speaking to Professors Perdita Barran and Bob KellBusiness Secretary Dr Vince Cable has visited the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology (MIB) to meet scientists working on synthetic biology. This follows the announcement of £40million funding into this cutting-edge research area, £32 million of which is being split across new research centres in Manchester, Edinburgh, and Warwick.

The investment comes from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), and the Medical Research Council (MRC), as well as via capital investment from the UK government. Funds will be awarded over a five-year period, boosting national research capacity and ensuring that the expertise to nurture this growing industry exists in the UK.

The MIB will receive £10.3million to establish the Centre for Synthetic Biology of Fine and Speciality Chemicals (SYNBIOCHEM). This centre will develop new products and methods for drug discovery and production, agricultural chemicals, and new materials for sustainable manufacturing. Professor Nigel Scrutton, Co-Director of SYNBIOCHEM, said:

“Our vision is to harness the power of synthetic biology to propel chemicals and natural products production towards ’green’ and sustainable manufacturing processes. More broadly, the Centre will provide the general tools, technology platforms, and ‘know-how’ to drive academic discovery and translate new knowledge and processes towards industrial exploitation.”

Synthetic biology is a new scientific method that applies engineering principles to biology to create new biological parts, devices, and systems. It has been used to generate biological ‘factories’ producing useful products such as medicines, chemicals, green energy, and tools for improving crops. It has been identified by the government as one of ‘Eight Great Technologies’ in which Great Britain can be a world leader. Fellow Co-Director, Professor Eriko Takano, added:

“Synthetic biology is an emerging science that has the capacity to transform the UK and European industrial landscape. It will revolutionise manufacturing processes to deliver renewable and sustainable materials, biopharmaceuticals, chemicals, and energy that will impact significantly on our economic, social, and environmental landscape. It promises a brighter future for all.”

Business Secretary Dr Cable discussed the funding:

“From materials for advanced manufacturing to developing new antibiotics and better tests for diseases, this new £40million investment is in one of the most promising areas of modern science. It will see our world class researchers using bacteria to produce chemicals to make everyday products like toothbrushes and credit cards, which are currently made from unsustainable fossil fuels.  Not only will this help improve people’s everyday lives in the future but it will support long-term economic growth.”

£3 million grant for cutting-edge biotechnology

MIB BuildingProfessor Nigel Scrutton and his team at the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology (MIB) have been awarded nearly £3million to create sustainable ways of manufacturing chemicals used in everyday products. They are one of five long-term research projects benefiting from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council’s (BBSRC) Strategic Longer and Larger Grants (sLoLaS) scheme.

The team will design and assemble bespoke biological parts to be used in a synthetic, engineered microbial factory. They hope these biological compounds will replace those currently taken from fossil fuels. Professor Scrutton says:

“Our vision is to harness the power of Synthetic Biology to propel chemicals and natural products production towards ’green’ and sustainable manufacturing processes. More broadly, the programme will provide the general tools, technology platforms, and SynBio ‘know-how’ that will impact widely in the sustainable manufacture of chemicals and natural products for development by the industrial sector.”

£15.8 million is being awarded to five projects in the UK. They were chosen based on the basis of their scientific excellence, long timescales, extensive resources, multidisciplinary approaches, and internationally leading research teams. Professor Jackie Hunter, BBSRC Chief Executive, said:

“BBSRC’s sLoLaS scheme gives world-leading scientists long-term funding to work on critical research challenges. In this round those challenges include producing clean energy, new ways to produce medicines and other valuable chemicals, and protecting livestock from disease. Not only will these funded projects help the UK and the world to address these challenges, but it will build vital research capacity here in the UK and provide opportunities for economic and social benefits.”

Computer model explains how the brain selects actions with rewarding outcomes

Brain modelFaculty research conducted in conjunction with The University of Sheffield has developed a computer model which charts what happens in the brain when an action leads to a reward. The model could provide insights into the mechanisms behind motor disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and conditions involving abnormal learning, such as addiction. Faculty researcher Dr Mark Humphries explains:

“We wanted to look at how we learn from feedback – particularly how we learn to associate actions to new unexpected outcomes. To do this we created a series of computational models to show how the firing of dopamine neurons caused by receiving reward ultimately translates into selecting the causative action more frequently in the future.”

Research had already shown that actions are represented in the brain’s outer layer of neural tissue (the cortex) and that rewards activate neurons that release dopamine. The dopamine signals are then sent to the striatum, which plays an important role in how we select which action to take. Together, this evidence suggested that dopamine signals change the strength of connections between cortical and striatal neurons, determining which action is appropriate in a specific circumstance. Until now, though, no model had tested these strands together. Dr Humphries explains why they created the model:

“Essentially, within this area of research, we are tackling a puzzle in which we have an unknown number of pieces and no picture to guide us. Some pieces have been studied individually, so the questions were: could we put the pieces of the puzzle together and prove that they made a coherent picture? And could we guess at the missing pieces? The only way was through using a computational model, which allows us to do things impossible in experiments – provide solutions and guesses for the missing pieces. The fact that the pieces of our puzzle all fitted together to produce a single coherent picture is evidence that we (as a field) are converging on a complete theory for how the brain learns from reward.”

Funding for new ‘Manchester Single Cell Research Centre’

The University has secured funding from the Medical Research Council (MRC) for a new Manchester Single Cell Research Centre (SCRC). A Single CellThe £5 million award application was led by Faculty scientist Professor Cay Kielty in collaboration with colleagues from FLS and the Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences.

Researchers in the SCRC will focus on characterising a group of rare cells called circulating tumour cells (CTCs), which give rise to drug-resistant cancers. They will also be working on specific stem cells that can enable the regeneration of damaged tissues such as muscle, joints, skin, and blood vessels. Professor Kielty says:

“This new technology will enable us to define cell heterogeneity and the biology of rare cells in health and disease.”

Discovery could lead to better treatment for CKD patients

Faculty scientist Dr Donald Ward has discovered that small changes in blood acidity levels could have detrimental impacts on the health of kidney disease patients.

Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) affects roughly one in five men and one in four women between the ages of 65 and 74 in the UK. Dr Ward’s research, published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, suggests that very small changes in the blood’s pH level prevent the body from accurately monitoring calcium levels. This causes too much of the hormone PTH to be released, which leads to a greater risk of artery damage when the body releases calcium and phosphate from the bones. This often proves fatal to CKD patients. Dr Ward explains:

 

“The diseased kidneys prevent the body from getting rid of both excess phosphate and excess acidity. So if that acidity also causes the body to release more PTH then this could compound the problem by releasing further phosphate from the bone. This vicious circle might accelerate the potentially fatal calcification of the arteries. What is so important about this research is that we have demonstrated that changes in PTH release can be prompted by very small changes in blood pH level. Before, it was assumed that only a larger change in acidity would cause problems for patients.”

The research was funded by Kidney Research UK. Elaine Davies, Director of Research Operations from the charity, says:

“Donald’s work has used novel pharmacological and molecular tools in generating these new findings which increase our knowledge about the complex balance that clinicians need to consider when treating patients with CKD.”

 

‘Unbelievable underground’ could improve sustainable land management

A new study from Faculty scientist Professor Richard Bardgett and Professor Wim van der Putten of the Netherlands Institute of Ecology may demonstrate how organisms below-ground could have far-reaching impacts on future ecosystems. This previously neglected area could help us to understand how ecosystems are responding to climate change. The paper also discusses how the world beneath us could be used for sustainable land management. Professor Bardgett explained:

“The soil beneath our feet arguably represents the most diverse place on Earth. Soil communities are extremely complex with literally millions of species and billions of individual organisms within a single grassland or forest. Despite this plethora of life, the underground world has been largely neglected by research. It certainly used to be a case of out of sight out of mind, although over the last decade we have seen a significant increase in work in this area.”

This increase has helped to explain how the organisms interact with each other and, crucially, how they influence the above-ground flora and fauna. Professor Bardgett discussed the results:

“Recent soil biodiversity research has revealed that below-ground communities not only play a major role in shaping plant Soil Biodiversitybiodiversity and the way that ecosystems function, but it can also determine how they respond to environmental change. One of the key areas for future research will be to integrate what has been learnt about soil diversity into decisions about sustainable land management. There is an urgent need for new approaches to the maintenance and enhancement of soil fertility for food, feed and biomass production, the prevention of human disease, and tackling climate change. As we highlight in this paper, a new age of research is needed to meet these scientific challenges and to integrate such understanding into future land management and climate change mitigation strategies.”

Mind the gap – new insight could lead to more effective drug treatments

Faculty researcher Professor Dan Davis has made a discovery that could improve drug treatments. Alongside his team at the Manchester Collaborative Centre for Inflammation Research (MCCIR), Professor Davis was investigating how different types of immune cells communicate with each other and how they kill cancerous or infected cells. Professor Davis says:

“We studied the immune system and stumbled across something that may explain why some drugs don’t work as well as hoped. We found that immune cells secrete molecules to other cells across a very small gap. This happens when immune cells talk to each other, and also when they kill diseased cells. But crucially, some types of drugs aren’t able to penetrate the gap between the cells. So they can’t easily reach targets within the gap and work effectively.”

Comparing molecules of different sizes, the team used microscopic imaging to see which ones could fit into the gap between an immune cell and another cell. Only the smaller molecules could penetrate the gap. They even found that when an immune cell attaches itself to another cell, it clears out all but the smallest molecules between them. Professor Davis explains:

“Our research demonstrates that any drugs targeting immune cells need to be very small. Antibody proteins, for example, are too big. They aren’t able to get into the gap between the cells – they’re even cleared away when cells meet. To make them more effective they must be smaller – which is something that GSK (GlaxoSmithKline) are working on.”

PhD student Adam Cartwright played a key role in the research, splitting his time between Professor’s Davis’s lab and GSK. He says:

“Being able to test out our theory with medicines that GSK has designed was fantastic.  The idea that something I found out can be used to develop treatments to help patients is incredibly exciting.”

Alcohol Awareness Week interview with Sylvia Lui

Alcohol Concern use their annual Alcohol Awareness Week to encourage organisations and individuals to highlight the impact thatSylvia Lui the substance has on our health and communities.

As part of this year’s campaign, running from the 17th to the 23rd of November, we sent Kory Stout to interview Faculty PhD student Sylvia Lui. Her project, led by Professor John Aplin and Dr Clare Towers and funded by the British Medical Association, looked at the effect of alcohol on pregnancy during the first-trimester. It was the first time that such a study had focused on this early stage of pregnancy. Sylvia says:

“It appears that alcohol, even at moderate levels, reduces the growth and function of the placenta resulting in less support and nutrient supply for a rapidly growing baby. It was interesting to find, though, that ethanol at very low concentrations (1-2 units, equal to half or one standard drink) did not have any effect on placental growth or function. Unfortunately, people find it difficult to judge what a unit is and often underestimate how much they are drinking, so erring on the side of caution may be the best practice.”

The team hope to conduct a much larger study in the future. Because guidelines on alcohol intake are often contradictory and confusing, they hope to produce some more specific advice to pregnant women about the individual dangers that they and their babies would be subject to through drinking alcohol.

You can read the whole interview over at the Life Sciences Blog.

What were the aims of your research?

Working in partnership with Tommy’s [a UK based charity that supports research into problems in pregnancy] and funded by the British Medical Association, we decided to look at the impact alcohol had on placental growth and function, and hence fetal development. My project, led by Dr Clare Towers and Prof John Aplin, looked at the effect of ethanol and its metabolite acetaldehyde on first-trimester pregnancy. We wanted to see if there was direct scientific evidence that would support the existing medical advice of avoiding alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

Why did you choose first-trimester pregnancy?

Although there are many studies on the effects of high levels of alcohol through the duration of pregnancy, this is the first time a study has shown the effect of alcohol in such an early stage. Previous research has centred on fetal outcomes at the end of pregnancy after massive levels of alcohol intake. Whilst this is obviously very important, we believed that understanding the effects of alcohol at the very early stages, when the fetus is at its most crucial stages of development and all the organs are just being programmed, was crucial in understanding the overall effects of alcohol in pregnancy and on fetal health.

How did you go about investigating the effects of alcohol on the developing fetus?

We are very fortunate to be working here at the Maternal and Fetal Research Centre at St. Mary’s hospital, one of the UK’s largest human placenta research centres. We are in an unparalleled situation in terms of having access to donated placental tissues and all of the work we did here was done in the laboratory and on donated tissue samples. The placenta was used as a means of assessing the potential effects on the development of the fetus because of its crucial role in providing nutrients and oxygen during pregnancy. Poor placental development is very strongly linked with poor fetal development and risk of fetal death. With the documented detrimental effects of alcohol, we were interested in how it would affect very early pregnancy, when the pregnancy is less likely to be known and more alcohol consumed.

To test the effect of alcohol on the placenta, we incubated the placental tissue with low (equal to half to one standard drink), mid (2-3 standard drinks), and high (4-6 standard drinks) levels of ethanol and acetaldehyde (the major metabolite of ethanol). After doing this, we measured the amount of vital amino-acids (including taurine) taken up by the placenta, that would act as markers of nutrient transfer for good fetal development. We then wanted to see if the levels of ethanol and acetaldehyde would affect the growth of the placenta. If they did, we could then draw conclusions from this about the consequent effects on the development of the fetus.

What were the results of your research?

The biggest and most surprising effect we found was that mid to high levels of both ethanol and acetaldehyde had detrimental effects only on taurine transport. Taurine is an important amino acid that is vital for normal brain development. In extreme cases of babies born with fetal alcohol syndrome, infants are often diagnosed with lifelong neurological problems. There are documented negative effects on behaviour and physical development with extended low taurine levels. Our results may indicate how alcohol can affect the baby’s brain development during pregnancy via the reduced placental transport of taurine to the fetus.  Another important finding was that the same middle to high levels of ethanol and acetaldehyde also reduced placental cell growth.

In summary, it appeared that alcohol, even at moderate levels, reduced the growth and function of the placenta and resulted in less support and nutrient supply for a rapidly growing baby. It was interesting to find, though, that ethanol at very low concentrations (1-2 units, equal to half or one standard drink) did not have any effect on placental growth or function. Unfortunately, people find it difficult to judge what a unit is and often underestimate how much they are drinking, so erring on the side of caution may be the best practice.

What’s next?

Ideally, we would be able to do a much larger study. We want to see what alcohol’s effects are on a range of specific attributes. Advice on alcohol intake is confusing and studies have shown that alcohol has varying levels of effects, depending on genetic/race factors, different body types, socio-economic backgrounds, and gender. We want to see how much these factors affect the detrimental effects of alcohol during pregnancy and so the development of the fetus. This would help us to give much more specific advice to pregnant women about the individual dangers that they and their babies would be subject to through drinking alcohol.

 

You can read the paper,  entitled Detrimental effects of ethanol and its metabolite acetaldehyde, on first trimester human placental cell turnover and function, on PLOS ONE. http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0087328

Research could improve breeding of endangered sea creature

Undulate ray - undersideFaculty scientists are attempting to map the genes of the endangered undulate ray, a protected British species which has declined sharply in the last few decades. Their data will be used to check the heritage of around 120 undulate rays in European aquariums, helping to pair up breeding adults and produce healthy offspring.

The team is investigating the diversity of the rays’ DNA to infer how inbred individuals are. Inbreeding causes frequent still-births and shortens the lifespans of offspring. Dr John Fitzpatrick, lead researcher on the project, says:

“This approach has never been used to aid captive breeding in rays before. It’s exciting to be working on a project with such a worthwhile practical application and strong scientific value.”

Marine biologist Jean-Denis Hibbitt has been managing the UK population since 2010 and is now monitoring the breeding programme across Europe. There have been 29 successful births in the UK since the programme was launched. Jean-Denis says:

“The first objective of the breeding programme is to provide undulate rays for public display to help raise awareness Ray Markingsof their plight. This added awareness, and the ability for people to identify the species, will subsequently allow them to question whether illegally landed rays are on sale in their local fishmongers. If numbers in the wild fall to a critical level, it is feasible that we could help with a reintroduction programme.”

Faculty student Iulia Darolti has taken DNA swabs from all 45 of the rays in British aquariums. She also accompanied Jean-Denis to swab two wild rays for comparison. Iulia says:

“It has been a challenging assignment. To expose the rays to as little stress as possible we developed non-invasive sampling techniques that allowed us to collect DNA from the skin. Travelling the country working with rays is something I never imagined myself doing, but it has been a very rewarding experience.”

PhD student Graeme Fox has been doing much of the laboratory work. He says:

“We developed a set of genetic markers to help discover whether the rays are related or not. After screening the DNA, we were able to identify regions that were likely to be highly variable. Our hope is that this data will enable Sea Life to plan the optimum management strategy to secure the genetic health of this beautiful and increasingly scarce species.”

Worm Wagon at The Great British Bioscience Festival

Worms as part of the exhibitFaculty scientists will take a topical look at how to avoid the spread of infection during The Great British Bioscience Festival (GBBF.) The Worm Wagon will be highlighting the impact of world diseases and parasite infections through their exhibit, which includes the vital statistics on Ebola.

Dr Sheena Cruickshank, a founder of the Worm Wagon, is one of just 20 exhibitors chosen to take part in the festival by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. Researchers from the Manchester Institute for Biotechnology will also take part, presenting an exhibit called The Complex Life of Sugars.

GBBF is the culmination of a yearlong tour, enabling visitors to explore the fascinating world of biology through interactive exhibits from actual scientists. It runs from the 14th to the 16th of November in Museum Gardens, London. Dr Cruickshank says:

“We’re really excited to be part of GBBF. We’re hoping our interactive displays, jigsaws, videos, and Top Trump cards on parasites and world diseases will really capture people’s imaginations. We have an important part to play in preventing the spread of infection. The current Ebola outbreak in West Africa shows how easily disease can spread when the correct procedures aren’t in place. As scientists, I believe we have a duty to spend time outside of the laboratory telling people what we do and why we do it. Working on infectious diseases isn’t just about staring down microscopes; it’s also about helping people to tackle the spread of these illnesses.”

Dr Cruickshank’s exhibit includes Top Trumps, jigsaws, videos, and living worms, and also offers the opportunity to be photographed as a schistosome parasite. The concept grew out of the work she has been doing with recent migrants to the country, teaching them how to prevent the spread of parasite infection.

GBBF is free and suitable for all the family. Find out more at the festival website.

New test could identify infants with rare insulin disease

Faculty research has led to a new test which could help to identify congenital hyperinsulinism at an earlier stage. This rare but

Needlesdevastating disease causes low blood sugar levels in babies and infants and can lead to lifelong brain damage and permanent disability. The condition occurs when cells in the pancreas release too much insulin and cause frequent low blood sugar episodes. In the most serious cases, the pancreas may need to be removed.

In more than two thirds of infants who suffer from congenital hyperinsulinism, the genetic causes are unknown. After analysing the genes and hormones of thirteen infants with the disease at Manchester Children’s Hospital, Dr Karen Cosgrove and her team discovered the new way of testing.

Their test measures a pair of hormones called incretins, which tell the cells in the pancreas to release more insulin to regulate sugar levels in our blood. When a child’s body releases more incretin hormones than is normal, the pancreas will release too much insulin. This will cause dangerously low blood sugar levels. Dr Cosgrove explained:

“This is the first step to understanding what causes the disease in these particular patients (with unknown genetic causes.)  In future, the test may influence how these children are treated medically, perhaps even avoiding the need to have their pancreas removed. Although we are the first researchers to report high incretin hormone levels in patients with congenital hyperinsulinism, further studies are needed to see if our test works on a larger group of patients.”

You can watch Dr Cosgrove discussing the research below:

Major breakthrough could help detoxify pollutants

PCB StructureFaculty scientists hope that a major new breakthrough could lead to more effective methods of detoxifying dangerous pollutants like PCBs and dioxins. The team, based at the Manchester Institute for Biotechnology (MIB), were investigating how some natural organisms lower toxicity levels and shorten the lifespan of these notorious pollutants.

The main drive behind the research, which has been underway for fifteen years, is to find a way of combatting hazardous molecules which are released into the environment via pollutants and burning household waste. The concentration of these molecules has increased over time, meaning that their presence is more threatening than ever before. Despite some measures already being taken, such as the worldwide ban on PCBs in 2001, more still needs to be done. Professor David Leys explains his research:

“We already know that some of the most toxic pollutants contain halogen atoms and that most biological systems simply don’t know how to deal with these molecules. However, there are some organisms that can remove these halogen atoms using vitamin B12. Our research has identified that they use vitamin B12 in a very different way to how we currently understand it. Detailing how this novel process of detoxification works means that we are now in a position to look at replicating it. We hope that, ultimately, new ways of combatting some of the world’s biggest toxins can now be developed more quickly and efficiently.”

Mining big data yields Alzheimer’s discovery

Faculty scientists have utilised a new way of working to identify a gene linked to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. The discovery may help to identify which people are most likely to develop the condition.

The team compared genes in mice and humans. Using brain scans from ENIGMA Consortium and genetic information from The Brain scansMouse Brain Library, they were able to identify MGST3, a novel gene which regulates the size of the hippocampus in both mouse and human. This gene was shown to be linked to neurodegenerative diseases. Dr Reinmar Hager, senior author of the study, said:

“What is critical about this research is that we have not only been able to identify this specific gene, but also the networks it uses to influence a disease like Alzheimer’s. We believe this information will be incredibly useful for future studies looking at treatments and preventative measures.”

The team used two of the world’s largest collections of scientific data, The ENIGMA Consortium and The Mouse Brain Library. The ENIGMA Consortium is led by Paul Thompson, based at the University of California. It contains brain images and gene information from almost 25,000 subjects. The Mouse Brain Library, established by Robert Williams from the University of Tennessee Health Science Centre, contains data on over 10,000 brains and numerical data from more than 20,000 mice. David Ashbrook, a researcher in Dr Hager’s team, explained why combining the databases was so useful:

“It is much easier to identify a genetic variant in mice as they live in such controlled environments. By taking the information from mice and comparing it to human gene information, we can identify the same variant much more quickly. We are living in a big data world thanks to the likes of the Human Genome Project and post-genome technologies. A lot of that information is now widely shared. By mining what we already know we can learn so much more, advancing our knowledge of diseases and ultimately improving detection and treatment.”

For more information, please read the full paper which was published in BMC Genomics.

For further enquiries, please contact david.ashbrook@manchester.ac.uk

Discovery could lead to better melanoma treatment

A Faculty led research team has discovered that immune cells may be responsible for drug resistance in melanoma patients.

Melanoma cellsAlong with colleagues at the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute, Dr Claudia Wellbrock found that chemical signals produced by immune cells known as macrophages also act as a ‘survival signal’ for melanoma cells. When the researchers blocked this signal – called TNF alpha – melanoma tumours were smaller and easier to treat. The research suggests that targeting this ‘survival signal’ could lead to new treatments. Dr Wellbrock says:

“This discovery shows that immune cells can actually help melanoma to survive. Particularly when patients are receiving treatment, the immune cells produce more of the ‘survival signal,’ which makes treatment less effective. So combining standard treatment with immunotherapy could provide more long-lasting and effective treatments to increase survival.”

Melanoma is the most deadly form of skin cancer with around 13,300 people diagnosed in the UK each year. Rates of the disease have increased more than fivefold since the 1970s. Professor Richard Marais, Director of the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute, said:

“Melanoma is particularly difficult to treat as many patients develop resistance to standard treatment within a few years. This research provides a key insight into why this is the case. Drugs which block this ‘survival signal’ have already been developed; using these along with standard treatment may be a promising new approach for melanoma patients.”

Insulin offers new hope for the treatment of acute pancreatitis

Faculty scientists have discovered that insulin can protect against acute pancreatitis, a disease for which there is currently no treatment. The condition involves the pancreas digesting itself, resulting in severe abdominal pain, vomiting, and systemic inflammation. There are around 20,000 cases every year in the UK, with around 1000 proving fatal. There is currently no immediate cure. Dr Jason Bruce, the research team leader, said:

“The major causes of pancreatitis include bile acid reflux from gall stones and excessive alcohol intake combined with a high fat diet. When alcohol and fat accumulate inside pancreatic acinar cells — the cells that secrete digestive enzymes into the gut — the resulting small molecules (metabolites) deplete cellular energy levels and increase cellular calcium. This causes uncontrolled and catastrophic cell death and the cells burst, releasing their toxic enzymes, which digest the pancreas and surrounding tissue.”

However, recent research from Dr Bruce’s laboratory shows that insulin, which is normally released from the beta cells of the insulinpancreas, prevents the toxic effects of alcohol and fatty acid metabolites.

The team decided to look at insulin because it has been used to treat obese pancreatitis patients by reducing fatty acids on the blood. Diabetes makes pancreatitis worse and diabetics are at higher risk of developing the disease, but the team noticed that the incidence of pancreatitis is reduced in diabetics who receive insulin. Although tenuous, these findings suggested that insulin might have a protective role, but it remained unclear how the insulin was working. This research provides the first evidence that insulin directly protects from the disease in the acinar cells, the place of initiation. Dr Bruce explained:

“Insulin works by restoring the energy levels of pancreatic acinar cells, which fuels the calcium pumps on the cell membranes. These calcium pumps help to restore cellular calcium and prevent the catastrophic cell death and autodigestion of the pancreas. Although more research is needed to confirm that insulin works in animal models and human clinical trials, this study suggests that, combined with tight control over blood glucose, insulin may be an effective treatment for pancreatitis. Furthermore, if we can better understand how insulin works, then we might be able to design new and more effective drugs that might one day provide the first curative treatment for this disease”

Hormone analysis may help save the rhino

rhinobabyThe first comprehensive study of black rhino reproduction in Europe has highlighted how hormone analysis could improve breeding programmes. Alongside researchers from Chester Zoo, Dr Katie Edwards led the study as part of her PhD at The University of Liverpool. Dr Susanne Shultz was her supervisor, and she continued in that role after joining us here in the Faculty of Life Sciences. Dr Edwards said:

“Although some black rhinoceros breed well in captivity, not all do. This reduces the vital genetic reserve that these populations represent. This species is of high conservation importance, so understanding what could be limiting breeding in certain individuals, and how we could make improvements, is a priority.”

9743 samples, from 11 zoos, were sent to Chester Zoo’s Wildlife Endocrinology laboratory as part of an attempt to analyse female reproductive cycles. Dr Edwards continued:

“Our analyses showed that females who had never bred were more likely to exhibit irregular oestrous cycles, indicating that underlying physiology is involved in differences in breeding success. As well as non-breeding females not cycling as reliably, behavioural observations showed us that these females don’t necessarily show when they are ready to mate, which can make managing breeding difficult. Hormone analysis helps address this problem by allowing us to predict when a female will be sexually receptive to a male.”

Hormone analysis has been successful at Chester Zoo, leading to three births in the last three years. As well as hormone analysis, the researchers looked at other factors that could affect breeding success. Females that had never bred were found to be heavier than those that had, suggesting that maintaining a suitable diet in captivity can be crucial. Non-breeding females were also found to be more unpredictable in their temperaments. Dr Shultz said:

“This research highlights how rhinos can behave in a different manner despite being kept in similar conditions. We think this demonstrates that it is important to recognise individual differences, and adjust management plans accordingly, to maximise the health and reproduction across all individuals in the population.”

Groundbreaking book shows the diversity of fossilised insects

In a groundbreaking new book, Fossil Insects, Faculty scientist Dr David Penney and his colleague James E Jepson Crato reconstruction courtesy of Richard Bizley www.bizleyart.comshow the incredible diversity of fossilised insects around the world. Using stunning photographs and unique illustrations, the book brings to life an ancient world that was fictionalised in Jurassic Park, showing us what these fossils tell us about the ancient and modern worlds, and even the future of our planet.

Using pioneering methods and state-of-the-art technology, Dr Penney has drawn on his knowledge of entomology and palaeontology to discover some astonishing new facts about these fossilised creatures. He says:

“Insects are the most diverse group of creatures on the planet today. Many of them were around even before the time of the dinosaurs. Bringing together entomology and palaeontology through the study of insect fossils has great potential for revolutionising what we know about both subjects.”

In the book, the ancient insects are brought to life by the illustrations of Richard Bizley. His drawings depict the long-vanished arthropods that lived among the flora and fauna during the time of the dinosaurs. To make the animals in his pictures look realistic, Richard created models using scientific drawings and fossils. He then photographed them to see how the light behaved. He says:

“When reconstructing fossil insect species, special attention needs to be paid to important diagnostic features, such as the wing venation patterns and the relative lengths of appendage segments. The fact that many fossil insect species are known only from isolated wings posed additional problems. This is where the collaboration with experts became very useful, and I worked closely with Dr Penney to produce an accurate reconstruction based on the comparative study of both fossil and living insects.”

While Jurassic Park may remain a fantasy, Dr Penney says that it did result in an increase in research on fossil insects. He is hoping that his book will now open up that research to an even larger audience.

Norwegian reindeer herds boosted by climate change

According to Faculty researchers and their colleagues from The Arctic University of Norway in Tromsø, climate change is not Reindeer in Norwaythreatening the reindeer of the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard. Instead, their long-term study indicates that the population is thriving because of rising temperatures.

In one of the very few studies of animal population and climate change that has actually counted the number of animals instead of simply estimating, the research team discovered that the number of reindeer on Svalbard has increased by 30% in the last year.

Since 1979 there has been an annual census of the animals in the valley of Adventdalen, led by Dr Nicholas Tyler.  Over that period the population has increased in close parallel with winter warming, growing from around 600 animals in the early 1980s to an average of around 1000 in recent years. Dr Tyler said:

“Winter warming is widely held to be a major threat to reindeer across the arctic. But, in the high arctic archipelago of Svalbard, global warming has had the opposite effect. Our data provides remarkable confirmation of this counter-intuitive observation.”

A Faculty team led by Dr Jonathan Codd and Nathan Thavarajah assisted with this summer’s reindeer census. Dr Codd said:

“The results revealed a remarkably successful year for Svalbard reindeer. Despite very high numbers in 2013, the population reached a new record of just over 1300 animals. The substantial increase in the numbers of reindeer is linked with frequent and pronounced periods of warm weather last winter.”

Prestigious fellowships for three Faculty scientists

A lab workerOur congratulations go to three Faculty researchers who have recently been awarded important independent fellowships. Gloria Lopez-Castejon and John Grainger received two of the twelve available Henry Dale Fellowships, while Franciska de Vries became the Faculty’s sixth recipient of a BBSRC David Phillips Fellowship.

The Henry Dale Fellowships, which are awarded twice a year, are for outstanding postdoctoral scientists who wish to build their own independent research career in the UK. Gloria and John both work in the area of inflammation. John’s interests focus on the role of lymphoid cells in the regulation of inflammation and immunity, whereas Gloria’s fellowship will focus on how the regulation of certain post-translational modifications of proteins orchestrates an inflammation response.

The BBSRC David Phillips Fellowship, which Franciska has been awarded, is intended for scientists who have demonstrated high potential and hope to establish themselves as independent researchers. There were only five awards available, and the support will last for five years.  Franciska will be researching the role of plant roots in ecosystem responses to climate change. Prof Ian Roberts, Associate Dean for Research in the Faculty, said:

“These fellowships are highly prestigious. To see our promising young researchers recognised in this way demonstrates the calibre of the scientists working in the Faculty.”

Dr David Kirby discusses science advisers in film and TV

Faculty researcher Dr David Kirby was recently featured in an article and podcast for Nature Jobs, focusing on the role of The front cover of Dr Kirby's bookscience advisers in film and television. In his book, Lab Coats in Hollywood, science communication and film studies expert Dr Kirby looked at what draws scientists to the world of film. He interviewed 25 scientists to investigate how film producers used scientists on films such as Hulk, Finding Nemo, and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

According to Dr Kirby, in an age where stereotypes are closely scrutinised, producers and writers are often most interested in knowing what scientists are really like. The questions the scientists are asked, and the time the advisers are needed for, varies depending on the film or TV series.

After many years immersed in the world of Hollywood media, Dr Kirby feels he has learnt a great deal. For any scientist wishing to follow his footsteps, he suggests they need to really understand the world of entertainment to work well with filmmakers and television producers. He says:

“Scientists underestimate how much science is communicated through films and television shows. Science is not just defined as what you find in a textbook. Science includes images of scientists themselves, the scientific process, scientific institutions, and science’s place in society. My research shows that when scientists become involved as consultants for the entertainment industry they are able to positively influence representations for all of these aspects in addition to making scientific facts more accurate.”

To find out more about Dr Kirby’s research, and the role of the science advisers in general, read the Nature article and listen to the podcast.

Scientists closer to understanding why weight-loss surgery cures diabetes

Hormone cells interspersed throughout other intestinal cells

Faculty scientists are a step closer to understanding why diabetes is cured in the majority of patients that undergo gastric bypass surgery. It appears that the cure can be explained by the effect of surgery on ‘reprogramming’ specialised cells in the intestine that secrete powerful hormones when we eat. Dr Craig Smith, research leader on the study, said:

 “Our research centred on enteroendocrine cells that ‘taste’ what we eat and, in response, release a cocktail of hormones that communicate with the pancreas to control insulin release to the brain, convey the sense of being full, and optimize and maximize digestion and absorption of nutrients. Under normal circumstances these are all important factors in keeping us healthy and nourished. But these cells may malfunction, resulting in under- or over-eating.”

In the UK, approximately 2.9 million people are affected by diabetes. Among other factors, the illness is linked to genes, ethnicity, diet, and obesity. 75% of people suffering from both obesity and diabetes are cured of diabetes after a gastric bypass. Understanding how this surgery cures the disease is the crux of Dr Smith’s research:

“The most common type of gastric bypass actually also bypasses a proportion of the gut hormone cells. It is thought that this causes the cells to change and be reprogrammed. Understanding how they change in response to surgery may hold the key to a cure for diabetes. Our next challenge is to investigate the messages the gut sends out when we eat food and when things go wrong, as is the case in diabetes. We hope this work will result in the development of drugs which could be used, instead of surgery, to cure obesity and prevent diabetes.”

Scientists find trigger that creates different kinds of cell

A graphical abstract of the studyFaculty scientists have identified an important trigger that dictates how cells change their identity and gain specialised functions. The research brings them closer to being able to understand how complex organisms develop. This new knowledge will improve future research into how cells can be artificially manipulated. Professor Andrew Sharrocks, lead author on the study, said:

“Understanding how to manipulate cells is crucial in the field of regenerative medicine, which aims to repair or replace damaged or diseased human cells or tissues to restore normal function.”

The team focused on part of the genome that helps determine where and when a gene is expressed, known as an ‘enhancer.’ Different enhancers are active in different cell types, allowing the production of distinct gene products in different tissues. In this study, the team determined how these enhancers become active. Professor Sharrocks said:

“All of us develop into complex human beings containing millions of cells from a single cell created by fertilization of an egg. To transit from this single cell state, cells must divide and eventually change their identity and gain specialised functions. For example, we need specific types of cells to populate our brains, and our recent work has uncovered the early steps in the creation of these cells. One of the most exciting areas of regenerative medicine is the newly acquired ability to manipulate cell fate and derive new cells to replace those which might be damaged or lost, either through old age or injury. To do this, we need to use molecular techniques to manipulate stem cells which have the potential to turn into any cell in our bodies.”

One of the current drawbacks in the field of regenerative medicine is that the approaches can be relatively inefficient, largely because scientists do not fully understand the principles that control cell fate determination. Professor Sharrocks added:

“We believe that our research will help to make regenerative medicine more effective and reliable because we’ll be able to gain control and manipulate. Our understanding of the regulatory events within a cell shed light on how to decode the genome”

Professor Daniel Davis longlisted for important science writing prize

Professor Daniel Davis’s The Compatibility Gene has been longlisted for the Royal Winton Prize for Science Books. The book discusses howDan Davis and his book our compatibility genes may influence finding a life partner as much as they influence our health and individuality.  The judges said:

“Davis wins you over from the start with touch points you can relate to and engaging descriptions. Dedication and a life spent in pursuit of his subject are evident on every page.”

Over 160 books were submitted for this year’s prize, and the judges faced a difficult task when whittling that number down to a longlist of twelve. The winning author will receive £25,000 and up to five shorlistees will be awarded £2,500. The shortlist will be announced on 19th September 2014.

Professor Nicky Clayton FRS, Chair of the judges, said:

“There really is a plethora of good science writing out there at the moment. I think this shows how science is ever increasingly becoming part of our culture. In the end though, we did have to agree on 12 and we’re delighted with those we’ve selected. Each one takes you on an informative but perhaps more importantly, engaging, journey of the science. Some are woven with humour and passionate personal stories; others are able to illuminate incredibly complex topics. All are marvellously written and full of the wonder of science.”

Faculty researcher shortlisted for national award

Sheena CruickshankA project led by Faculty researcher Dr Sheena Cruickshank was shortlisted in the Engage Competition 2014, run by the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE). The project, entitled ‘Educating Community Groups about Parasite Infection and its Impact,’ was praised for its work informing UK immigrants about how infections are transmitted.

Alongside Indira Mclean of Bolton College, Dr Cruickshank devised an education programme that is being used by language schools. The programme teaches people from around the world about how parasitic infections such as toxoplasma, whipworm, malaria, and schistosomes are caught, and how they can be prevented. Dr Cruickshank said:

“Globally, the biggest killer of people under 50 is infection. In countries where infections that are caused by gut worms are still very common, it is the main reason why children don’t get an education. We focused on explaining how people catch these infections, their global significance (in terms of prevalence and effects on global health and economy), and how they can be prevented.”

The programme underwent a pilot run during ESOL classes at Bolton College. The participants were of mixed nationalities including African, Iraqi, and Indian. Dr Cruickshank said:

“Apart from providing a vital information service, this is an incredible opportunity to learn from these people’s experiences. Hearing about worm infections and their impact on daily life has motivated many of us to change our research.”

An insight into stroke survival at the Pint of Science Festival

Stroke survivor Christine Halford and her daughter NatalieA stroke survivor and her daughter told their story in a Manchester pub as part of a three-day science festival in Manchester. The Pint of Science Festival took place across Manchester, bringing Faculty experts together with members of the public.

The festival provided an opportunity to hear about current research, discuss a range of topics over a drink, and take part in science-based pub quizzes and games. Each of the four Manchester pubs involved hosted a different scientific theme. In ‘Understanding Stroke’, part of the Stoke Association’s Action on Stroke Month, Professor Stuart Allan provided an insight into the brain of stroke survivors. Professor Allan said:

“We know that brain damage occurs within minutes of a stroke and that the quicker we can intervene to stop the processes that contribute to the death of brain cells the better.  With the advancements in stroke research in the last 20 years we know much more about these damaging events and that there can be brain repair post-stroke, meaning stroke patients now have a better chance of survival and recovery.”

The highlight of the event was provided by stroke survivor and nurse Christine Halford and her daughter Natalie, who offered moving first-hand accounts of their experiences of stroke. Natalie said:

“It’s imperative to raise awareness of stroke because nobody thinks it’s going to happen to them, until it does and your life is turned upside down. Stroke can happen to anybody of any age, at anytime and anywhere, which is why research is necessary as we still don’t have all the answers. The pub is a great setting as we can reach out to people who ordinarily would know nothing about stroke.”

Computer models helping to unravel the science of life

Scientists have developed a computer modelling simulation to explore how cells of the fruit fly react to changes in the “Cell, Martin Baron et al.”environment. The research is part of an ongoing study that is investigating how external environmental factors impact on health and disease.

The simulation shows how cells of the fruit fly communicate with each other during their development. The current phase of the study looks at how temperature affects cell signalling networks during development. This will help explain how flies – and other organisms – develop across a wide range of temperatures. Dr Martin Baron, lead researcher on the study, said:

“It is exciting that the computer model was able to make predictions that we could test by going back to the fly experiments to investigate the effects of different mutations which alter the components of the cells. It shows us that the model is working well and provides a solid basis on which to develop its sophistication further.”

The next phase of the study will see the team research how cell signalling networks adjust to other environmental changes, including nutrition. Dr Baron said:

“There is a lot of interest in how environmental inputs influence our health and disease by interacting with our genetic makeup. Our initial studies have already shown that changes to the adult fly’s diet can also affect how cells inside a fly communicate with each other and produce responses in certain fly tissues. This is a promising avenue for future studies.”

Baron explains that there are wider implications for understanding human health and disease:

“Many different types of signal control normal development but when some of these signals are mis-activated they can result in the formation of tumours. What we’ve learnt from studying the flies is that some communication signals can arise in different ways and this means that, in cancer, mis-activation of these signals can also occur by different routes. This is important because it can help us to understand how to stop mis-activation from occurring.”

Science Stroke Art 2014 launches in Manchester Town Hall

Dame Professor Nancy Rothwell at the launchOver 250 people celebrated the launch of Science Stroke Art 2014 with an innovative event at Manchester Town Hall. TV doctor Chris Steele hosted the evening, which was organised by The Stroke Association and The University. The night featured music, poetry, visual art, and short talks about stroke research and treatment.

Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, who is a world-renowned expert on stroke, spoke about the work of scientists at the University. She also discussed the importance of Science Stroke Art:

“What we want Science Stroke Art to do is raise awareness of stroke and show that it is not just something that happens to old people, but that young people can be affected too. We also wanted to show that stroke isn’t the end of a fulfilling life and to tell people about research into stroke. I never like to make false promises but there’s a possibility that in the next few years that there will be radical new treatments for stroke.”

Science Stroke Art will feature a series of engaging events in Manchester throughout May. The programme includes interactive talks, music, theatre, and live demonstrations, all of which intend to capture the public’s imagination and challenge misconceptions about the condition. Chris Larkin, Regional Head of Operations from the Stroke Association said:

“Stroke is one of the greatest health challenges of our time but doesn’t get the attention or funding it deserves. Far too many people don’t understand it or think it’ll ever happen to them. Science Stroke Art 2014 aims to help overcome this challenge by raising awareness of stroke through an engaging programme of events, all taking place throughout Action on Stroke Month.”

Bacteria on the Skin: New Insights on Our Invisible Companions

A Faculty study examining how skin-dwelling bacteria influence wound-healing could help address chronic wounds, a commonbacteria ailment in the elderly.

Despite the fact that we spend our lives covered in a thin veneer of bacteria, little is known about the microbes that dwell in and on our skin. A new study suggests that the interplay between these bacteria and our cells could influence the healing of wounds. Faculty researcher Dr Matthew Hardman said:

“These wounds can literally persist for years, and we simply have no good treatments to help them heal. There’s a definite need for better ways to predict how a wound is going to heal and develop new treatments. This study gives us a much better understanding of the types of bacterial species that are found in skin wounds, how our cells might respond to the bacteria, and how that interaction can affect healing. It’s our hope that these insights could help lead to better treatments to promote wound healing.”

Chronic wounds are a significant health problem, with an estimated 1 in 20 elderly people living with cuts or lesions that never seem to heal. They often result from diabetes, poor circulation, or being confined to a bed or wheelchair.

Hardman and his colleagues compared the skin bacteria from people with chronic wounds to those with wounds that healed. The results showed markedly differing bacterial communities, suggesting there may be a bacterial ‘signature’ to wounds that refuse to heal. Dr Hardman said:

“Our data clearly supports the idea that one could swab a wound, profile the bacteria that are there, and then be able to tell whether the wound is likely to heal quickly or persist. This could impact treatment decisions.”

Immunology touted as next big thing for popular science

dandavisFaculty scientist Professor Daniel Davis says that scientific jargon could be preventing the public from learning about the human immune system. He believes that scientists are starting to counter this problem in a number of innovative ways.

His latest paper, published in Nature Reviews Immunology, argues that now is the time for immunology to become the big trend in popular science, helping to inform new discussions about health and disease. Professor Davis said:

“People already know a lot about DNA and evolution and would be keen to learn new concepts – like how the immune system works. It’s important to find out about immunology because it is crucial for understanding human health and disease. Plus, the human body is one of the greatest wonders of the universe, and its complexity, delicacy, and elegance is clearly revealed in the way our immune system works.”

Immunology explores how our immune system seeks out and destroys dangerous bacteria, viruses, and fungi. It also examines how the immune system connects with other bodily systems and influences, such as metabolism and hormone levels.

Professor Davis explored immunology and its link with compatibility genes is his latest book, The Compatibility Gene. He said:

“The immune system is a wonderful basis for discussing the importance of human diversity. The genes that vary the most between individual people are not those that influence physical characteristics — such as skin, eye or hair colour, for example — but the genes of the immune system.”

Body Clock Day on the BBC

On Tuesday 13 May, the BBC is having a day focusing on our body clocks. They will be looking at what body clocks do and how they a clockwork. The Faculty’s leading clock researcher, Professor Andrew Loudon, will be on BBC Breakfast TV and several radio stations, while Professor David Ray will be on the Sheila Fogarty Show on Radio 5 Live. A film of one of his patients will also be shown.

Other clock researchers from around the country will also be involved. Professor Russell Foster will be on the Today Programme on Radio 4 and there will be various items on radio and TV news programmes.

 

‘Lonely’ bacteria increase risk of antibiotic resistance

microbesFaculty scientists have discovered that ‘lonely’ microbes are more likely to mutate, resulting in higher rates of antibiotic resistance. This research was published in Nature Communications.

Studying the mutation rates in E. coli, the researchers found that the rate of mutation varied according to how many bacteria there were. Surprisingly, they discovered that more bacteria resulted in fewer mutations. More ‘lonely’ bacteria developed greater resistance to Rifampicin, an antibiotic used to treat tuberculosis. Dr Chris Knight, joint lead author on the study, said:

“What we were looking for was a connection between the environment and the ability of bacteria to develop the resistance to antibiotics. We discovered that the rate at which E. coli mutates depends upon how many ‘friends’ it has around. It seems that more lonely organisms are more likely to mutate.”

This change in mutation rate is controlled by quorum sensing, the name given to the way bacteria let each other know how much of a crowd there is. This involves the release of signaling molecules by bacteria when in a dense population, helping the organisms to understand their surroundings, coordinate their behavior to improve defence mechanisms, and adapt to the availability of nutrients.

The rate of mutation was found to be dependent on the gene luxS, which is known to be involved in quorum sensing. The team now hopes to find ways to control this signaling for medical applications in a future study. Dr Knight said:

“Eventually this might lead to interventions to control mutation rates, for instance to minimise the evolution of antibiotic resistance, allowing antibiotics to work better.”

Scientists find way to target cells resistant to chemotherapy

Paclitaxel treated cellResearch led by Dr Andrew Gilmore has identified a way to sensitise cancer cells to chemotherapy, making them more open to treatment. The study could pave the way for the development of drugs which will target cells that have become treatment-resistant.

The research team made the discovery while exploring the mechanisms behind resistance to chemotherapy drugs like Paclitaxel, used to treat breast and colon cancer. Dr Gilmore said:

“Cells replicate and divide through a process known as mitosis. This process is carefully controlled and if any mistake is made during normal division then the cell undergoes apoptosis – otherwise known as controlled cell death. Failure of cells to complete mitosis correctly can be the start of cancer. We wanted to understand how this failure – delay of cell division – activates apoptosis, and why some cancer cells may be able to avoid being killed.”

The researchers found a protein known as Bid in colon cancer cells and discovered that Bid is turned on as cells prepare to divide. The cells then die if the division takes too long. Cancer cells that are resistant to chemotherapy still turn Bid on, but go through mitosis too quickly for the cell to be killed. The team found that these cells could be made to die if they directly targeted the part of the cell where Bid operates. Dr Gilmore added:

“Our findings demonstrate that Bid plays a central role in mitosis-related cell death.  This could eventually be of huge benefit in a clinical setting and help patients who suffer from advanced stages of colon cancer.”

New research links body clocks to chronic lung diseases

pulmonary-fibrosisFaculty research has shown that the body clock’s natural rhythm could be utilised to improve therapies that delay the onset of chronic lung disease. Dr Qing-Jun Meng and his team have discovered a rhythmic defence pathway in the lung, controlled by our body clocks, which is essential to combatting exposure to toxins and pollutants.

The team have found that the circadian clock in the mouse lung rhythmically switches genes on and off, controlling the antioxidant defence pathway. This 24-hourly rhythm enables the lungs to anticipate and withstand exposure to pollutants on a daily basis. Dr Meng said:

“We used a mouse model that mimics human pulmonary fibrosis, and found that an oxidative and fibrotic challenge delivered to the lungs during the night phase, when mice are active, causes more severe lung damages than the same challenge administered during the day, a mouse’s resting phase. Our findings show that timed administration of the antioxidant compound sulforaphane effectively attenuates the severity of the lung fibrosis in this mouse model.”

The research suggests that paying attention to the lung clock could increase the effectiveness of drug treatments for oxidative and fibrotic diseases, allowing for lower doses and reduced side effects.

Research team member Dr Vanja Pekovic-Vaughan said:

“This research is the first to show that a functioning clock in the lung is essential to maintain the protective tissue function against oxidative stress and fibrotic challenges. We envisage a scenario whereby chronic rhythm disruption (during ageing or shift work, for example) may compromise the temporal coordination of the antioxidant pathway, contributing to human disease.”

This study is a part of ongoing research exploring how chronic disruption to body clocks contributes to conditions such as osteoarthritis, cardiovascular disease, breast cancer, and mood disorder. Dr Meng said:

“Our next step is to test our theory that similar rhythmic activity of the antioxidant defence pathway also operates in human lungs.  This will enable us to translate our findings and identify the proper clock time to treat chronic lung diseases that are known to involve oxidative stress.”

 

Faculty scientist recognised for entrepreneurial spirit

curtisdobsonDr Curtis Dobson has won the Commercial Innovator of the Year award at the BBSRC’s Fostering Innovation Awards 2014. The awards were presented in London, in front of a prestigious audience featuring leading figures from the worlds of investment, industry, government, charity, and academia. He scooped the £15,000 award in recognition of two successful healthcare companies that are based on his research.

Ai2 Ltd has developed anti-infective peptide technology for use in ophthalmics and medical devices. This technology helps to reduce infections caused by contact lenses, catheters, wound dressings, and orthopaedic devices. Microsensor Ltd is developing a new approach to the early detection of medical device infection and environmental monitoring. The technology is simple, inexpensive, and robust, proving a clear indication of clinically or industrially relevant levels of infection on a surface. Dr Curtis Dobson said:

“Being recognised by this BBSRC award is a privilege and an honour, and further validates our efforts to tackle resistant infection, which impacts so many people throughout the UK and beyond. The additional funds will help us accelerate commercialisation of our latest technologies, ultimately delivering benefits to patients sooner.”

Professor Ian Kimber, Faculty Associate Dean for Business Development, said:

“This is a remarkable achievement and is a testament to the industry and innovation of Curtis and his co-workers. It is a reflection also of the emphasis we place on ensuring that the fruits of our substantial investment in research deliver valuable products and opportunities.”

Purified fish oils could help treat rare disease affecting new-born babies

babyFaculty research has shown that a rare and potentially lethal disease affecting new-born babies may be treatable with fish oils. The disease, known as congenital hyperinsulinism, is a rare disorder which affects roughly 1 in 50,000 children in the UK. A danger to babies whose bodies make too much insulin, it can starve their brain of blood sugar, leading to possible brain damage or long-term disability. Giving these infants purified fish oils similar to those used to treat heart attack patients can improve their blood sugar levels, which could prevent the worst effects of the disease.  Faculty researcher Dr Karen Cosgrove says:

Although we didn’t see enormous changes in our patients during the research, the effects were small but positive. It is important for all babies with congenital hyperinsulinism because it is a condition which is so difficult to treat.

The research was conducted alongside consultants from Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital. The hospital is the base for The Northern Congenital Hyperinsulinism Service (NorCHI), a highly specialised facility set up to treat this rare disease. Doctor Indi Banerjee, clinical lead for NORCHI, says:

The current medical treatment for children with congenital hyperinsulinism has been quite limited. The addition of this fish oil supplement may be a simple but effective way of treating low blood sugars in many children with this difficult condition.

Faculty researcher among BBSRC Innovator of the Year finalists 2014

A Faculty researcher is among nine shortlisted finalists for the 2014 BBSRC (Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research innovatorCouncil) Innovator of the Year competition who were announced today.

Curtis Dobson has been shortlisted in the Commercial Innovator section for his serial innovations focusing on the treatment or detection of infectious agents on medical device surfaces.

He joins Neil Gibbs and Catherine O’Neill, from the Faculty of Medical and Human Science’s Institute of Inflammation and Repair, who have been shortlisted in the same category for their novel approaches to safe skin healthcare – Curapel.

The innovators will be competing to be crowned Innovator of the Year 2014 at a high-profile event in London on 20 March 2014 in recognition of their efforts to take their innovation beyond the lab to deliver social and economic benefits.

The other categories include Social Innovator and Most Promising Innovator reflecting the breadth of the benefits delivered by BBSRC’s investment in UK bioscience. One of the category winners will then be chosen as the overall Innovator of the Year.

Winners in each category will receive a £15,000 award for them to support their research, training or other activities promoting economic or social impact. The overall winner will receive a further £15,000.

The finalists will be judged by an expert independent panel. The judges will be looking to recognise those innovators who have worked the hardest and gone the furthest to take their science out of the lab to deliver impact.

Innovator of the Year is one of BBSRC’s Fostering Innovation competitions that aim to promote excellence amongst researchers, knowledge exchange practitioners, departments and institutions by recognising successful approaches to innovation and impact in the biosciences.

More information about Innovator of the Year can be found on the BBSRC website.

Does it pay to be a lover or a fighter?

As mating season approaches male animals are faced with a question that can determine their chances of reproducing: shouldwalrus (1) they be a lover or a fighter? A recent study, led by Faculty researcher Dr John Fitzpatrick, has found that where animals fall on the lover/fighter scale depends on the extent to which they are able to ensure continued mating rights with females.

In species where fighting for the right to mate means greater control of the female, males invest more in weapons and less in testes size. But males produce large weapons and testes in species where fighting for females occurs both before mating – with weapons – and after mating – with sperm. Some males found fighting the most successful method. Others found fighting was only the first step in sexual relations and also had to rely on large testes to ensure their fertility.

The study looked at over 300 species and found that male ability to monopolise females for continued mating drove the way they evolved. Looking at mammals, birds, fish, insects, and flatworms, they discovered that males only traded-off investment in weapons and testes when they were sure that females wouldn’t fool around with another male when their back was turned. Dr Fitzpatrick said:

“We set out to see why some species show trade-offs in sexual traits and others do not – the answer lies in how successfully males are able to keep females from mating with rivals. We know animals try to get females in a couple of ways. When they fight for them they sometimes evolve weaponry – such as antlers, big body size, or big teeth. The other way they do this is not to bother to compete before they mate, but to have big testes and the highest sperm quality so that they can fertilise the most eggs.”

Dr Stefan Lüpold, from Syracuse University, said:

“You don’t get something for nothing in evolution. We wanted to see which species invested in weapons over testes. Some of these species invest in both, and that is a bit of a mystery. We will now look at whether maximising investment in sexual traits means you pay the price in some other aspect of life. Understanding the way animals reproduce is important as it helps us understand how species evolve and can prove important for conservation.”

Researchers find potential new treatment approach for pancreatic cancer

Faculty scientists believe they have discovered a way to make chemotherapy more effective for pancreatic pancreaticcancercellscancer patients. They hope they have now found an effective strategy for selectively killing pancreatic cancer while sparing healthy cells, which will improve the results of treatment. Research leader, Dr Jason Bruce, said:

“Pancreatic cancer is one of the most aggressive and deadly cancers. Most patients develop symptoms after the tumour has spread to other organs. To make things worse, pancreatic cancer is highly resistant to chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Clearly a radical new approach to treatment is urgently required. We wanted to understand how the switch in energy supply in cancer cells might help them survive.”

The study found that pancreatic cancer cells may have their own specialised energy supply that maintains calcium levels and keeps cancer cells alive. Maintaining a low concentration of calcium within cells is vital to their survival and is achieved by calcium pumps on the plasma membrane. These pumps, known as PMCA, are fuelled using ATP, the key energy currency for many cellular processes.

All cells generate energy from nutrients using two biochemical energy ‘factories,’ known as mitochondria and glycolysis. Mitochondria generate almost 90% of the cells’ energy in healthy cells. In pancreatic cancer cells there is a shift towards glycolysis as the major energy source. It is thought that the calcium pump has its own supply of glycolytic ATP, which gives the cancer cells an advantage over normal cells.

Scientists used cells from human tumours and investigated the effects of blocking each energy source in turn. Blocking the mitochondrial metabolism had no effect. However, when they blocked glycolysis they saw a reduced supply of ATP which inhibited the calcium pump. This resulted in a toxic calcium overload and the death of the cell. Dr Bruce added:

“It looks like glycolysis is the key process in providing ATP fuel for the calcium pump in pancreatic cancer cells. Although an important strategy for cell survival, it may also be their major weakness. Designing drugs to cut off this supply to the calcium pumps might be an effective strategy for selectively killing cancer cells while sparing normal cells within the pancreas.””

Extinct robust birds of New Zealand not so robust after all

moabirdA study led by Faculty PhD student Charlotte Brassey has shown that the giant moa bird Dinornis robustus, which literally means ‘robust strange bird,’ may not have had robust bones after all. The leg bones of one of the tallest birds in history were actually more like its modern relatives the ostrich, emu, and rhea. In collaboration with Professor Richard Holdaway at The University of Canterbury, New Zealand, Brassey has shown that it was actually a much smaller species of moa that possessed the robust skeleton.

To determine whether the leg bones were overly thick and strong, the researchers had to define how heavy the birds were. Previously, scientists have done this by measuring the thickness of the leg bone and scaling up according to the size of living birds. This becomes a problem when the leg bones have unusual proportions. Ms Brassey explained:

“If we wanted to estimate the weight of a saber-toothed cat, no-one would suggest measuring canine tooth length and then scaling up the tooth size of your standard tabby. You’d end up with a ludicrously high estimate of the body weight of the saber-toothed cat. The same is true for moa. We knew that moa had disproportionately wide leg bones, yet previous estimates of their body mass had been based on those same bones. This probably resulted in overestimates.”

To avoid this, the researchers scanned whole skeletons. As predicted, the new estimates were considerably lower. Nonetheless, the largest moa still weighed in at 200kg; the equivalent of 30 Christmas turkeys.

The researchers then applied an engineering technique known as Finite Element Analysis (FEA) to estimate how robust the moa really were. FEA crash-tests objects using computer simulations, and is usually used for tasks such as testing the strength of bridges or modelling the behaviour of Formula One cars. The FEA techniques and the new estimates suggest that different groups of moa solved the problems of supporting their huge bodies in different ways. Such fundamental differences suggest that the nine species of moa had long histories of independent evolution.

Manchester researchers share in £18million industry-academia networks

University researchers have been chosen to lead new networks linking industry and academia which will sunflower (1)improve energy and food security and develop new drugs. Four of the 13 networks, announced by the BBSRC, will be led by experts from Manchester. One of these is the Bioprocessing Network, led by Faculty researcher Professor Alan Dickson and Professor Christopher Smales from The University of Kent. Professor Dickson said:

“Biologics are complex products made by cells with immense commercial and social potential. Antibody proteins, for example, are revolutionary medicines for treatment of previously incurable diseases. The bioprocessing network (BioProNET) will integrate academic and industrial strengths to improve current practice and establish step-changing and innovative solutions for the manufacture of the next generation of biologics. By enhancing cost effectiveness of bioprocessing, the sector will move towards more affordable biologics for sustainable and healthier lifestyles.”

All of the networks will receive funds to support proof of concept research projects which will demonstrate benefits for industry. The networks will then work with industries to investigate the concepts further. Many of the ideas will build into the Industrial Biotechnology Catalyst, funded by the BBSRC, the Technology Strategy Board, and the EPSRC, which will be launched in early 2014. The Catalyst has benefited from recent cash injections and will soon support the development of ideas from concept to commercialisation.

Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said:

“To get ahead in the global race we need to turn our world-beating science and research into world-beating products and services, as set out in our Industrial Strategy. These networks will unlock the huge potential of biotechnology and bioenergy, such as finding innovative ways to use leftover food, and creating chemicals from plant cells.”

£2.8million funding boost to track development from embryo to adult

fruitfly (1)Faculty scientists have been awarded £2.8million to further understanding of how cells develop and form particular types of body tissue. The award is part of a £17.7million cash injection from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) which aims to harness the power of bioscience to make significant impacts in healthcare and agriculture. The Manchester team will collaborate with the University of Cambridge and University College London.

Using fruit flies as a model system, researchers will answer important questions regarding how much of each gene product is expressed at one time, which version of each gene is expressed, and which protein partners interact with the gene. Faculty scientist Professor Simon Hubbard explained:

“This could help explain how gene defects lead to abnormal development. Our simonhubbarddevelopment is governed by the complex interplay between the proteins encoded by our genes. Careful control of these proteins at a specific time during development dictates the fate of cells and the tissues they will form. While some of this information is contained within the genome sequence, we currently lack the full picture of what happens during development in the embryo. This project will close the gap in knowledge using both experimental and computational science. ”

The research is funded through the BBSRC’s Strategic Longer and Larger Awards (sLoLas,) which give world-leading research teams the time and resources they require. Professor Jackie Hunter, BBSRC’s Chief Executive, said:

“This public funding offers long-term support to address major research challenges, while building research capacity in important areas and maximising economic and social benefits for the UK.”

Raising awareness of animal research

animalresearch (1)Pupils from schools and colleges across Greater Manchester recently attended a special open day at the University, learning how and why animal research is used in certain situations. They heard how researchers were looking for cures for cancer, epilepsy, Parkinson’s, and age-related deterioration and attended a tour which showed how the animals are kept. The event came following the University’s commitment to developing principles of openness in animal research. Faculty researcher Professor Matthew Cobb said:

“The visit allowed students to experience the conditions and high standards of care we give to our animals. They saw mice, some of which are genetically modified by deletion or insertion of genes, or genes that can be switched on and off. They learnt about epilepsy research in flies and compared young flies and their grandparents to learn about ageing and how it can be studied. Believe it or not, we have lots in common with fruit flies. Many of our organs and structures have the same origins and serve the same purposes. Applying this knowledge from Drosophila flies to humans and human disease is a powerful and effective strategy.”

Mark McElwee, Deputy Head at Parrswood High School, said:

“The event was really worthwhile. The pupils gained an insight into the realities of animal research. It definitely opened their eyes to the potential of animal research for medical benefits and in fact it changed some of their opinions. They were also amazed at the care and dedication put into ensuring the wellbeing of the animals. The feedback from the pupils is that some were so inspired they are seriously considering changing their UCAS applications to go into biological sciences.”

Karolina Zaezyczny, aged 17, from Holy Cross College, said:

“The open day did change my view. It’s made me aware of the positive things and why scientists sometimes have to use animals in their research. I was very impressed with the facilities the animals were kept in.”

University receives doctoral training award in regenerative medicine

The University has been chosen to host four new national Centres for Doctoral Training (CDT) in science and cdtengineering. Universities and Science Minister David Willetts revealed details of how the £350m fund will be used to train more than 3,500 postgraduate students. It is the UK’s largest investment in postgraduate training in engineering and physical sciences and will fund more than 70 new centres.

The funding, allocated by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, will target areas vital to economic growth. The four CDTs awarded to Manchester are in ‘Power Networks,’ ‘Next Generation Nuclear,’ ‘Science and Applications of Graphene and Related Nanomaterials,’ and ‘Regenerative Medicine.’

The Regenerative Medicine CDT, led by Professor Cay Kielty of FLS, with support from the faculties of Medicine and Human Sciences and Engineering and Physical Sciences, will tackle the growing need for therapeutic solutions to the ageing, degenerative, and injury-related pathologies faced by our society and address the shortage in skilled scientists equipped to meet these needs. The team will deliver multidisciplinary training in a variety of related areas and provide clinical translational training supported by the Manchester Academic Health Science Centre. This is the only CDT in regenerative medicine to be funded under the new scheme. Professor Kielty said:

“This CDT award enables us to exploit Manchester’s unique biomedical strengths to train future regenerative medicine experts and enhance the health and wealth of the UK.”