Rachel Rodrigues sheds light on her research on understanding the brain mechanisms that motivate people to self-harm – can we untangle the circuits to break the cycle?
Many of us will know someone who has self-harmed or may even have personal experience of it. This isn’t surprising considering how common it is, particularly in adolescence and young adulthood. Unfortunately though, only about 20% of young people receive help from clinical services for their self-harm, and as much as 50% aren’t receiving any help, even from people close to them, meaning that they are having to cope with it on their own.
For some people self-harm could become more frequent and intense over time and coupled with it also being the strongest predictor of future suicide attempts, this lack of intervention for self-harm is concerning. The aim of my PhD research within Imperial’s Mood Instability Research Group is to find out why young people continue to self-harm. We hope to translate our findings to improve interventions for self-harm. (more…)
Marking 20 years since Dr John Tregoning arrived at Imperial College London as a PhD student, he reflects on what he’s learnt over his career to date.
On 1 October 1999, I walked out of South Kensington tube station, fresh-faced and ready to start my PhD. 20 years later as I walk out of the same tube station to the same campus of the same university (still fresh-faced I like to think), the question is, have I learnt anything?
Spoiler alert – the answer is yes, but a guarded yes, from a staggeringly low starting point, like Marianas Trench low. Some of what I have learned is fairly niche and only useful if you work in a biomedical lab – like how to open a tightly screwed plastic tube with one hand whilst avoiding infecting yourself with influenza, some are a bit more generally applicable to having a career in science, especially if you are or want to run your own research group, and some grandiosely I think might be applicable to everyone.
Working in a university, this may be a bit unnecessary to point out, but education never ends: we are continually learning and evolving. Even if you were able to recall all the facts from school into adulthood it is likely that they are now either outdated or completely irrelevant to the work you do. We need to retrain: to become parents, to become managers, to change roles, to retire gracefully. And for these new roles, there is no pass/fail test to say how well you have done, it is all a bit woolly. So we need effective strategies to learn for life: both for ourselves and for the others – students, children, co-workers – that we might need to train. (more…)
Eva Tadros reflects on the highs and lows of second year of medical school, from the first taste of clinical placements to undertaking a research project in Thailand.
Ending the first year of medical school on a high, I dedicated my summer to relaxing and forgetting about all things medical-related – but little did I know second year was going to hit fast, and it was going to hit hard.
Second year, along with fifth year, are supposedly the hardest two years of your academic medical school journey, but I don’t think anyone quite prepares you for the range of emotions you’re bound to experience throughout the year. From that sense of pride you get when you finally take a proper patient history, to that indescribable feeling of familiarity as your shoes stick onto the Reynolds café floor on Thursday morning following sports night, to being on the verge of tears after not being to elicit a reflex despite trying for a whole term – second year is an absolute rollercoaster. (more…)
Madina Wane reflects on the value of creating an inclusive research culture where everyone in society can feel they can participate and benefit from STEM.
The modern seat belt is a simple but extremely effective innovation that has been saving lives since the 1960s. It is estimated to reduce the risk of death by up to 50% and with over 1 million road traffic deaths per year globally, the seat belt is clearly an important development. With such an impact it is easy to neglect scrutiny of this technology, but we must ask the question: are we all equally protected?
When crash test dummies first became required in the 1960s, US regulators wanted manufacturers to use two types – one based on male physical proportions, and one based on female proportions. However, after several years, regulators conceded and manufacturers were able to use just one dummy, reflecting the ‘average’ male. 50 years on and the consequences of this are clear. A study in 2011, from the University of Virginia’s Center for Applied Biomechanics, determined that female drivers were 47% more likely to suffer severe injuries compared to their male counterparts. Many studies have also highlighted the increased incidence of whiplash in female drivers.
Although the use of female dummies has since been adopted, these are simply smaller versions of male dummies, not accounting for anatomical differences between the sexes. In addition, the female dummy is based on proportions of the smallest 5% of females, rather than the average. To add even more pitfalls, the ‘female’ dummies are still not used to the same extent as their male counterparts, with male dummies predominantly used in the driver’s seat and female dummies more often used in the passenger seat.(more…)
Professor Neil Poulter puts blood pressure screening in the spotlight – an effective way of reducing the burden of high blood pressure in the UK and globally.
Blood pressure screening can save lives, which may come as a surprise considering it is such a simple measurement. Blood Pressure UK was set up as a charity aimed at lowering the nation’s blood pressure (UK), with the purpose of preventing or at least reducing disability and death associated with raised blood pressure (BP). Among their activities, they have been running a ‘Know Your Numbers’ week every year since 2007, and their thirteenth consecutive campaign week is currently underway. ‘Pressure stations’ have been set up around the UK providing free BP screening, encouraging adults across the country to know their blood pressure numbers. (more…)
Dr Malick Gibani unravels the mystery behind the role of typhoid toxin in causing typhoid fever – a disease that affects around 11 million people each year globally.
Salmonella Typhi is a fascinatingly complex bacterium. Whilst there are more than 2000 different (sero)types of Salmonella, there’s something special about Salmonella Typhi that sets it apart from the non-typhoidal Salmonella serovars. It causes different symptoms, the means of spread are different and the host it infects is different – specifically, Salmonella Typhi only causes disease in humans.
Understanding the mechanisms of how bacteria can cause disease is profoundly important for vaccine development. The Vi-antigen that forms the major component of injectable typhoid vaccines seems to have a key role in making the bacteria more virulent (hence the name). Vi-based vaccines have proven to be highly effective tools to prevent typhoid. (more…)
The Government recently announced plans to create a smoke-free society by 2030 – Dr Nick Hopkinson outlines some of the steps towards achieving this ambition.
Tobacco smoking remains a huge public health issue. Although population smoking rates continue to fall – now down to 14.4% of adults – smoking is still responsible for around 100,000 deaths per year in the UK, and for around half the difference in life expectancy between rich and poor. Smoking rates are high in areas of deprivation, in people with mental health problems and among people who identify as LGBT.
The Government’s recent green paper, Advancing our health: prevention in the 2020’s, although in many areas light on detail, funding, delivery and ambition, does set out some important markers on smoking and some potentially interesting developments around funding tobacco control. (more…)
Dr Tim Chambers explains the damaging effects of marketing of unhealthy commodities on children’s health and what we can do to tackle the problem.
Unhealthy commodities such as junk food, alcohol, and gambling are leading causes of non-communicable diseases, mental illness, injury, and many social harms. The collective global health burden of diet– and alcohol-related diseases is estimated at five million deaths each year. But what is the role of marketing of these unhealthy commodities in driving their growing consumption?
Unhealthy commodities marketing through the eyes of a child
Children’s exposure to unhealthy commodities marketing, regardless of the product, has an adverse impact on their health. For example, junk food marketing shapes children’s dietary preferences and alcohol marketing is positively associated with earlier onset drinking and the likelihood of engaging in hazardous drinking. Children are particularly susceptible to marketing as they are unable to fully comprehend the biases inherent in ads. But with the unprecedented access and engagement with different media, how much marketing for unhealthy commodities are children actually seeing on a daily basis? (more…)
For World Hepatitis Day (28 July), Dr Philippa Pristerà shares an open letter to the people that she met and interviewed early last year as part of her research study exploring the experiences of people living with and accessing care for Hepatitis C, and their perspectives on cure.
I am writing to you because you took part in my interview-based study ‘Viewpoints from hepatitis C: accessing and experiencing cure’*. Some of you I met about a month before I gave birth to my daughter, others would have met my colleague Jane Bruton who kindly took over while I was on maternity leave. Since my return to work, I have spent my time reading over the interviews to see what key themes came through and would like to take this opportunity to update you.
I want to say thank you
Thank you for sharing your story; for sitting down with a complete stranger, a heavily pregnant one, to be interviewed about your life. To help me build the context around your experiences and better understand your story, you revealed a great deal about your expectations and your beliefs, your current and past behaviour and their consequences. I was struck by your openness, and so grateful for your trust. (more…)
Rising rates of STIs has fuelled a debate about whether growing PrEP use might be propelling the STI epidemic. Oli Stevens and Charles Witzel argue why this narrative is misleading and damaging.
The UK recently celebrated two landmark achievements in the ongoing fight against HIV. It is now the seventh country to reach the United Nations target of 90-90-90: that 90% of people living with HIV know their status, of whom 90% are on antiretroviral treatment, and of whom 90% are unable to transmit the virus to others.
Also, London became the first city in the world to achieve 95-95-95. These are remarkable achievements and are a testament to the tireless, collective work of doctors, activists, policymakers and civil society organisations.
Zeroing in on the progress made in reducing new HIV infections between men who have sex with men (MSM), particularly the nearly one-third decrease between 2015-2017, two likely contributors stand out: a scale-up in HIV testing, rapid progress to treatment and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).
This recent success also invites us to take stock and reflect on our failures, the perhaps unexpected costs of progress and the emerging roadblocks on the horizon.
The decrease in HIV transmissions has not been matched with a decrease in sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Instead, new diagnoses have risen year-on-year. The causal factors fuelling this increase are complex, driven by social and political changes. (more…)