Category: Department of Medicine

Is mycoprotein an ideal food for managing blood sugar levels in Type 2 Diabetes?

For Diabetes Awareness Week, Anna Cherta-Murillo explains how mycoprotein, a food made of fungus, may hold the promise for managing blood sugar levels in Type 2 Diabetes.


If I were to ask you the first thing that comes to mind when you think of fungi, you would probably say mouldy walls, gone-off food, or athlete’s foot. The Fungi kingdom is often not viewed in a positive light. However, we owe a lot to fungi; they produce life-saving antibiotics, have allowed organ transplantations in humans and can recycle many types of waste. In the area of nutrition, some fungi also have the potential to affect human health in a beneficial way, although little research has been devoted to it compared to other foods. In the Nutrition Section of the Department of Medicine at Imperial, we are putting fungi into the limelight and studying the impact of a particular type of fungus on blood sugar levels and appetite in South Asian and European people with Type 2 Diabetes (T2D).

The problem

1 out of 20 people worldwide has T2D, with South Asians being more prone to the disease compared to Europeans (Figure 1). People with T2D have higher blood sugar levels than normal, which over time can increase the chances of developing long-term complications such as blindness, kidney disease and heart failure. It is therefore important to manage blood sugar levels in people with T2D in order to keep blood sugar in the normal range. The first-line strategy to achieve this is by improving dietary intake. Healthy, balanced diets are generally characterised as being high in dietary fibre and protein, which decrease both blood sugar levels and appetite. If blood sugar levels are reduced toward normal levels, the chances of having T2D-related complications are reduced. Likewise, if appetite is decreased, intake of energy-rich foods will likely also decrease, helping to reduce body weight, which is a key risk factor for T2D. However, an ongoing problem with healthy diets is that they are not suitable for all cultures and most of the research around them has been conducted in people of European origin, therefore not being applicable to South Asians. Furthermore, people often find it difficult to stick to these diets. (more…)

Nature wants you dead – here’s how vaccines work to help keep us all alive

 

Dr John Tregoning takes us on a tour of vaccination’s greatest successes, explaining how this incredible human achievement works to keep us all safer from disease – as long as we keep vaccinating ourselves and our families.


Nature wants you dead. Not just you, but your children and unborn children and everyone you have ever met.

It wants you to cough and sneeze and poop yourself into an early grave. If it can, it wants you your blood vessels to burst and pustules to explode all over your body. Put simply, Nature is trying to kill you.

And until relatively recently, it was really good at doing this. The average life expectancy of a human in 1900 was 31 years. I should already be dead.

But then science intervened with two critical innovations, clean water and vaccines, and changed everything. Clean water has had the biggest impact, but vaccines are a close second. (more…)

Convincing my daughter that our research in malaria matters

On World Malaria Day, Dr Aubrey Cunnington’s daughter spends the day at his lab to learn how his team’s research is contributing to tackling malaria. 


25 April is a special day in my calendar this year for two reasons. First, it is World Malaria Day – a chance for malaria researchers and many others to unite to raise awareness of this dreadful disease which kills over 400,000 people every year. Second, it is “Take Your Daughter to Work Day” for my 13-year old’s school, and she has chosen to spend the day with me at Imperial College London. I’m flattered but I’m also worried, because she can be my harshest critic, and on World Malaria Day I want to convince her (and everyone else) that my research is making a difference against malaria.

So what will it take to impress my 13-year old daughter, and perhaps give her the confidence and inspiration for a career? Looking for help, I ask my research team how they would explain their work to a 13-year old. Despite worried expressions, they are all up for giving it a go. (more…)

How does coparenting influence children’s behaviour?

Ellen Grimas draws on her PhD research investigating the role of coparenting in children’s development and behaviour.


I remember a child psychiatrist saying during a keynote at a conference that the only mental health that mattered was child mental health. This made me think back to working at a mental health crisis house, where I was often struck by how many people said their symptoms first emerged in childhood or adolescence. Research tells a similar story, with recent figures suggesting that 75% of mental health problems emerge before the age of 18, and yet only 30% of people reported receiving proper and timely support.

This is worrying as there is a wealth of research suggesting that early intervention is not only beneficial for the individual and their family, but also for society as a whole. Childhood is clearly a key period in the development of our mental health, and also offers a unique opportunity to intervene. So, although it may not be the only mental health that matters, it is evidently an incredibly important component. In the context of an over-stretched NHS, the idea of low-level interventions in childhood that could help avoid the need for services in later life is a powerful one. (more…)

Why legumes may be the key in the fight against undernutrition

Dr Aaron Lett and Professor Gary Frost explain how Imperial is leading initiatives to address undernutrition in low-middle income countries.


Undernutrition is still a big problem in 2019.

Of the 5.6 million child deaths which occur globally, it is estimated 45% of them can be attributed to undernutrition. The majority of undernutrition occurs in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) and manifests as stunting, wasting, and underweight.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) reports that today, 155 million children under five years are stunted, 52 million children are wasted, and 17 million are severely wasted. In addition to the negative health impact, undernutrition has significant economic and social implications on these LMICs. Despite current treatments that aim to reverse the nutritional status of individuals with undernutrition, there is still significant morbidity and mortality. (more…)

It takes guts to fight obesity: how hormones could hold the key to sustainable weight loss

To mark National Obesity Awareness Week, Professor Tricia Tan explains how new research is harnessing the power of hormones to treat obesity more effectively.


Obesity has been an issue for centuries. However, it has transformed from a disease that once only touched a small number of people to a major health concern that currently affects one in four adults in the UK. As a result, obesity is now always in the news. Although many obese people are reasonably healthy, we know that obesity increases the risks of developing heart disease, diabetes mellitus (high blood sugar), cancer, respiratory problems (such as sleep apnoea and asthma) and arthritis. Obesity and its related health problems threaten to reverse the gains in lifespan that we have seen through the 20th century. So, how can we begin to tackle it? (more…)

Tackling drug resistant infection through collaborative global action

Imperial’s Dr Esmita Charani and Dr Jamal Uddin, Child Health Research Foundation (CHRF), observing field work surveillance conducted by CHRF healthcare workers in Bangladesh as part of the demographic and disease surveillance initiatives aimed at reducing childhood morbidity and mortality.

Ahead of the recent G20 Summit in Buenos Aires, Professor Alison Holmes explained in an article for G20 Magazine why global collaboration is essential to minimising the impact of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) on healthcare.


The world faces the unprecedented challenge of drug resistant infection due to increasing AMR. Concerted global action is needed to address this pressing and alarming public health issue. Without a strong, unified response, the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will not be met, and valuable progress will be lost.

The need for leadership

The continued inclusion of AMR in the G20 agenda, under the leadership of Argentina, is greatly welcomed. This year I was invited to speak in Buenos Aires on initiatives to optimise antibiotic use, at the International Congress on Infectious Diseases, co-hosted by the Infectious Diseases Society of Argentina. The ethos of shared learning and strong leadership was central in our discussions, and considered fundamental to effective action. (more…)

Back down to earth: From astrophysicist to desk-bound medical scientist

In this post, Dr Sujata Sridharan shares her career path, from graduating with an astrophysics degree to being a postdoc in brain imaging.


I’m not a scientist, not really. At least, that’s what I’ve heard countless times from my non-academic friends, and sometimes even colleagues. I’ve deduced that this belief dates back to my decision to take an MPhys in Physics with Astrophysics as my undergraduate degree.

Physics first

As a (comparatively) fresh-faced 18-year-old, I undertook my first degree at the University of Manchester, (somewhat naively) under the impression that astrophysics involved a lot of actual stargazing. My first year was a pleasant 60:40 split of lectures and laboratory-based work. Albeit the latter was rather generalised; at one point I remember making a hologram of a bronze Buddha statue for no apparent scientific reason. My main concern at that point was that I hadn’t yet bumped into Brian Cox, who had recently taken up teaching duties at the university in between – what we physicists considered – glamorous filming of the ‘Wonders of the Universe’ documentary series. (more…)

Blood transfusion in sub-Saharan Africa: 200 years on

200 years on from the first successful human-to-human blood transfusion, this procedure has revolutionised patient care. However, there is still work to be done in sub-Saharan Africa, as Professor Kathryn Maitland explains.


Each year, around 2.5 million units of blood are transfused in the UK – that’s enough to fill two Olympic sized swimming pools! Since James Blundell performed the first successful human blood transfusion in 1818, this life-saving medical intervention has made many advances to ensure its accessed throughout the world. An important part of this is ensuring that any health system has adequate supplies of quality-assured and safe blood for transfusion through national and regional blood transfusion services (BTS). (more…)

Capturing cells’ tiny messages: the emerging importance of extracellular vesicles in medicine

In this post, Dr Richard Kelwick explores exosomes – the tiny vesicles that may hold great therapeutic potential.


The adult human body is composed of around 30 trillion cells! That’s a lot of cells, and researchers are still figuring out the remarkable processes that govern how our cells are exquisitely organised into the complex tissues, organs and systems that make up our bodies. In order for our cells to co-ordinate and organise themselves correctly they need to be able to communicate with each other at the molecular level. Cells can communicate with each other using a variety of different ways, either by physically tugging on neighbouring cells, or by secreting proteins, hormones and many other types of signalling molecules. Cells can also send exosomes to each other. (more…)