Blog posts

A teaspoon of salt away from high blood pressure

This Salt Awareness Week, Dr Queenie Chan puts the salt intake guidelines to the test and looks at the reality of curbing salt intake for better heart health. 


Salt and sodium are often used interchangeably, but they’re not exactly the same thing. Sodium is a mineral that occurs naturally in foods or is added during manufacturing or both. Table salt is a combination of sodium and chloride, which was one of the most valuable modes of currency in ancient times. It has been used to preserve food for thousands of years and it is most commonly associated as a form of food seasoning. Salt also plays a role in food processing, providing texture and enhancing colour. (more…)

STEM needs to face up to its problem with LGBT diversity

Karim Boustani argues the importance of making STEM LGBT-inclusive, from improving visibility to expanding diversity initiatives to include LGBT people.

A large barrier to the creation of an inclusive workplace in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), in my experience, is the view that being out is regarded as “unprofessional” because it is seen as too “personal”, even though most of our colleagues are “out” as being straight without issue. LGBT people tend to depoliticise themselves in the workplace because there is a commonly held view that discussions about inequality are not regarded as relevant to STEM work. The term “LGBT” will be used in this post to refer to anyone who identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans or intersex, or who does not conform to society’s expectations in terms of sexual or gender identity and expression.

The lack of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) diversity within STEM subjects is a longstanding issue that is too often left out of conversations about broadening participation in STEM. It is estimated that LGBT people are approximately 20 per cent less represented in STEM fields than expected. Additionally, male LGBT undergraduates are much less likely to stay in STEM degrees than straight men. (more…)

Good conference calls – how to make a success of your first academic meeting

Stephen Naulls
Medical
student Stephen Naulls shares his experience from attending his first international academic conference and offers some tips on making the most out of it.


As a medical student, I felt apprehensive but excited about presenting at my first international conference in California. Since I had never been to the USA before, my surroundings – both geographically and scientifically – were very alien to me! I thought it would be useful to reflect on my experience and offer some tip for future conference first-timers.

Which conference was I attending?

Neuroscience 2018 is the annual international meeting of the Society for Neuroscience (SfN). Bringing together scientists and researchers from across the globe, it provides an opportunity to share knowledge and learn about the latest advances in brain research. It is considered to be the most important annual forum for the neuroscience community – and this was certainly evident on first arrival at the convention centre! (more…)

Why I wear the rainbow lanyard (and why hockey is the greatest sport)

Katie Stripe

Katie Stripe gives a personal account of why she wears the rainbow lanyard to make herself visible to others who may need to see gay people doing normal things.


I could start by telling you what I identify as, but I don’t think that is important. The defining features of my character are more about what I am like as a person; sarcastic, grumpy, caring, funny, and what I do; I like to lift heavy weights, play hockey, take photographs, go on holiday and I did my first triathlon at 35 and now I am hooked (or mad). I am also a learning technologist and a learning designer, I build stuff online and develop learning materials and environments for students at Imperial’s National Heart and Lung Institute (NHLI). Having said all that I am writing this because as a gay member of the Imperial community I think it is important that I am visible to people who may need to see gay people doing normal things. (more…)

How we’re ensuring better care for older people with traumatic injuries

How we’re ensuring better care for older people with traumatic injuries
Originally publishing on the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust blog, consultant geriatrician Dr George Peck explains how the Trust is ensuring better care for older patients, and how trauma medicine is evolving to meet changing needs.


Bringing geriatric expertise to trauma care

As a registrar working with consultant geriatrician Dr Michael Fertleman, I was increasingly called to the trauma ward to offer geriatric assessments to patients who struggled with multiple issues. Best practice is to give a patient with suspected frailty a comprehensive geriatric assessment within 72 hours, but the volume of patients we receive who qualify has grown so much that this cannot be done without having a consultant geriatrician embedded in the service full time.

As a result, I became the first geriatrician in London to run a dedicated, embedded service in the trauma department. I will sit in the multidisciplinary team meeting with trauma surgeons, go on joint ward rounds with them throughout the week, and see major trauma patients whenever I am needed. I also help look after our surgical rehabilitation ward, which is for patients who are stable but require a longer period in hospital to recover. It is very rewarding to be able to offer continuity of care to our older trauma patients. (more…)

Exploring the evolutionary treadmill of genome defence

Dr Peter Sarkies looks at how evolution can quickly come up with new mechanisms to fight infection by adapting existing processes rather than inventing new ones.


It’s January and perhaps you’ve been hitting the treadmill in the gym in an enthusiastic bid to make good that New Year’s resolution to do more exercise.  To a primitive human, it’s hard to imagine a more ridiculous contraption – expending huge amounts of energy simply to stay in exactly the same place; but remarkably, this feature of a treadmill is very similar to some aspects of evolution.

The examples of evolution that are most familiar to people involve organisms adapting to their environment, with the long neck of the giraffe perfectly suited to reaching the best leaves as a famous example.  Probably the most active type of evolution by natural selection occurs in response to conflicts between organisms.  A good example of this is the response of species, like humans, to infection by pathogens like bacteria and viruses. Humans are engaged in a constant race to evolve new mechanisms to fight infection, because the pathogens themselves are able to rapidly adapt to become resistant to each new strategy that the host comes up with.

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Thinking outside the ice box: revolutionising pancreas transplantation

Karim Hamaoui provides an insight into an innovative solution for the organ donation shortage – a technique that allows the pancreas to be preserved for longer and for better function.


The pancreas responsible for producing one of the body’s most important hormones: insulin. Since the first pancreas transplant in 1966, this procedure has revolutionised the treatment of type 1 diabetes. To date, pancreas transplantation is the only definitive treatment to render patients free from daily insulin injections and provide a better quality of life for these patients.

A key problem in the UK and worldwide is the limited supply of organs available and suitable for transplantation. The majority of pancreases used for transplantation in the UK come from a person who has died, and whose relatives have given permission for them to become an organ donor. To meet demand, the criteria used to identify suitable donors can be expanded from ‘ideal’ to ‘extended’ criteria. Extended criteria donors can also be euphemistically referred to as donors with ‘medical complexities’. They are normally aged 60 years or older, or aged over 50 years but with at least two of the following conditions: high blood pressure history, degree of kidney impairment, cause of death from a stroke. Unfortunately, complications are more pronounced for these types of organs. (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…)

Strength in numbers: monitoring of fungicide drug resistance with the help of 500 citizen scientists

In this post, Jennifer Shelton provides an insight into her PhD project which involves over 500 citizen scientists from across the world, in the hope of better understanding a species of fungus that is linked to disease.


It started by a poolside in Gran Canaria.

I was reading my book but thinking about the sticky films we use in the lab to cover plates of DNA that a former postdoc in my group had used to collect Penicillium spores for his study on the population genetics of ‘Alexander Fleming’s lucky fungus’. I’d already decided as part of my PhD to conduct a country-wide survey to determine background levels of Aspergillus fumigatus – a species of fungus – spores in the UK. I had put aside several weeks for driving around the country to collect air and soil samples, yet thoughts of a citizen science project kept buzzing. What if I asked individuals across the UK to collect samples of their local air on a single day, say summer solstice, and post them back to me?

Citizen science projects are increasing in popularity and rely on members of the public to voluntarily collect samples, process data or record observations as part of a research project. Some well-known examples include SETI@Home, which uses internet-connected computers to analyse telescope data in the search for extra-terrestrial life; Foldit, an online video game about protein folding and Swab & Send, a widespread swabbing exercise to identify novel antibiotics in the environment. (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…)