As the global COVID-19 pandemic draws on, effects are being felt by everyone, not just those who have been infected with the virus. From schools to offices, restaurants to gyms, many aspects of ‘normal’ have been closed, stopped, or undergone major adaptations. These societal and healthcare disruptions will affect people differently, with certain groups of people, such as those with respiratory conditions, potentially more vulnerable.
Over the last few months I have been working with Dr Nicholas Hopkinson (Respiratory Consultant, NHLI Academic, and Medical Director of the British Lung Foundation(BLF)), Dr Bradley Lonergan (Internal Medicine Trainee) in collaboration with the Asthma UK-BLF partnership, to try to understand how people with long term respiratory conditions have been impacted by measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19.
Our research published today in BMJ Open explores the findings of a large UK wide survey conducted at the height of the first wave. We found that measures to reduce risk of COVID-19, such as social distancing and changes to healthcare provision, were having profound impacts on people with long term respiratory conditions. These included cancellations of appointments, investigations, and vital aspects of their care such as pulmonary rehabilitation. (more…)
Dr Holly Jenkins provides an insight into her research looking at bacterial communities in the guts of preterm babies from analysing stool samples.
Every year in the UK, one in 13 babies are born prematurely. A premature birth is one that occurs before the 37th week of pregnancy. It is one of the leading causes of neonatal morbidity and mortality – that’s why research is extremely important. I decided I wanted to pursue a career in neonatal research because of the amazing clinical and scientific work that is helping improve the care and lives of babies born too soon.
From 2015 to 2018 I completed my PhD in Professor Neena Modi’s leading neonatal research team, based at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. The team is comprised of clinicians (doctors, nurses and midwives), scientists, statisticians and data analysts, all of which are researching different aspects of preterm and term births. (more…)
Professor Danny Altmann explores how the pandemic has offered new perspectives on his research, leading to new collaborations and engaging with policy.
If any of us ever wished for greater prominence, respect, or public understanding of our scientific contributions to society, this is not the way we would have wished to achieve it. For so many at Imperial working in diverse aspects of infection, immunity and global health, this has been a time of much urgent soul-searching as to how we can best bring our skill sets to bear on the problem most effectively, whether as clinicians, disease modellers, vaccinologists or basic immunologists. It’s hard to turn on a news broadcast or open a newspaper without seeing opinions from Imperial colleagues, clinical and scientific.
At a time when the mantra is ‘policy led by the science’, this is absolutely as it should be. We often have it ingrained as scientists to keep our heads down lest we be accused of showboating or playing ‘Johnny-Big-Potato’ by making inflated claims about our research. Yet, this is a time when it’s OK and even laudable to stick your head above the parapet: when it genuinely matters, and people genuinely want to know, what are these different types of antibody tests, is antibody protective and how long does it last, which may be the most effective vaccines. This surely is the time to step up to the plate, whether by adapting the research focus of our labs to the current issues, by communicating and trying to clarify the nuances, and of course, by remembering our commitments to our students and trying to work out how to keep them stimulated and scientifically productive despite lockdown. (more…)
Kelly Gleason, CRUK Lead Nurse, explores the value of patient and public involvement in cancer research and how it can improve the quality and outcomes of research.
Patient and public involvement (PPI) is increasingly recognised as important. Funding bodies are asking for more and more from researchers in regard to patient and public involvement. They want to see evidence of authentic and ongoing relationships between researchers and the public that is informing what is being researched, how it is being researched and how findings are shared with the public. Funders want to see more co-creation between researchers and the public and for this to happen, researchers require help accessing larger patient networks and support in maintaining relationships with patients.
My journey with PPI at Imperial
I became involved in patient and public involvement almost a decade ago – it was a relatively novel concept back then. The need for cancer researchers to access patients to involve in their research was increasing. The Imperial Cancer Research UK Centre, where I work as a Lead Nurse, established a group of patients and members of the public for Imperial researchers to have easy access to the patient voice. The group served as a resource to researchers and inputted on everything from grant proposals to lay summaries. They helped us create a research culture at Imperial where patients were integral to what and how we carried out cancer research. (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…)
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…)
Dr Michela Noseda took cardiac cells to the stage at her recent TEDx talk on how scientific approaches she uses can help us understand how to beat one of the biggest killers of our time – heart attacks.
Heart attack (myocardial infarction) remains the foremost killer worldwide. The prevalence remains high despite the fact that we have been reducing risk factors; stopping smoking, eating a healthy diet and exercising. In fact, the persistence of myocardial infarction as the most frequent cause of death is related to an ageing population and the move of people towards big cities. (more…)
When outbreaks emerge, speeding up vaccine development could be the difference between life and death. In this post, Dr Zoltán Kis provides an insight into how Imperial’s chemical engineers are making speedy vaccines a reality.
The worst Ebola epidemic in history swept across West Africa between 2014 to 2016, claiming 11,300 lives. This major outbreak was closely followed by the 2015-2016 Zika epidemic in Latin America. Preventing future epidemics is more important than ever and developing new vaccines are an essential weapon in fighting disease outbreaks. However, with the average vaccine development lasting 10 years, this is not comparable to the speed and frequency of outbreaks which can cause calamity in a matter of months. (more…)
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…)
Dr John Tregoning explains how the use of animals in science is properly regulated and why it’s so important to respiratory research, which could impact millions of lives.
Respiratory infection is one of the main causes of disease and death throughout the world, claiming 3 million deaths worldwide in 2016. The symptoms range from the mild (a runny nose) to the extremely serious (pneumonia, hospitalisation and respiratory failure). These infections have a large economic burden both directly in medical costs and indirectly in working days lost. They also represent a potential risk for causing major pandemics; one hundred years ago the 1918 flu outbreak led to the death of 50-100 million people, significantly more than the whole First World War. There is a clear need to understand why we get sick after respiratory infections and critically we need new drugs to reduce the burden of disease. For example, there is an urgent need for a new influenza vaccine that could prevent future pandemics. (more…)