Month: November 2012

Imperial in the news: childhood obesity calculator

Stories around child health consistently capture the attention of the public and press alike. A new study published in PLOS ONE that estimates the chances of children becoming obese has been picked up by a number of national and international media organisations.

The research, led by Professor Philippe Froguel and Professor Marjo-Riitta Jarvelin [both School of Public Health], has generated a formula whereby parents can predict the likelihood of their child becoming obese.

Outlets including the BBC, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail and Metro here in the UK led with the story prominently featuring on their health pages this morning, while international news agency Reuters and leading Canadian newspaper the Toronto Star also placed a special importance on the item.

Imperial in the news: stroke and spatial neglect

Earlier this month, Dr Paresh Malhotra [Medicine] had a study featured in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry. His research demonstrated how stroke patients achieved better results in tests of visual attention if offered a reward for being successful, being given a pound for every correct circle they drew. Where there was no reward, the patients showed no discernable improvement.

Between a third and half of stroke patients are affected by some form of spatial neglect –their brain ‘ignores’ the activities taking place on one side of their body. Dr Malhotra explained the condition to the Guardian in a video featuring patients including Alan Burgess, one of his patients, who had a stroke in November 2007.

Imperial in the news: chemical detection

Researchers from the College have developed a technique which could be used in devices to detect tiny concentrations of chemicals by police or security staff.

Postgraduate researchers Michael Cecchini, Jack Paget and Vladimir Turek, led by Dr Joshua Edel and Professor Alexei Kornyshev (all from the Department of Chemistry) have created a self-assembling sheet of metal nanoparticles to capture ‘harmful’ molecules and identify them using Surface Enhanced Raman Scattering (SERS) of light – a technique that has been well understood since the 1970s. The new system is effective at identifying the trace amounts of different chemicals and is an improvement on current technologies to create nanoparticle sheets, the solid structures of which are difficult to manufacture.

Imperial in the news: invisibility

Following Professor Sir John Pendry’s [Physics] presentation at the 2012 Schrödinger Lecture last week, a number of stories around his work and that of his peers and colleagues have appeared on the BBC and Huffington Post websites. They also report the successful demonstration of cloaking by one of Sir John’s co-authors on the original 2006 paper on the use of metamaterials to create invisible space.

Professor Chris Phillips [Physics], who gave a demonstration at the reception following the lecture, is interviewed about the methods behind making things invisible, while Sir John’s work on metamaterials is the subject of two articles featuring a brief snapshot of the advances in theoretical understanding and practical delivery of bending light to create optical illusions.

Imperial in the news: heart disease inequality

Dr Perviz Asaria and Professor Majid Ezzati [both School of Public Health] were both quoted on the BBC website this morning following the publication of a study they have produced detailing deaths from cardiovascular disease (CVD) across England since the 1980s.

The analysis of the figures showed a general improvement and regions that had high levels of fatal heart disease in the 1980s were much lower now. However, while mortality rates fell across most of the areas, some regions in the North West of England, Yorkshire, parts of Birmingham and deprived boroughs of London had fallen further behind the best-performing parts of the country.

Imperial in the news: ash fungus

“Ash everywhere,” cricketers say when they bowl out an opponent, referring to the stumps and bails that are made from this wood. Unfortunately, imported trees carrying ash fungus and other diseases are the suspected causes of an outbreak of Chalara ash dieback, which could cost up to £1.3billion to the economy.

The Times has reported that a number of products could still stop the spread of the disease. One developed at Imperial is a fungicide that is taken up naturally by the plants and could possibly be produced at just 10-30p per diluted litre. Visiting researcher Hans Dobson [Centre for Environmental Policy] believes that it would take around 10 litres to cover a hectare, but tests for the product will take time and with winter approaching, the window to act is diminishing.

Imperial in the news: printing body parts

The invention of 3D printing a few years ago has advanced the ways in which new products can be designed or ideas be made into reality. The latest opportunity to test the concept has seen Professor Justin Cobb [Surgery and Cancer] design a replacement knee in the MSk Lab for a soldier whose own one was smashed when he was shot while on duty in Iraq.

The report by Eureka Magazine follows the design and production of the knee at Charing Cross Hospital, where it was intricately modelled down to the micron level.  Although the design itself, made from plastic, won’t be inserted, it will allow those conducting the surgery to better configure the titanium joints prior to the operation, which is hoped to be a quicker and more effective procedure thanks to the 3D model.