Blog posts

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.

Imperial in the news: cancer conference

To mark the centenary of the birth of Sir Richard Doll, who first published evidence of cigarette smoke causing cancer in the 1950s, one hundred of the world’s leading scientists gathered at the World Oncology Forum in Lugano, Switzerland, to make international commitments to tackling smoking.

The Independent reported on the possibility that smoking will single-handedly be responsible for the deaths of up to one billion people in this century if current trends aren’t addressed. The Guardian looked at the shortcomings in developments of anti-cancer drugs and cancer-preventing measures, and the huge variations in treatment and survival rates in different countries.

Imperial in the news: visible virus test

A new test designed at Imperial could pave the way for improvements in early-diagnosis of diseases such as cancer or viruses including HIV, which could in turn save lives.

The BBC reported that the test that can detect infection or disease molecules at ultra-low concentrations. The research was published in Nature Nanotechnology by Professor Molly Stevens [Materials]. Like litmus paper, the colour of the test liquid changes to signal whether the disease is present. At only a fraction of the cost of the tests currently used, this new technique could dramatically improve early diagnosis of diseases, such as HIV, in countries where resources for healthcare are stretched and conventional methods are unaffordable.

Imperial in the news: astronomy>archaeology?

Imperial’s Dr Jonathan Pritchard [Physics] teamed up this week with Harvard’s Professor Abraham Loeb to suggest that astronomy’s power to accurately explain the past is perhaps stronger than the ability of archaeologists using fossils to picture a former landscape.

The crux of their argument, which appeared in New Scientist, based itself around the way that astronomers can actually map the past in the present. So much of the past, in fact, that ‘only’ the first 500 million years of the Universe’s 13.7 billion years of estimated existence are lost, as the light from across the cosmos is detected by the most powerful telescopes on the planet.

Imperial in the news: pension predicaments

People currently in employment will pay more into their pensions for less return to cover the previous generation’s own pension agreements, the Guardian reported today.

In the late 1970s, pensioners received around a third as much as workers each year. By 2010-2011, the average retired household had a disposable income of £17,700, compared to £35,000 for a working household – more than half.

Imperial’s Professor James Sefton [Business School], a former advisor to the Treasury, said that younger people are effectively subsidising the older generation. “I think they should be angry. I think the deal they are getting is poor,” he said.

Imperial in the news: dementia drugs

Researchers from the College have published new findings on possible treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, and the Daily Express reports that Dr Magdalena Sastre [Medicine] is “excited about…the potential they may hold for the future.”

In mice bred to show symptoms of Alzheimer’s, the blood pressure drug prazosin was found to prevent memory loss. High blood pressure has been linked to the onset of dementia, and previous studies have also indicated that drugs to reduce hypertension have also prevented or slowed the development of dementia.

Imperial in the news: rising childhood throat infections

Figures released at the end of last week indicate that the number of children admitted to hospital with throat infections over the past decade has been steadily increasing, and is now over 75 per cent higher than it was in 1999.

In an article on the BBC website Dr Elizabeth Koshy, lead study author from the School of Public Health at Imperial College London, said: “Our findings relating to short hospital stays suggest that many of the children admitted with acute throat infections could have been effectively managed in the community.

“Our study highlights the need to urgently address the issue of healthcare access, with improved models of integrated care within primary and secondary care, to avoid potentially unnecessary hospital admissions for relatively minor infections in the future.”

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