Blog posts

Imperial in the news: particle economics

Using technology designed in the labs and research conducted at Imperial College London and the University of Manchester, Nanoco Ltd. is one of just three companies in the world able to produce quantum dots – an extremely rare material that sells for $2m per kilogramme. The company also has a number of Imperial alumni in its major design and development roles.

CEO of the company, Dr Michael Edelman, hopes to expand the business to increase output from 25kg per year to up to 400kg at a new site in Cheshire. Although quantum dots have little contemporary use, it is predicted that their properties, which include being able to emit light when electrically charged, will be vital in the future development of display screens and solar cells.

Imperial in the news: feed the world

Increased awareness of malnourishment and ever-greater media campaigns have had little positive impact on reducing food poverty, as almost one seventh of the planet’s population are starving. A new book, called One Billion Hungry: Can We Feed The World? by Professor Sir Gordon Conway and Katy Wilson [Life Sciences] proposes that the only way to change this is for greater and fairer distribution of the best farming practises, available materials and more high-level support for development.

Between 100-150 million people would no longer be undernourished, they argue in The Guardian, if female smallholder farmers had the same access as their male counterparts.

Imperial in the news: building bowel bacteria

Over the past few years, there have been major breakthroughs in treating dangerous, and sometimes embarrassing, bowel diseases such as Clostridium difficile, which causes severe diarrhoea and in some extreme cases can be fatal. Antibiotics are of little benefit as they often kill off other bacteria, allowing the disease to thrive. One treatment conducted in the UK involves taking parts of the patient’s poo and transplanting it back, creating more competition for resources, which has seen C. difficle has lose out in 90 per cent of cases.

However, this treatment has been refined, reports the BBC, into selecting the bacteria from faecal matter that can defeat the diseases, and it has been even more successful in lab trials than the current transplant procedure.

Imperial in the news: DNA beauty

The Evening Standard reported last night on a new method of selecting beauty treatments: by checking your DNA. The 30-minute makeover is carried out by taking a saliva test of the customer, which identifies the key traits of their DNA that can be enhanced by different cosmetic products.

The test was designed by Professor Christopher Toumazou [Engineering] after first discovering how to transfer DNA onto a computer microchip. Alongside working with pharmaceutical companies that are looking to develop drugs to tackle diseases such as cancers and Alzheimer’s, the potential application of the product in the beauty industry saw The Organic Pharmacy in King’s Road jump at the opportunity to match his science with beauty treatments for their clients.

Imperial in the news: pioneering oesophageal treatment

Dr Chris Fraser [Medicine], who works at St Mark’s hospital in Harrow, has pioneered a new treatment for people affected by gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD), which in time can lead to conditions ranging from heartburn to cancer if left untreated. As an alternative to the more invasive surgery that is the standard treatment for severe conditions, a procedure called Stretta strengthens the muscles at the bottom of the oesophagus to prevent stomach acid from rising. 85 per cent of patients are off of medication within four years of this treatment.

Featured in the Daily Mail is the story of Jeff Sandford, who was badly affected by GORD.

Imperial in the news: skipping breakfast

Research conducted at the College by Dr Tony Goldstone [Medicine] has identified that the brain craves calorie-rich foods later in the day if breakfast is skipped or missed. It adds a little credence to the widely-held belief that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

The BBC reported that by studying the brain scans of 21 subjects, once on a day where they had not had their morning meal and once on an occasion following a 730-calorie nosh up, there was, on average, a 20 per cent increase in the amount of food consumed at lunchtime. Additionally, their desire for high-calorie grub increased if they’d missed breakfast, while cravings for less fatty fare showed no change.

Imperial in the news: Ethiopian lions are genetically distinct

Susann Bruche [NHLI] was the lead author in a study that has discovered that lions kept by Ethiopia’s former leader Emperor Haile Selassie are genetically distinct to other African lions. The findings, published in European Journal of Wildlife Research, were reported in the Independent.

Fifteen of the 20 lions at Addis Ababa Zoo are the decedents of seven males and two females first captured by the former Emperor in 1948 and have distinctive dark brown manes. Two other species that possess these defining characteristics, the North African Barbary lions and South African Cape lions, have gone extinct in the wild, and efforts are in place to start a breeding programme to boost the number of animals as less than a few hundred are thought to live outside of captivity.

Imperial in the news: rare sea horses filmed

Sea horses are some of the most weird and wonderful creatures in the world, making them a valuable commodity to many traders. A joint investigation between researchers from the College, Zoological Society of London and the University of British Columbia captured some rare footage of never-before seen animals in their study, which was published on the Daily Express website.

Project Seahorse, the conservation campaign that worked on this research, was formed in 1996 and has published a large body of work to help promote conservation and reduce the environmental impact on important habitats and ecosystems for sea horses across the world.

Imperial in the news: politics and abortion

David Paintin [Emeritus reader in obstetrics and gynaecology at St Mary’s Hospital] was able to shed further light on other issues surrounding abortion. A letter in response to an article about the topic, which was sparked by discussions among leading politicians about reducing the length of time allowed before termination becomes illegal, outlined a number of debates that were overlooked around the subject, including the father’s rights and clarified that very far fewer pregnancies are terminated after 24 weeks, contrary to the initial article.

It is certainly a topic that will not be a simple open-and-shut debate among top level politicians and researchers and practitioners at Imperial and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trusts will be well placed to help provide information and insight into the issue.

Imperial in the news: badger culls

Controversial political hot topics have turned to Imperial for some perspective over the past week, with Dr Angela Cassidy [Centre of the History of Science, Technology and Medicine] weighing-in on badger culls.  In an article that appeared on the BBC website on Wednesday 10 October, she stated that the science around the issue alone cannot win a debate that is as much about ethical values as ecological importance.

Although farmers and some environmentalists argue that badgers carrying bovine TB are a threat to livestock, there is no way to ignore the way that badgers have come to help form the British identity over the past 200 years.