Losing weight without a diet: manipulating a type of brain cell gets results in mice

By Alison Major, on 2 August 2017

Today’s guest post is by Nicholas Lesica, Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow at UCL and author of A Conversation about Healthy Eating. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Evidence for a link between obesity and brain inflammation is getting stronger.
Suzanne Tucker/Shutterstock

Nicholas A Lesica, UCL

A new study has found something remarkable: the activation of a particular type of immune cell in the brain can, on its own, lead to obesity in mice. This striking result provides the strongest demonstration yet that brain inflammation may be a cause, rather than a consequence, of obesity. It also provides promising leads for new anti-obesity therapies.

The evidence linking brain inflammation to obesity has been building for some time. Consistent overeating causes stress and damage to cells in the body and brain. This damage results in a response from the immune system that has a wide range of effects.

Some of these effects help to reduce the problems caused by overeating, but others seem to make things worse. For example, in the hypothalamus – the part of the brain that controls, among other things, eating and activity – inflammation causes problems such as leptin resistance that interfere with the regulation of body weight.

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The hypothalamus controls eating and physical activity.
stefan3andrei/Shutterstock

Leptin is a hormone that is released by fat cells and provides the brain with information about the amount of energy stored as body fat. Normally, neurons in the hypothalamus that are sensitive to leptin will use this information to regulate eating and activity as needed to maintain body fat within some desired range.

In obesity, however, these neurons become insensitive to leptin. As a result, they no longer trigger the decrease in hunger and increase in energy expenditure that are necessary to lose excess weight. This is why the vast majority of attempts by obese people to lose weight fail– inflammation causes the brain to fight against it every step of the way.

So brain inflammation clearly plays an important role in sustaining obesity. But could it also be one of the primary causes of obesity in the first place? The onset of brain inflammation coincides with the other changes that take place in the body and brain as a result of overeating and weight gain. But whether brain inflammation actually causes the development of obesity is not yet clear. The results of the new study, however, demonstrate that the activation of a particular type of brain immune cell, microglia, initiates a cascade of events that do indeed lead directly to obesity.

Manipulating microglia in mice

In the study, researchers at the University of California, San Francisco and the University of Washington performed experiments on mice. They found that altering the activity of microglia in the hypothalamus allowed them to control the body weight of the mice independent of diet.

The researchers began by testing the effects of reducing either the number of microglia or their level of activity. They found that both manipulations cut the weight gain that resulted from putting the mice on high-fat diet in half.

They then tested the effects of increasing the activity of microglia. They found that this manipulation caused obesity even in mice that were on a normal diet. This latter result is particularly surprising. The fact that obesity can be induced through microglia – rather than directly through neurons themselves – is an indication of how strongly the brain’s supporting cells can exert control over its primary functions.

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Obesity can be induced by manipulating microglia.
Janson George/Shutterstock

So artificial brain inflammation can cause obesity in mice. Of course, that doesn’t mean that natural, diet-induced brain inflammation does cause obesity in humans. But these new results suggest that this idea is worth taking seriously, particularly given that fact that potential solutions to the obesity crisis are in short supply.

The ConversationThis new study alone has already identified several possible targets for anti-obesity drugs. Intriguingly, one of the same drugs that was used in the study to decrease activity in microglia is also being tested in human cancer trials, so initial indications of its effects on body weight should be available soon. But either way, a deeper understanding of the role of brain inflammation will help to clarify the causes of obesity. And hopefully prompt ideas about how it can be avoided in the first place.

Nicholas A Lesica, Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow, UCL

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Launch event: Europe and the World: A Law Review

By Ian Caswell, on 19 May 2017

Join UCL Press and UCL Laws for the launch of a brand new journal: Europe and the World: A Law Review

Date/ Time: Monday 19 June 2017, 18:00 – 19:00

Location: UCL Gustave Tuck Lecture Theatre, Wilkins Building, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT

Entry is free, but pre-booking is required, as this will be a popular event!

Keynote speech from
Prof. Miguel Poiares Maduro (European University Institute)

Chair
Caroline Wilson (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

About the journal

Europe and the World – A Law Review aims to contribute to legal scholarship on the place of Europe in the world, with a particular but by no means exclusive focus on the EU’s external relations law.

 The journal serves as a forum where the national, international and EU perspectives meet and engage. The journal is therefore irreverent of traditional distinctions between EU, international, and national law. While primarily offering legal doctrinal and theoretical analyses, the journal also publishes multi-disciplinary work and political science and international relations contributions with an external perspective on the law of EU’s external relations.

Journal includes 4 articles  and 1 editorial:

  • ‘Making Transnational Markets: The institutional politics behind the TTIP’, Marija Bartl.
  • ‘The EU and International Dispute Settlement’, Allan Rosas.
  • ‘Of Presidents, High Representatives and European Commissioners: The external representation of the European Union seven years after Lisbon’, Frank Hoffmeister.
  • ‘(Not) Losing Out from Brexit’, Annette Schrauwen.
  • Editorial

JISC Institution as e-textbook publisher project workshop

By Jaimee Biggins, on 17 May 2017

UCL Press is delighted to be taking part in JISC’s Institution as e-textbook publisher project workshop on Friday  four-year institution as e-textbook publisher project which investigates the viability of higher education institutions publishing their own e-textbooks.  Book now to reserve your place.

Projects have been undertaken by UCL Press,  University of LiverpoolUniversity of Nottingham and University of the Highlands and Islands with Edinburgh Napier University. The overall objective is to assess whether the textbooks that have been created provide:

  • A more affordable higher education for students
  • Better value for money than commercial alternatives
  • An improved, more sustainable information environment for all

During the project, participating institutions are creating eight textbooks covering a range of subjects, applying business, licensing and distribution models and reporting back on the impact, value and viability of the models they choose.

Workshop overview

The four project teams will reflect back on the last three years of the project under a number of broad themes:

  • Costs: how long did the books take to write, what were the hidden costs?
  • Benchmarking: cost benefit analysis and evidence to invest in more e-textbooks
  • Technology: the technology used including lessons learned and issues faced
  • Licensing: issues encountered including CC licenses, 3rd party copyright issues
  • Dissemination, distributions and discovery: concepts and process behind the dissemination, uptake, and wider adoption of the e-textbooks
  • Uptake: evidence of usage by students and courses
  • Feedback: Would the authors do it again, would they act as champions?
  • Implications of implementation: What are the implications for the wider adoption of the e-textbooks at other institutions?

Delegates will be encouraged to make notes on these areas and to contribute thoughts and ideas in relation to their own institutions in the afternoon workshop. This will allow participants to discuss the themes and look at the notes made by others. These ideas will help shape a proposed toolkit for institutions, which will be a major outcome of the project.

The workshop will appeal to potential authors, librarians, learning technologists and senior university staff who may wish to consider publishing their own e-textbooks. Find out more here.

Call for Proposals: Archaeology in Central Asia

By Ian Caswell, on 20 April 2017

UCL Press and the journal Editors are proud to announce a new open access journal,  Archaeology in Central Asia, is now open for submissions!

This new publication aims to showcase the current work of archaeol­ogists in Central Asia, presenting ongoing research and excavations primarily in short 1000-word mini-articles, in the areas of archaeolo­gy, heritage, and art history. The journal aims to create links between those working internationally and in Central Asia by creating a platform for scholars to engage with a large new body of research in the field. Journal articles will include contact details of individual researchers and web links to their online project sites, and via an online geographical system highlighting the locations and interactions of the sites and her­itage assets. Articles can be submitted in Russian or English and each will be bilingually translated for publication.

Editors:

Dr Gai Jorayev, UCL, UK

Dr Dmitriy Voyakin, Institute of Archaeology MES RK, Kazakhstan

Dr Paul Wordsworth, University of Oxford, UK

For more information and how to submit, contact the Journal Editors at uclpresspublishing@ucl.ac.uk

Call for papers: Europe and the World – A Law Review

By Ian Caswell, on 15 March 2017

The editors of Europe and the World – A Law Review are delighted to announce the launch of their journal and invite papers for publication.

Europe and the World – A Law Review aims to contribute to legal scholarship on the place of Europe in the world, with a particular but by no means exclusive focus on EU external relations law. As a peer-reviewed open-access journal by a renowned university publisher it makes highest-quality work promptly available to a global audience.  Open-access makes individual contributions and legal scholarship more visible, accessible, and accountable.

The journal serves as a forum where the national, international and EU perspectives meet and engage. The journal is therefore irreverent of traditional distinctions between EU, international, and national law. While primarily offering legal doctrinal and theoretical analyses, the journal also publishes multi-disciplinary work and political science and international relations contributions with an external perspective on the law of EU’s external relations.

The journal publishes article-length papers and shorter pieces offering an analysis of topical issues or recent cases, as well as review articles and special issues. The journal welcomes the submission of highest-quality papers in the following formats:

  • ‘Articles’ (8-12,000 words),
  • ‘European Law and Practice’: case notes, current legal developments (5-8,000 words),
  • ‘Book reviews/review articles’ (once a year)

Papers published in the journal will be freely available online via UCL Press, starting with the first issue in July 2017.

Submission Procedure

Please submit your paper with an abstract of about 250 words and 5 keywords (for details please see the journal’s Author Guidelines) by email to europeandtheworld@ucl.ac.uk. We are aiming for a quick revision process, which should not usually exceed 10 weeks.

For all queries concerning the submission of papers please contact the Editors-in-chief at: europeandtheworld@ucl.ac.uk.

Submitted papers should adhere to the format requirements of Europe and the World: A Law Review. Before your submission please visit the author guidelines for the journal at: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/ucl-press/browse-books/europe-and-the-world.

Christina Eckes, University of Amsterdam

Piet Eeckhout, University College London

Anne Thies, University of Reading

For more information on the Editors, the Editorial Board and the Journal please visit: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/ucl-press/browse-books/europe-and-the-world

Institution as e-textbook publisher: New e-textbook ‘Key Concepts in Public Archaeology’

By Jaimee Biggins, on 21 February 2017

Key conceptsThis post was written as part of the JISC funded Institution as e-textbook publisher project. UCL Press outputs for this project include Key Concepts in Public Archaeology and Textbook of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

We launched our e-textbook, Key Concepts in Public Archaeology this week. This book appears on our innovative, browser-based HTML platform, and can be found here. This collection is edited by Gabriel Moshenska, Lecturer in Public Archaeology at UCL, and it brings together contributions from the dynamic field of public archaeology. It is aimed at both undergraduate and MA students and provides a broad overview of the central themes in public archaeology. The book also takes into account the growth of scholarship in this area from around the world and seeks to clarify what exactly ‘public archaeology’ is. The first nine chapters are now published, with more chapters to be added to the platform in the next few months allowing it to become an ongoing, evolving resource.  The chapters cover a variety of different areas such as ‘Community archaeology’ and ‘Digital media in public archaeology’ and feature a number of illustrative case studies.

The platform is published on has been specially developed by UCL Press in collaboration with the award-winning digital developer Armadillo and includes scholarly functionalities such as the ability to highlight, search, annotate, export and cite content as well as saving personalised copies of individual books. We believe these tools really add to the user experience and allow for a unique reading experience. We will also produce an open access PDF as well as a traditional print edition this summer. Alongside these formats, we are working with the digital developer YUDU to produce the complete textbook as an app. The app will offer another option for readers, featuring scholarly functionalities as well as animation.

Our Marketing and Distribution Manager is now promoting Key Concepts in Public Archaeology in the coming weeks using both traditional and online marketing channels including mailing lists, listservs, social media, the UCL Press website and other tools to promote the book as widely as possible. This is the second book UCL Press has published as part of the Jisc ‘Institution as e-textbook publisher’ project. As the final part of the project we’ll also be conducting surveys to gather feedback from students, lecturers and librarians about these books to assess how they have found the user experience, in order to inform UCL Press’s future textbook publishing strategy. We look forward to sharing these learning outcomes with the other participants in the project and contributing to the wider discussion about the future of academic textbook publishing.

Call for Proposals: FRINGE series

By Chris J Penfold, on 17 October 2016

The aim of the FRINGE Series is to integrate elusive subjects (‘fringe’) within the the discipline of Area Studies into existing research agendas (centre). Our belief is that reconceptualising the fringe-centre relationship can contribute to breaking down the implicit dichotomy these terms currently represent. ‘Problematising the fringe-centre relationship’ in this context means seeking insight into the complexity of particular contexts, on the one hand, and mastery of discipline-based analysis, on the other

The FRINGE series seeks to publish collective volumes and invites proposals that:

  1. Suggest innovative take on area studies;

  2. Resolve tensions between contextualisation and comparison;

  3. Host research that is trans-regional and cross-disciplinary;

  4. Build a research agenda by focusing on subjects deemed ‘fringy’ yet essential for understanding the workings of the centre:

    1. Fluid
    2. Resistant to articulation
    3. Invisible
    4. Neutral, or residing in
    5. Grey zones,
    6. Elusive in other ways.

Please contact Akosua Bonsu or visit this page for more information.

Call for submissions: The Radical Americas Journal

By Lara Speicher, on 15 September 2016

The Radical Americas Network is delighted to announce a call for submissions for the brand new Radical Americas Journal.  Submissions from both early career and established scholars worldwide will be welcomed. Work in a number of different formats will be considered; in addition to peer-reviewed articles, the journal will run a variety of regular features,including opinion pieces, photo essays, reviews and archival notes.

In the first instance, please submit abstracts of 250-300 words to radicalamericas@gmail.com– when submitting, please indicate whether the work is to be peer reviewed as an article or whether you would like to submit something in a different format. Articles for peer review should be between 4,000 and 12,000 words; other pieces should be between 2,000 and 5,000 words. Please consiult UCL Press Guidelies for authors in advance of submission: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/ucl-press/publish/docs/Guidelines_for_Authors

About the Radical Americas Journal

The Radical Americas Journal explores the historical, political and social contexts that have underpinned radicalism in the Americas, engaging fully with the cross-currents of activism which connect North, Central and South America along with the Caribbean. The interconnected histories of power and protest are rarely contained within national boundaries. A full understanding of radicalism in the Americas, therefore, requires that we make the widespread rhetoric about the need for hemispheric scholarly approaches a reality. While we also offer articles, reviews and other content which focus on national or sub-national case studies, they are presented in a transnational framework.

Our definition of radicalism is broad. Taking inspiration from the words of José Martí, cited above, we understand radicalism to include any action or interpretation which “goes to the roots”, and we welcome all scholarship which takes a radical approach, even if it is not concerned with the study of radical activism per se. Any work which provides a truly systemic critique of existing structures of power, or challenges conventional interpretations of the past, will find a home at the Radical Americas Journal.

Despite disciplinary divides, scholarship on all regions of the Americas has recently been characterised by a preoccupation with culture and cultural analysis. This domination has come at the expense of interpretations which favour economic or social factors, though there are some signs that the impact of the global financial crisis has begun to reverse that trend. Our position is that the kind of holistic critique we hope to promote can never be achieved by isolating a single variable. For that reason we are particularly interested in work which attempts the difficult and painstaking task of fully integrating different facets of human experience, including economic, social, political and cultural factors.

Why We Post Tour of Chinese Universities

By Alison Major, on 12 September 2016

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Today’s guest post is by Xinyuan Wang, author of Social Media in Industrial China

Between 12th-24th September 2016, Professor Daniel Miller and two researchers on the Why We Post project, Tom McDonald and Xinyuan Wang, will give a series of talks about the findings of the project at nine top universities in HongKong, Guangzhou, Beijing, and Shanghai. This China tour also include the launch (13th September) of the two newly released open-access books: Social Media in Industrial China (Wang, 2016) and Social Media in Rural China(McDonald, 2016). If you can’t be with us in Hong Kong, do join our live-streamed launch and put your questions to the authors.

China was the only country in the Why We Post project with two research sites. One of the reasons for this was because China maintains a greater degree of separation and autonomy in their use of popular digital media when compared to the rest of the world, therefore a global comparative study of social media required close scrutiny of particularly Chinese forms of social media such as QQ, WeChat, and Weibo.

The project includes a considerable amount of material on China such as the two newly released open-access books by UCL Press; one of the five weeks of the Anthropology of Social Media e-course; and a series of films set in the Chinese fieldsites. All of our short films (more than 100) about the uses of social media from our nine field sites have Chinese subtitles, and ourwebsite and e-course are both available in Chinese. Bringing an anthropological understanding of Chinese social media in the context of a comparative study back to China is a big commitment the project’s ultimate goal of turning global research into free global education.

Despite there being Chinese universities that teach anthropology, they have tended to see anthropology as a discipline that deals mainly with minority populations. We believe that the more a population becomes modern and urban and indeed digital, the more we need anthropology. This is because most of life now happens in the private sphere. In a little village perhaps it’s easier to see what’s going on from a surface glance. In a modern city where everyone goes to their own private home after work it is much more difficult. So you need research that is not afraid to follow people into the places where they actually live, which may be inside their smartphones, their social media profiles, as well as inside their homes. Otherwise we will not understand the modern world at all. Asking people questions via superficial surveys is not enough. Anthropologists spend many months living with people in order to be sure they understand what is really going on.

We believe that digital technologies including social media may be more formative of life in China than in almost any other country. While China has great and honourable traditions, the development of what we think of as modern China is relatively recent and relatively fast, taking place at the exact same time that new digital technologies are becoming an integral part of people’s lives. So whether we’re talking about the infrastructure of new cities or the spread of inexpensive smartphones, digital technologies are ubiquitous to the new China, and this means it is particularly important to understand their use and their consequences from a deep and engaged anthropological approach.

We hope that this China tour will introduce digital anthropology as a research tool to the Chinese academy. It is also hoped that the debates and talks will help to formulate key questions for future study within Chinese anthropology. We hope that China will play a key role in these future studies commensurate with its importance as a modern population that is embracing every form of new digital technology, and hopefully also embracing anthropology as the best means for observing and understanding their consequences.

The table below contains details of the talks in this China tour. For further updated information (in Chinese) please see here: http://uclwhywepost.isitestar.vip

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About the Author

Xinyuan Wang is a PhD candidate at the Dept. of Anthropology at UCL. She obtained her MSc from the UCL’s Digital Anthropology Programme. She is an artist in Chinese traditional painting and calligraphy. She translated (Horst and Miller Eds.) Digital Anthropology into Chinese and contributed a piece on Digital Anthropology in China.

 

This post originally appeared on the Global Social Media Impact Study blog. It has been re-posted with permission.

Remembering Sylvia Townsend Warner

By Alison Major, on 31 August 2016

Sylvia_Townsend_Warner_Society_800pxToday’s guest post is by Peter Swaab, editor of the Journal of the Sylvia Townsend Warner Society and Professor of English at UCL.

I’m glad to report that I’ve taken on the editing of the Journal of the Sylvia Townsend Warner Society, which is now published by the expanding UCL Press and has its home in the UCL English Department. The Journal was first published in 2000 and has appeared once a year since then, until this year only in a print version with limited circulation. Under the new arrangement it will be continue to published in a print version received by members of the Sylvia Townsend Warner Society, but will also come out electronically, on open access to all. There will now be two issues each year; the first to be published digitally went live online in June and can be found at http://www.ucl.ac.uk/ucl-press/browse-books/journal-of-the-sylvia-townsend-warner-society.

Warner has a following and a growing number of admirers – she is for instance author of the month at the LRB bookshop this month – she remains undervalued and neglected. I hope the Warner Journal, with its newly extended reach and university press base, will make her much better known and more widely read and studied.  She was versatile and she was long-lived. Her first book, a collection of poems, was published in 1925. It was read and admired by A.E. Housman and W.B. Yeats and may have been read by Thomas Hardy. Her final book, a collection of astringent fairy stories, appeared in 1977, when the Sex Pistols were in their brief prime. In the years between she was enormously prolific in several genres: seven novels, around 250 short stories, a biography, poetry, a travel book, essays, translations from Spanish and French. She was also a composer and a musicologist before she turned to literature. She was a great letter writer too (three volumes are in print), with an intellectual energy, generous curiosity and verbal flair that never abated. Her friends spoke wonderingly of her rapidity of mind. On waking of a morning she could at once carry on the conversation of the previous evening, full throttle, no coffee needed. She lived most of her life with another woman, Valentine Ackland, was a member of the communist party, twice went to Spain during the Spanish Civil War. She’d be around the table at my fantasy dinner party, along with Jean Renoir, John Keats and a few others who change from month to month.

What can literary criticism do with a writer of such fertility and scope as Warner? As yet, it hasn’t done nearly enough; there is, for instance, no critical monograph on her writing (though Claire Harman has written a fine biography). Her main genres – the historical novel and the short story – are often condescended to. Both her longevity and her versatility hinder the categorizing that helps writers onto curricula. Her career represents a challenge to current ways of thinking about literary history. Although her writing is formally audacious she does not fit readily into a story of avant-garde ‘modernism’.  Terms such as ‘intermodernism’ and the ‘middlebrow’ have been brought forward recently to challenge the straitjacketing narrative that sees experimental modernists on one side and all the rest on another. Such terms help a little with Warner, but she is too long-lived for the one, too difficult for the other. The categories, moreover, can be tendentious, with ‘modernism’, for instance, doing double service as partly a descriptive and partly an honorific category. And literary periodization is hard to apply cogently to such long-lived writers as Warner, West, Isherwood, Lehmann, or Rhys.

I’d like the Journal, like Warner herself, to have a crossover appeal within academia and beyond. There are five categories of contribution that I want especially to encourage:

  1. Writers on Warner, with (I hope) contributions from writers who are on record as Warner’s admirers (these include Colm Tóibín, Ursula Le Guin, Ali Smith, Sarah Waters, Adam Mars-Jones, Richard Howard, Wendy Mulford – and the list could go on).
  1. Works by Warner, both fugitive and uncollected pieces, and unpublished manuscripts from the extensive archives in the Dorset County Museum.
  1. Biographical accounts. Warner died in 1978, so there are many people who knew her, and she tends to be recalled vividly.
  1. Articles on Warner’s writings and also on those figures with  whom she could be associated either in her life or her literary affiliations. These include quite a range, among them the Powyses,  David Garnett, Bowen, Woolf and T.H. White in literary Britain, Proust, Colette and Huguenin in France, John Craske in the art world, Vaughan Williams, Ireland, Nordoff, Britten and Pears in the world of music.
  1. Reviews of books and editions that include discussion of Warner and sometimes of her literary or musical associates and friends.

The second number of the Journal to be digitally published is in preparation now, scheduled for publication in December 2016.

About the Author

Peter Swaab is editor of the Journal of the Sylvia Townsend Warner Society and Professor of English at UCL. Prior to joining UCL in 1990, he was Research Fellow at Queens’ College, and Director of Studies in English at Corpus Christi College.