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    Archive for the 'Life Sciences' Category

    A thorn in the side: launch of the UCL Centre for Gender and Global Health

    By Guest Blogger, on 6 March 2017

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    By Dr Geordan Shannon, UCL Institute for Global Health 

    UCL is known for challenging the status quo. It was with this sentiment that the UCL Centre for Gender and Global Health was officially launched on the 16th February 2017.

    Led by Professor Sarah Hawkes, the centre will reach beyond academia to work with policy-makers and policy-influencers to address the complex relationship between gender and health.

    A global community of change makers and thought leaders converged to discuss innovations in gender and global health research. The daylong event included keynotes, interactive panels, film screenings, Q&A sessions and a networking reception.

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    Images: Ilan Kelman ilankelman.org

    Keynotes

    The keynote panellists spoke about key challenges to gender and global health research, policy and action.

    Rachel Jewkes, the Director of the South African Medical Research Council’s Gender and Health Research Unit, shared new directions in gender-based violence interventions and highlighted feminist approaches to resilience.

    Benno de Keijzer, Professor of Health and Masculinities at Universidad Veracruzana and co-founder of the NGO Salud y Género, challenged the concept of hegemonic masculinity and how it relates to both men’s and women’s wellbeing.

    (more…)

    Education Select Committee Brexit hearing session at UCL

    By Melissa Bradshaw, on 9 February 2017

    On 25 January, the Education Select Committee held the second Oral Evidence Session of its inquiry on the effect of Brexit on higher education (HE) at UCL.

    The committee heard evidence from UCL President & Provost Professor Michael Arthur, NUS Vice-President (Higher Education) Sorana Vieru and representatives of University and College Union, Erasmus Student Network UK, Universities UK, the British Council and London Economics.

    There was a strong consensus on the potentially damaging effects of Brexit on HE, and an urgent call for the government to do more to address them.

    Professor Michael Arthur

    Professor Michael Arthur

    The hearing took place just over a week after Theresa May’s historic speech on the UK’s strategy for exiting the European Union, and evidence was heard in two panels.

    The Chair of the Education Committee, Neil Carmichael MP, began each session by asking the panellists for their reaction to the Prime Minister’s speech.

    Every one of the panellists welcomed the tone of the speech and its emphasis on a “global Britain”, but called for immediate action and more specific detail – particularly in regard to the rights of EU citizens to remain in the UK.

    Referring to the Prime Minister’s expressed wish to guarantee the rights of EU citizens, Professor Arthur said: “I’d like to challenge the Prime Minister to go one step further and take the initiative to make the guarantee and challenge the rest of the EU to follow”, arguing that this would give Britain the moral high-ground and provide the negotiations a foundation of good will.

    The committee heard evidence of the significant contribution of the higher education sector to the British economy, including the contributions EU staff and students make to the wider economy when they are residing here.

    Dr Gavan Conlon (London Economics) also argued that, with education the UK’s fifth largest services export, the HE sector can generate revenue that could contribute to the government’s Industrial Strategy.

    The panellists spoke of the positive contributions that EU staff and students make in terms of diversity and ‘soft power’, contributing to Britain’s prestigious academic profile and giving their British peers invaluable experience in international engagement, leadership and collective problem solving. “For a global Britain we need global graduates”, said Rosie Birchard (Erasmus Student Network UK).

    The committee also heard evidence that currently UK HE “punches well above its weight” globally – thanks, in part, to our membership of the EU. Jo Beall (British Council) pointed to statistics showing that the UK leads the world in research quality (by field-weighted citation impact) and 1 in 10 world leaders were educated here.

    (more…)

    Lunch Hour Lecture: Bones, mummies, tuberculosis and ancient DNA

    By Ella Richards, on 18 March 2016

    As World Tuberculosis Day approaches on 24 March, Dr Helen Donoghue (UCL Clinical Microbiology) ends this term’s series of Lunch Hour Lectures by looking back at 9,000 year old tuberculosis DNA.

    MTB

    MTB via Flickr

    What is tuberculosis 

    Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) that spread via aerosol and primarily affects the lungs.

    Although there are current health scares about antibiotic-resistant strains of TB, due to modern sanitation, vaccination programmes and antibiotics there have not been any major TB epidemics in the UK in the 21st century. However, it is currently estimated that one third of the world’s population is infected with various strains of MTB. These infections often pass under the radar because the majority of them are latent, meaning that the infected person does not have any symptoms of the disease.

    TB is one of the world’s oldest diseases, in part due to this high level of latency. There are multiple strains of MTB, all associated with differing areas of the globe. What is striking about these strains is that people with TB generally carry the strain of MTB associated with their ethnic origin, despite their current location.

    For Dr Donoghue, this is evidence that MTB has evolved with humans. She argued that in the Neolithic and Palaeolithic periods, when humans lived in small populations, pathogens that were highly infectious and killed their hosts quickly failed to survive as they would simply wipe out tribes. In contrast, MTB’s combination of high latency rates and virulence means that carriers transmit the disease before dying.

    What’s more, evolving with humans has meant that there are numerous strains of extinct MTB, as well as extant MTB. The research conducted by Dr Donoghue and her team means that new methods are being perfected to analyse these extinct, ancient strains. (more…)

    Lunch Hour Lecture: Ovarian cancer screening — the long journey

    By Ella Richards, on 15 March 2016

    Will effective screening for ovarian cancer, one of the most common cancers affecting women, ever become a reality?

    A group of researchers started to reach for this goal more than 30 years ago. As Professor Usha Menon (UCL Institute for Women’s Health) explained in her Lunch Hour Lecture, determining a method of diagnosing early stage ovarian cancer is almost in touching distance.

    What is ovarian cancer?

    Ovarian cancer is cancer of the ovaries and fallopian tubes, and it is the fifth most common cause of cancer-related deaths in women in Europe.

    Unfortunately most ovarian cancer patients do not have clear symptoms in the early stages of the disease, meaning that 55% of women with ovarian cancer are diagnosed in stage III or IV, when the cancer is harder to treat.

    Moreover, there is a 90% survival rate when ovarian cancer is diagnosed at stage I, however only a 5% to 20% survival rate for five years when diagnosed at stage III or IV. (more…)