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Game of clones – it’s who you know

GuestBlogger12 December 2016

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Written by Lucy Jordan, Communications Officer, UCL Psychology and Language Sciences

Why does it matter that we pick friends who are the same as us? Dr Katherine Woolf, Senior Lecturer in Medical Education at UCL, conducts research into fitting in and belonging and wants to know just this. As human beings, we need to belong and form interpersonal attachments. These bonds are of utmost importance for our happiness, success and health, but why are they, for the most part, to those so like ourselves? And what are the ramifications of this?

The audience is asked to think of a close friend who we have spoken to in the last few days and consider whether that friend has the same gender, nationality, ethnicity, religion and level of education as us. The majority chose someone with whom they have much overlap in these areas.

“I’ve done this exercise with lots of people all over the country, many times,” said Dr Woolf “and this is what we always see – people tend to be friends with people that they have lots in common with, and that in sociology is called homophily.”

Game of Clones

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UCL Infection, Immunology and Inflammation (III) Symposium 2016

GuestBlogger23 November 2016

pencil-iconWritten by Simon Guillaumé, PhD Student, London Interdisciplinary Doctoral training programme

On Tuesday 8 November, over 300 leading researchers from top London institutions gathered at the UCL Institute of Education for the annual UCL Infection, Immunology and Inflammation (III) Symposium, hosted by UCL in partnership with Queen Mary University of London (QMUL), UCLPartners and the National Institute for Health Research BRC Infection, Immunity and Inflammation (III) Programme.

Professor Hans Stauss (UCL Institute of Immunity and Transplantation), opened the Symposium by highlighting the impact of the research presented annually.

Integration of pathogen and human genomic sequencing

Professor Judith Breuer (UCL Division of Infection & Immunity) started the session by presenting her latest research on the pathology of Varicella Zoster Virus (the cause of chickenpox and shingles), which will help alleviate the side effects of VZV vaccines.

Following an overview of the human oral microbiome by Professor William Wade (Blizard Institute, Queen Mary University of London), Professor Harry Hemingway (UCL Institute of Health Informatics) reviewed Big Data sources available to UK biomedical researchers, including some recent examples of large-scale health record mining used in biomedical research.

Basic immunology

Starting off the second session, Dr Melania Capasso (Barts Cancer Institute, QMUL) highlighted the importance of proton channel interactions in supporting tumour growth.

After reminding the room that “ageing, well, is inevitable…”, Professor Arne Akbar (UCL Division of Infection & Immunity) gave us a glimmer of hope by presenting his current research on T-cell ageing.

The last presentation of the morning was Dr Benedict Seddon’s (UCL Institute of Immunity and Transplantation) appetising ‘Sauces and mixtures – recipe for long term maintenance of CD4 memory’. His research brings us a step closer to understanding how CD4 cells regulate immune memory.

Symposium III 2

Early Career Researchers presentations

Following the networking break, six early career researchers from UCL and QMUL enthralled us with presentations of their research. These presentations give early career researchers the opportunity to gain greater visibility and to make their research knownto the scientific community already established in the field.

The first prize for the best early career researcher presentation was awarded to Dr Neil McCarthy (Blizard Institute, QMUL), for his presentation on ‘Human antigen-presenting yd T-cells promote IL-22 production in naïve and intestinal memory CD4+ T-cells in a TNF-alpha and ICOSL-dependent manner’. (more…)

UCL Ageing event

GuestBlogger15 November 2016

pencil-iconWritten by Dr Emma Chambers, Research Associate in the Division of Infection and Immunity

 The United Kingdom has an ageing population and by 2025, one in four people will be over the age of 65. Unfortunately with increasing age there is not increasing ‘healthspan’, and actually people are now living unhealthy for longer.

With increasing age come increasing health problems, as people over the age of 65 have an increased risk of infections such as flu and shingles, as well as an increased risk of having dementia; this collectively places a huge burden on our already stretched NHS.

At the UCL Ageing Event – cultivating research connections across the university, arranged by the UCL Populations and Lifelong Health Domain and held on Thursday 3 November 2016, researchers from across UCL came together to discuss what we can do to age better.

Attendees heard first from Dr Jenny Regan (Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment) who works on the common fruit fly. Apparently, the fruit fly ages similarly to humans, with decreased mobility, increased infections and memory loss.

Dr Regan told us that the key to a longer life is to be female – a bit unfortunate for half of the population! Secondly, you need to have a calorie restricted diet, though this does not enhance the lifespan of a male fruit fly.

Dr Milica Vukmanovic-Stejic (Division of Infection and Immunity) introduced us to her human skin model where the lab studies white blood cells (immune system) in the skin of old and young people to establish if there are any differences that can explain why older people are more at risk of shingles. (more…)

UCL Prize Lecture in Clinical Science

GuestBlogger28 October 2016

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Written by UCL MBPhD student Callum Donaldson

Professor François Barré-Sinoussi was the well-deserved recipient of this year’s UCL Clinical Prize Lecture award.

In 1966, Professor Barré-Sinoussi began her undergraduate studies in Natural Sciences at the University of Paris. Following this, she undertook a PhD project with Jean-Claude Chermann at the Pasteur Institute, studying a retrovirus capable of inducing leukaemia in mice.

After obtaining her PhD in 1974, Professor Barré-Sinoussi decided to travel to the United States to begin a post-doctoral fellowship with Bob Bassin at the NIH. The main aim of the project was to identify the viral target of murine leukaemia virus (MLV) restriction factor Fv1.

Professor François Barré-Sinoussi and Professor Michael Arthur

Professor François Barré-Sinoussi and Professor Michael Arthur

After a year at the NIH, Professor Barré-Sinoussi returned to Paris to continue investigating the relationship between retroviruses and cancer.

In the early 1980s clinicians were faced with the emergence of a frightening new epidemic, now known as AIDS. Perplexed clinicians in Paris contacted virologists at the Pasteur Institute asking them for their assistance in identifying the responsible pathogen.

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