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Antibiotics: the rise and fall of a ‘wonder drug’

ClaireRoberts12 December 2013

AntibioticsProfessor Peter Taylor (UCL School of Pharmacy) began his Lunch Hour Lecture with a chesty cough – an ironic note to the problems faced by both his immune system and society, as he notes you can’t, of course, cure a common cold with antibiotics. The confusion about this is just one of the reasons for the emergence of dangerous resistance to antibiotics – the subject of Professor Taylor’s Lecture.

He first presented the incontestable fact that antibiotics have changed the world. They are arguably the most important medical breakthrough of the 20th century, with the 1941 introduction of penicillin hailed as a ‘miracle cure’ for infections that could devastate populations (not least because of its serendipitous discovery by Alexander Fleming).

Our 70-year run of antibiotic use is a drop in the ocean compared to the 10,000 years that humans have faced – and succumbed – to these infections.

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Genomics and Medicine, with Aroon Hingorani

JamesHeather19 March 2013

DNA double helix (courtesy of the National Human
Genome Research Institute via
Wikimedia Commons)

In recognition of February’s status as National Heart Month, Professor Aroon Hingorani recently took to the stage for a Lunch Hour Lecture about the opportunities and challenges associated with using genomics to improve personal and public health.

Genomics is the study of genomes – all of the DNA contained in the cell of an organism.

The ability to read, or ‘sequence’, DNA has been improving exponentially over the last few decades and we can sequence far more DNA than ever before, in less time and at a lower cost.

One of the most significant recent developments in this field was the completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003. This ambitious undertaking provided scientists everywhere with a blueprint of what our genomes look like.

By comparing DNA test results to this template researchers can identify the differences that might cause disease.

However, things are rarely that simple in medicine.

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