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Progress in transplantation, organ donation and research

news editor27 April 2012

On 23 April, a collection of researchers, medical professionals, patients and members of the general public congregated at the Royal Free Hospital for an afternoon of enlightenment and discussion.

The Rt Hon. Adrian Bailey MP opened the conference, revealing that three people die each day in the UK waiting for an organ transplant. This highlighted the importance of the situation, explaining why the shortfall in donor organs needs to be addressed urgently.

Session 1: Pathway of Transplantation, Donation and Research
Professor Brian Davidson (UCL Division of Surgery and Interventional Science) was tasked with providing “a brief history of transplantation, organ donation and research”. He managed to offer a comprehensive overview, focusing on the dramatic improvements in organ transplantation since the 1970s.

Professor Davidson was clear, however, that there are still necessary advancements to be made. He mentioned the disparity between donation rates across Europe – the rate in the UK is half that of Spain.

Possible solutions to bridge the gap were explored, such as surgical innovation (splitting donor organs and live donor transplants), xenotransplantation and tissue engineering.

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Buried on Campus

Nick Dawe24 April 2012

UCL’s Grant Museum of Zoology has launched a new exhibition, Buried on Campus, exploring the surprising find of more than 7,000 bone fragments in the UCL quad.

In March 2010, unsuspecting construction workers, who were digging a trench to enter the Chadwick Building basement, discovered a huge array of bones. The find shocked many: who or what did the bones belong to? When were they buried? And why were they buried in the quad of all places?

Initially, the Metropolitan Police were called in to investigate, who then brought in UCL’s forensic anatomist Dr Wendy Birch for further advice. Through a thorough (and ongoing) investigation, Dr Birch found that the bones comprised 84 individual humans and a variety of animals and, presumably to the relief of many, there was no sign of foul play.

Later, a seven-day excavation of the area ultimately led to a massive 7,394 fragments being found, and Dr Birch and UCL forensic anthropologist Christine King are still working on reconstructing and analysing these.

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