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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…)

Lunch Hour Lecture: The state, science and Humphry Davy

ThomasHughes4 February 2016

“Science, gentlemen, is of infinitely more importance to a state than may at first sight appear possible”. While few scientists would disagree with this today, it was the 19th-century chemist Humphry Davy who made the observation. In a recent Lunch Hour Lecture Professor Frank James (UCL Science & Technology Studies) took us on a whistle stop tour of Davy’s colourful life, his science and his relationship with the state. Humphry Davy. From: Sarah K. Bolton: Famous Men of Science. (New York, 1889)

A poet of Penzance

Born in Penzance on December 17, 1778, Davy initially showed a passion for poetry. This was largely descriptive poetry, such as this extract about St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall: “Beat by the storms of ages, stands unmov’d, Amidst the wreck of things—the change of time.”

However after his schooling, his godfather apprenticed him to a surgeon and it was in the apothecary there where he discovered what would become a life-long interest in chemistry.

While living in Penzance he met distinguished natural philosophers including the engineer Davies Giddy who encouraged Davy and offered him the use of his library.

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From tadpole guts to Nobel Prize: John Gurdon’s UCL Prize Lecture in Clinical Science

GuestBlogger19 November 2015

Written by James Arrich and Isobel Weinberg, both UCL PhD students

Do all the cells of the body possess the same set of genes? This was the question facing a young John Gurdon as he embarked upon his PhD 60 years ago. His research has transformed the way we understand biology in a way that holds promise for the treatment of many common diseases. He received the Nobel Prize in 2012 and on 10 November he visited UCL to give the UCL Prize Lecture in Clinical Science and receive the accompanying medal.

John Gurdon made an unpromising start to his scientific career: at school, he was ranked last out of 250 students for Biology, and was required to give up science and study Classics. Nevertheless, he later chose to switch his degree from Classics to Zoology and then embark on a PhD in cell development.

Professor Sir John Gurdon, UCL Nobel Prize winner

Nobel Prize winner Professor Sir John Gurdon

Ground-breaking work soon followed. His PhD centred upon the technique of nuclear transplantation.

That is, he would transplant the nucleus of one cell into an egg cell whose own nucleus had been removed (it had been ‘enucleated’) and then watch to see how this egg (with its transplanted nucleus) developed.

In a famous set of experiments, he took a specialised gut cell from a tadpole and transplanted the cell’s nucleus into an enucleated egg. Astonishingly, he demonstrated that such eggs (with their transplanted ‘gut’ nuclei) could develop into healthy frogs. That is, the nucleus of a gut cell that was wholly specialised to absorb nutrients still possessed all the genes required to make an entire new frog.

The implications were huge. Not only did all the cells of an organism possess the same genes, but clearly some factors in the egg cell could revert an adult, specialised cell into a stem cell capable of generating any other cell type. The phenomenon was termed nuclear reprogramming and Gurdon has spent the rest of his career unravelling the mechanisms that underlie it.

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