Biochips could help treat diabetes

Research at the University of Brighton has demonstrated how specially-designed biochips can be used to replace whole pancreas transplantation and support the tests of new drugs for diabetes – bringing hope to millions of people with diabetes around the world.

Diabetes is caused by insufficient or lack of insulin and the experiments have shown that engineered ‘biochips’ – made of pancreatic cells and vascular cells held together by biomimetic biomaterials – can produce insulin in response to high levels of glucose.

Professor Matteo Santin, the University’s Professor of Tissue Regeneration and Director of the Centre for Regenerative Medicine and Devices (CRMD), said it was hoped the research will lead to new and more effective treatments for people with diabetes and will help solve the problem of organ donors’ shortage.

The biochips, he said, have the ability to encourage commercially-available, poor insulin-producing cell lines of the pancreas to produce more insulin when needed:  “This happens when the cells are integrated in the developed biochip and not in other conventional culturing conditions.” Continue reading

Celebrating International Women’s Day 2018

To mark International Women’s Day in 2018 we are celebrating the achievements of just some of the academics working here at Brighton.

Our Women of Impact web feature demonstrates how our academic staff are achieving great things, working on the complex challenges facing society, educating and inspiring the next generation and making an impact in communities. The varied and diverse career journeys illustrate the huge range of talent that we welcome at the University of Brighton.

From biosciences read these profiles

Dr Anja RottDr Anja Rott – Ecology and entomology
“I am fascinated by the diverse interactions we observe between insects, plants and the world they live in. My aim is to understand better what dynamics drive species interactions within a complex ecosystem.”


Dr Dawn ScottDr Dawn Scott – Supporting the Underdog
“I want to help people understand wildlife more so they can appreciate them and the benefits of living alongside them. I want my research to help find solutions to allow people and wildlife to coexist and through teaching and education I want to inspire people to strive for a future where we appreciate and protect wildlife.”

Dr Melanie FlintDr Melanie Flint – Cancer and Stress
Dr Flint is passionate about mentoring future breast cancer researchers leading a multidisciplinary team of post-doctoral scientists, PhD students and MSc students – all with the same goal – to establish a proven mechanistic link between psychological stress and cancer to improve patient outcome.

Dr Susan SandemanDr Susan Sandeman – Advancing Biomedical Technology
Dr Susan Sandeman is a biomaterials scientist whose research focuses on ways to better understand and optimise the interaction of materials with the cells and tissues of the body in order to provide corrective treatments.

The ‘weapon of mass destruction’ that’s killing honey bees

These are the latest images of one of the mites responsible for killing billions of honey bees around the world.

The magnified photographs of the pinhead-sized mite, aptly named Varroa destructor, were captured by Dr Jonathan Salvage of the University of Brighton, using our state-of-the-art scanning electron microscope (SEM).

Dr Jonathan Salvage

Dr Salvage, a Research Fellow in the University’s School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences, has been working with Adam Leitch, a Master Beekeeper, on both a study of plant pollen that honey bees pollinate and aspects of honey bee pest anatomy

Dr Salvage said: “The mite, with its ice-axe-like weapon of attack, the palptarsi claws, is a major threat to honey bees globally. It is involved in the mass destruction and deaths of billions of bees, which, in turn, threatens crop pollination and food production.”

BBC radio spoke to Jonathan Salvage:

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Badger Research with the BBC

Dr Dawn Scott has been working with the BBC, Natural Trust and RSPB on a research project investigating how predators (badgers and foxes) use different rural landscapes and how landscape management, such as habitats, fencing and landscape features and composition can affect their movement and habitat use.

One of the study sites is the National Trust Sherborne Estate in Gloucestershire where ‘watchers’ have been based this year. During winter Scott has trapped and collared three badgers as part of the study and she hopes to follow their movements into the Spring to see how their use of habitats change between seasons.

Scott says: “The aim of the study is to understand what affects predator habitat use in rural landscapes and use this to help inform conservation planning and to provide alternative methods of predator management.

“For example, if we need to keep predators away from a key bird-breeding area in the Spring, we need to know what landscape management approaches are likely to be most effective. Knowing this would reduce predation risk but also reduce the conflict that can occur when predators and conservation goals don’t align.”

The project will feature in Winterwatch tonight (29 January) at 9pm on BBC2.

Brighton genome expert speaking at London festival

The first person to donate his genome sequence under ‘open consent’ to the Personal Genome Project UK (PGP-UK), Professor Colin Smith, is speaking at the forthcoming Festival of Genomics in London.

Professor Smith, the University’s Professor of Functional Genomics, has recently established Brighton Genomics to investigate future potential for highlighting disease risk and revealing the genetic basis for human diseases.

A ‘genome’ comprises the complete set of DNA molecules within each cell of an organism and in 2013 Professor Smith had his whole genome sequenced and then made the donation to PGP-UK which is creating public UK genome, health, and trait data.

Genomics technologies have been at the heart of Professor Smith’s research for the past 16 years and he has been engaged in a range of interdisciplinary national and international collaborations, investigating antibiotic production by bacteria, human sleep and human nutrition.

The Festival, on 30-31 January at London’s ExCeL, will involve experts from drug companies, healthcare, patients and academic organisations who will define the future of genomics in human health and disease.

Other speakers include Sir John Chisholm, Executive Chair of Genomics England, which is creating a legacy for patients, the NHS and the UK economy, through the sequencing of 100,000 genomes, and Professor Malcolm Grant, Chairman of NHS England.

In addition to his speaking at the festival, Professor Smith is organising a Royal Society meeting for world leaders in the cutting-edge fields of ‘translatomics’ and imaging of gene expression at the single molecule level.

The Theo Murphy international scientific meeting ‘Changing views of translation: from ribosome profiling to high resolution imaging of single molecules in vivo’ will be at The Royal Society, Chicheley Hall, Buckinghamshire, Monday 5 – Tuesday, 6 March:

So what does make Rudolph’s nose glow red?

It’s a debate that has been raging for years.

Scientists previously thought Rudolph’s red nose was due to an excess of blood in the vessels supplying the reindeer’s nasal passages, caused by the exertion of pulling a heavy load – Santa’s sleigh and his sacks of gifts.

But researchers at the University of Brighton have come up with another explanation: Bioluminescence or the production of light as a result of a chemical reaction, similar to that produced by fireflies and some deep sea organisms that use light traps to catch prey.

The study may appear frivolous but it has proved a valuable exercise for the University’s biology students. And the findings have been deemed worthy enough to be published today in DEINSEA, an online journal of the Natural History Museum in Rotterdam.

The research was led by Dr Angelo Pernetta, a conservation ecologist and Deputy Head of the School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences. He said: “My colleague Dr Neil Crooks and I wrote the paper with undergraduate students as a consequence of a journal club we run for the Biology degree course at our Hastings campus.

“The paper is a light-hearted response to a previously published paper, which discussed why Rudolph had a red nose. It has already proved a very valuable experience for the students involved – one student recently secured a funded PhD studentship at Warwick University and he mentioned his involvement in the production of this paper definitely played a part.”

The previous paper, published in DEINSEA in 2012, identified the cause of Rudolph’s nose glow as “nasal mucosa induced by the exertion of pulling a heavy load: excessive stresses endured whilst flying with San­ta and the sleigh in tow resulted in cerebral and bodily hyperthermia, overworking the nasal cooling system, causing the nose to glow”.

But the new study says: “Whilst we recognise the central tenet of highly vascularised nasal mucosa in reindeer helping regulate nasal heat exchange, we concluded that this is unlikely to be the causal factor of Rudolph’s particularly iridescent append­age for multiple reasons.”

Their conclusion was: “The fact that Rudolph’s nose glows red has previously been noted as being advantageous in foggy conditions, since it is the most visible colour in fog. A 1939 paper noted that Rudolph’s glowing nose aided Santa Claus in his Christmas Eve prepa­rations when a thick fog descended.

“This would suggest that Rudolph was specifically chosen because of this adaptive trait and would suggest that, far from being caused by excessive strain from pulling Santa Claus and the sleigh, his red nose was in fact caused by bioluminescence to aid in navigation.

“We believe we have found a scientific answer to this age-old question. Now all we need is to do is discover how Rudolph and his fellow reindeer manage to fly.”

To read the journal go to:

Determining the sex of human remains – using tooth enamel

Scientists at the University of Brighton have discovered a new method of determining the sex of human remains – by testing tooth enamel. DNA sequencing is currently the most common method but this can be expensive, time-consuming, and often depends on finding a good quality sample. The new method is quicker, cheaper, and uses tooth enamel, the most durable human body tissue and the hardest tissue in the human body. It survives burial well, even when the rest of the skeleton or DNA has decayed.

The breakthrough has the potential to improve studies of archaeological finds and medical and forensic science. Researchers have tested the method on the remains of seven adults from the late 19th Century as well as male and female pairs from three archaeological sites ranging from 5,700 years ago to the 16th Century in the UK. In each case, the method successfully determined the sex, as confirmed by comparison with coffin plates or standard bone analyses.

The research has been carried out by Dr Nicolas Stewart, senior lecturer in the University’s School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences, with colleagues at Durham University and the University of São Paulo in Brazil.

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Come and visit us this winter

It might be cold outside but don’t let that stop you visiting us this winter!

If you’re considering starting an undergraduate course here in 2018, why not sign up to one of our campus tours taking place during December and January and find out more about what it’s like study at Brighton?

The tours will give you the chance to explore the campus where your course of interest is based, view our facilities and talk to our staff and students.

Find out more and book onto a tour <link to:>

Anti-depressants could combat infections

Researchers here at the University of Brighton have found drugs used to treat mood disorders are also potentially active against bacteria which cause catheter infections.

The discovery could lead to new methods of treating infections and could contribute to overcoming problems with antibiotic resistance.

The research, led by Dr Brian Jones, Reader in Molecular and Medical Microbiology and Deputy Head of the our School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences, has been published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Dr Jones and collaborators Dr Mark Sutton from Public Health England and Dr Khondaker Miraz Rhaman from King’s College London have been studying infections associated with the use of urinary catheters which are used in their millions across the world every year. The bacterium Proteus mirabilis often causes catheter infections and forms crystalline biofilms on catheter surfaces that block urine flow and lead to potentially life-threatening complications.

Catheters are widely used for long-term bladder management in both the community and nursing homes but the care of individuals undergoing long-term catheterisation is frequently undermined by infections.

Dr Jones said: “The majority of patients undergoing long-term catheterisation are cared for outside the hospital environment where catheter blockage is often not noticed until more serious complications arise.

“A particular hazard of catheter blockage is the accumulation of infected urine in the bladder, which eventually results in upper urinary tract infection and the onset of potentially fatal complications including septicaemia.

“It has been estimated that 50 per cent of individuals undergoing long-term catheterisation will suffer from catheter blockage at some point during their care, with chronic blockage also a common problem.

“It is perhaps then unsurprising that blockage is also the cause of numerous emergency hospital referrals, and not only damages the health of patients but also places significant strain on healthcare resources.” Continue reading