Research insight

Asa White, Doctoral Researcher within our school, gets to call wading around in the Bourne Rivulet work!

Asa’s is researching how an invisible chemical may be affecting invertebrate and fish life. It has three main elements.

  • using electric fishing surveys around three watercress farms over two years to ascertain whether discharges are having a population-level impact on fish communities
  • at the same sites, surveying habitat suitability for salmonids in terms of the physical habitat and prey species abundances
  • running laboratory ecotoxicology experiments to study the effects of PEITC on fish. The aim of the research is to understand what effect, if any, watercress farming is having on fish populations. Should a negative impact be uncovered, then mitigation strategies to lessen the impacts could be developed to ensure that fish populations in chalk stream headwaters flourish.

Read his story in this article published on the Wild Trout Trust website.

Royal Society honour

Professor Colin Smith, expert on genomics and how the science could lead to improved ways of combatting diseases has been invited to organise a Royal Society meeting with world leaders in the field.

The prestigious Theo Murphy International Scientific meeting at Chicheley Hall on 5 – 6 March next year is entitled ‘Changing views of translation: from ribosome profiling to high resolution imaging of single molecules in vivo’. It will bring together senior and early career scientists from around the world to discuss how new technologies are providing novel insights into how cells function.

Professor Smith is Professor of Functional Genomics in our school. He joined the university last year and is establishing a new genomics facility 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. He became the first person to donate his genome sequence under ‘open consent’ to the Personal Genome Project UK.

Genomics technologies have been at the heart of Professor Smith’s research for the past 15 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.

Professor Debra Humphris, our Vice-Chancellor, said: “Huge congratulations to Colin. This is a highly prestigious event and an acknowledgement of his work and his global connections in the field of genomics.”

Professor Smith said: “It is a great honour to have been given the privilege to bring together some of the top scientists in this field to discuss recent breath-taking advances in our understanding of fundamental biological processes.”

Explaining our research on the BBC

The university’s Diabetes Research Group (DRB) featured on BBC South East’s Inside Out programme on 27 February.

Professor Adrian Bone, Professor of Cell and Molecular Biology and Head of the DRB, and his team explained cutting-edge research being undertaken at the university to improve treatment for a disease that, for Type 1 diabetes alone, affects 10,000 people in the South East.

To watch the programme go to the BBC’s iPlayer service and scan along to 17.40 mins.

New insight into aged-related hearing loss

Scientists at the University of Brighton have moved a step closer to understanding the underlying cause of age-related hearing loss which affects 11 million people in the UK.
Hearing loss is believed to originate in non-sensory cells in the cochlea, the auditory portion of the inner ear containing the organ which produces nerve impulses in response to sound.
The cells are coupled together by ‘gap junctions’ which are formed of two proteins called connexin 26 and connexin 30. It is mutations or failures in these proteins that cause most cases of hearing loss.
However, experiments by our Sensory Neuroscience Research Group have shown that one particular mutation in the connexion 30 protein actually prevents deafness to high-frequency sound.
Professor Ian Russell, Professor of Neurobiology here at university and a member of the group, said: “This was a great surprise: The mutation should have impaired the function of the cochlea, not aided it.”
He said: “Other members of the research team are now making direct measurements from these supporting cells to understand how the mutation changes the properties of the gap junctions. They should obtain measurements that will enable us to understand how the mutation alters the electrical and mechanical properties of the cochlea and eventually lead to our understanding how sensitivity is preserved in a cochlea that would otherwise be decimated by age-related-hearing-loss.”
The Sensory Neuroscience Research Group’s findings were published on 21 February in Nature Communication. Continue reading

Soapbox Science’s first visit to Brighton

Head down to the seafront between 1-4pm on Saturday 29 July and celebrate women in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine (STEMM) with Soapbox Science.

Soapbox Science hosts events across the UK and the world raising the profile of women in science – breaking down barriers and challenging stereotypes about who a researcher is. And they are coming to Brighton for the first time this summer.
Chantal Nobs, a PhD student at the University of Brighton, was one of 12 women selected to participate in the Soapbox Science London event on London’s Southbank in 2016.

Find out more about the Brighton event here.

Clinical trial of infection-detecting bandages begins

A clinical trial of a smart bandage which changes colour when it detects infections is beginning using samples from burns patients from four UK hospitals.

The samples will undergo tests by scientists in the School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences who will look at the activation of key genes in infection-causing bacteria to evaluate the bandages’ performance

The technology, developed at the University of Bath, has potential to detect infection earlier, allowing improved treatment for burns patients as well as reducing the use of antibiotics, helping combat the threat of drug-resistant bacteria.

The trial, at Southmead Hospital Bristol, Bristol Royal Hospital for Children, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital and Queen Victoria Hospital East Grinstead, will use swabs and dressings taken from hundreds of patients to conduct tests to understand wound infection and dressing activation in laboratories in University of Brighton and Bath.

Dr Brian Jones, who is based in our school, and colleagues are leading on work to understand how well the dressing will respond to the bacteria causing these infections, and optimise this.

Dr Jones, Reader in Molecular and Medical Microbiology, said: “The dressing technology we are helping to develop here could be of real benefit to many patients. This could not only help clinicians provide the best possible treatment for patients with burns, but could also help us understand how wound infections begin and how they affect the normal healing process.” Continue reading

Lunchtime learning

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Our school are hosting a series of seminars on Fridays from 1-2on in H400. Everyone is invited so put the dates in your diaries.

Here’s what is coming up over in the next few weeks.

Friday 18 November
e-learning apps: could they have an impact on student engagement and retention?
presented by Dr George Olivier

Friday 25 November
What we do not know about our hearing
presented by Andrei Lukashkin

Friday 9 December
Yeast: a versatile living test tube to screen drug targets and inhibitors
presented by Dr Cathy Moore, Institute for Infection and Immunity

Studying and socialising in our nationally recognised building

estates_cockcroft_aw_048The recent, multi-million pound project transforming the Cockcroft building into a state-of-the-art research, teaching and information building has been recognised in the prestigious Green Gown Awards for 2016.

Our university and the architects we worked with Fraser Brown MacKenna were named Finalist in the Built Environment category for what was one of the largest retrofits of an occupied academic building in the UK.

The transformation was described by judges as “an innovative approach integrating architectural, building services and structure design” which unlocked the environmental potential of the 10,500m2 building using the latest technology.

Innovations include an aquifer thermal energy store, potentially reducing energy demand, CO2 emissions and fuel savings. The system stores and recovers thermal energy beneath the ground and provides heating and cooling.

A spokesperson for the awards told the university: “On behalf of the Green Gown Awards Team we wanted to congratulate you on your achievement. Being a Green Gown Awards Finalist is something to be extremely proud of.”

Earlier this year the Cockcroft project won in the Higher Education category of the Architects’ Journal Retrofit Awards 2016. Judges called it a bold project and a model for future similar projects. Continue reading

PABS joins in BAFTA success

hal-in-moscow-2A children’s medical programme, supported by the University of Brighton, has been nominated for a 2016 British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) award.

Professor Hal Sosabowski, Professor of Public Understanding who is based in our school, acts as science consultant for the CBBC children’s series Operation Ouch!, which aims to make medicine and science fun and accessible for children.

Professor Sosabowski, who advises on how to conduct safe experiments, said: “The programme has already won two BAFTAs and is now one of CBBC’s crown jewels. It focuses on the more macabre and disgusting but at the same time, strangely compulsive elements of the human body.”

Our school, the School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences, has been contributing to the programme since it was launched in 2012 and filming has been conducted at labs at the Huxley Building here in Moulsecoomb and at a lab at the Hastings campus. The programme is hosted by Christoffer and Alexander van Tulleken.

Professor Sosabowski said: “The programme is now syndicated worldwide and our involvement can only happen due to the goodwill of School colleagues to whom I extend my heartiest thanks. Season Six has been commissioned and the University and the School receive credits at the programme’s end which will reach literally millions of young scientists.”

The BAFTA awards ceremony is on 20 November. Watch this space!

Continue reading