Why I donated my entire genome sequence to the public

After speaking about genomic data at the British Science Festival last week, Colin Smith, Professor of Functional Genomics in our school, appears in The Conversation this week. Continue reading

Keep feeding hedgehogs in the Autumn

Mammalian biologist Dr Dawn Scott is urging people to feed dwindling numbers of hedgehogs during autumn to help them survive winter.
Dr Scott, Assistant Head our school of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences, spoke out after media reports suggested people should refrain from feeding hedgehogs before hibernation.
She said: “I feed hedgehogs in the autumn to help them attain body weight before the winter and several animals may need this boost to obtain the body weight sufficient to survive hibernation.
“I would encourage feeding hedgehogs in the autumn and I would also encourage the establishment of wildlife-friendly gardens which promote natural food supplies for the hedgehogs.”
Dr Scott spoke on hedgehogs at last week’s British Science Festival (BSF). She said one media report, suggesting Dr Scott was asking people to should stop feeding hedgehogs during autumn, was misleading.
“I presented data on my findings on the impact of people feeding urban mammals including foxes, badgers and hedgehogs. I mentioned my concerns over the emerging impact of food supplied by householders on animal behaviour and stated more research was needed.
“The point of the BSF is to stimulate discussion and debate hence I raised the point of ‘do we actually know the impacts of people feeding wildlife and it might not always be beneficial’. As hedgehogs are in such decline we really do need to know the consequences of our actions in terms of long term affects and this urgently needs more research.
“I was concerned that hedgehogs were noted as active throughout December and January last year and that, although this is likely to be climate related, abundant food supply throughout winter in gardens could also be affecting hibernation timing.
“One of the ecological consequences of urban environments for animals is the potentially constant supply of food which could affect natural seasonal behaviour. Food reduction as well as temperature is a trigger for hibernating animals and so abundant food could potentially affect this trigger. Anthropogenic feeding and how it can disrupt hibernation patterns has been shown in some other species.
“I said I had no direct data on this, it was a point for discussion and raised as an area that needs to be researched in future. I linked this point with the emerging feeding habits of people towards other urban animals and said we need to look carefully at how, what and when we feed wildlife to maximise its benefit and reduce any potential detrimental effects.”
You can find out more about Dr Scott’s research here.

Why treating stress could help beat cancer

The stress of being told you have breast cancer may be reducing the potency of drugs used to treat the disease, according to new research by the University of Brighton.

Early trials show stress-relieving medications may increase the efficacy of chemotherapy and by doing so, improve recovery. Managing stress and anxiety at an early stage, researchers say, could become routine.

Dr Melanie Flint

Dr Melanie Flint, Reader in Cancer Biology at the University of Brighton’s School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences, has been studying the impact stress hormones have on patients, and the effect chronic psychological stress has on disease progression, as well as response to drug treatment. Dr Flint said: “Stress hormones are highly potent and can interact with almost every cell in the body including normal, cancer and immune cells.”

Her research has shown that DNA can be damaged as a result of the interaction between our cells and stress hormones, leading to cell transformation: “A diagnosis of breast cancer is a cause of a great deal of stress, which in itself, is a significant reason for stress management to be considered early on.”

Melanie is part of a team of scientists at the University of Brighton researching breast cancer. Dr Flint collaborates with Professor Dame Lesley Fallowfield, Professor of Psycho-Oncology, who will be speaking at the British Science Festival on the 5 September, in an event titled, ‘Risk and uncertainty in breast cancer treatment’.

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The wild furry urbanites

Dr Dawn Scott, Principal Lecturer in the School of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences will be sharing her research findings on urban mammals, as well as some unexpected stories about what they (and their researchers) get up to in the city at night, at this year’s British Science Festival on Wednesday 6 September.

The British Science Festival 2017 begins on September 5 and runs through till September 9.

Book your free tickets here: https://www.britishsciencefestival.or…

Open Consent: Genetics and the loss of anonymity

Professor Colin Smith, Professor of Functional Genomics, is the first person to donate his complete genome sequence under ‘open consent’ in the UK – waiving any rights to anonymity.

Join the discussion with Colin at the British Science Festival on the 8 September to understand the reasons for his decision, and why this approach will ultimately benefit the public if more people follow suit.

Location: Brighton City, Old Courtroom theatre

Duration: 17:00 – 18:00

Date: Friday 8 September 2017

Book your place now!

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£10,000 for infection research

Simon Booth, a research fellow in our school, has been awarded £10,000 to study why some burns wounds don’t respond to antibiotics as well as they should.

Simon is examining whether burns patients with wound infection receive high enough doses of antibiotics to treat the wound infection.

The study, approved by the National Research Ethics Service, involves taking blood and wound fluid samples to see whether there is sufficient concentrations in the wound compared to blood and if the bacteria in the wound have resistance to the antibiotics.

Simon, seconded from the Queen Victoria Hospital Burns Centre at East Grinstead, said: “Burns wounds infections are very common and yet people who are given antibiotics do not always improve, even when we know the bacteria should be killed by the antibiotics. This is particularly concerning with the rise of antimicrobial resistant infections.”

Simon will also be collecting wound samples from four other regional burns centres.

The award is from the Hospital Saturday Fund, a charity helping individuals with medical conditions or disabilities and providing funds for medical projects for hospitals, hospices, medical organisations. The £10,000 is the maximum award the charity provides.

Simon, working towards a Masters in Clinical Research at the university, said: “I am very grateful to the Hospital Saturday Fund for seeing the value of this research. It will give clinicians vital information about antibiotic prescribing and help in the fight to reduce antimicrobial resistance”

Is austerity really to blame for stalling life expectancy in England?

Professor Richard Faragher, Professor of Biogerontology in our school, writes in The Conversation that: “Far from being a hopeless search for cash, we can increase life expectancy and lower care costs. What we need if political vision and will. Both are currently in short supply.”

Read the full article here.

Brains at the Bevy with Professor Richard Faragher

Join Professor Richard Faragher at Brains at the Bevy, in partnership with the British Science Festival, on Wednesday 30 August, 6-7pm, to talk about ‘How we grow old, why we grow old and what we can do about it?’

Richard will explain that we now understand the major mechanisms that cause humans and other animals to grow old, why these exist and what we can potentially do to promote, healthier and therefore longer lives.

Brains at the Bevy are a series of short and enlightening talks from local academics and all are welcome to attend. The talks take place at The Bevendean Community Pub in Moulsecoomb and each talk will last around an hour with plenty of time for questions and discussion. 

These free talks are organised by the Bevy and Community University Partnership Programme at the University of Brighton and funded by the Sussex Learning Network. Tea and coffee will be provided during the talk and everyone is welcome to stay on afterwards to enjoy the lovely food and drink available at the Bevy.

Email cupp@brighton.ac.uk if you would like to go along. See you there!

BBC Springwatch on garden animals

University of Brighton mammalian biologist is calling on the public for ‘animal stories from the garden’ for research and a special feature for BBC Two’s forthcoming Springwatch series.

Dr Dawn Scott and her team are studying interactions between foxes, hedgehogs, badgers, cats and dogs in the presence or absence of food in people’s gardens.

Dr Scott, Principal Lecturer in the university’s School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences, said: “Many people support wildlife in their gardens by providing food for them. However, we don’t yet fully understand how providing food can affect the interactions between wildlife.

“It is not always known what animals actually end up eating this extra food or if the animals compete to get access to it. Foxes and hedgehogs have been seen to feed from the same bowl but we have also seen animals come into conflict over the food provided.

“The project will be focused on interactions between foxes, badgers and hedgehogs, but we are also interested in interactions between the same species, i.e. fox and another fox, and also between pets.”

Findings from the research will feature in BBCs Two’s Springwatch which is scheduled to air from 29 May to 15 June.

 

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