What a year! For obvious reasons linked to COVID, it has been over 8 months since our last Environmental Extremes Lab post of our support to the Dhiman Brothers, but we have still been very active behind the scenes in our teaching and research. As we thankfully close the door on 2020, hoping that 2021 will be better, a quick round-up of some of the activities we have been involved in and few tasters of what is to come!
A unique chance to collaborate between the Environmental Extremes Lab (EEL) and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine has arisen and given one of our PhD students (Gregor Eichhorn) the chance to travel to West Africa and help with an international research project.
In the context of climate change, much of the world will experience extreme heat events and very little work is being done globally to understand the impact of these on maternal and fetal health. In areas where the options to adapt to the heat exposure are limited, a clearer understanding of the causes of poor birth outcomes as well options of adaptation strategies are sorely needed. Continue reading
This year some of our MSc Applied Sport/Exercise Physiology students (Serdar Hussein, Sarah Pickering, Niforissa Musa, Mari-Anne Elder, Adam Crook and Harrison Collier-Bain) helped support Josie Adams, ambassador to the Para-Monte altitude awareness charity that we work closely with, in her preparations for this year’s Marathon des Sables (MDS). As part of the Environmental Extremes Lab Service, led by PhD student Gregor Eichhorn, the MSc students delivered a 4 day heat acclimation package to prepare Josie for the harsh conditions expected in the MDS in Morocco. The MDS is a 250 km gruelling multi-day race across the Saharan desert which appeals to around 1000 competitors from all over the world each year. In 2017, Josie was 7th in the event and 1st British female, so we know she has it in her!
We are currently recruiting female participants who have been diagnosed with breast cancer alongside healthy females (as a control group), aged 40-64 years, to take part in a research study that examines their responses to exercise in a hot environment. The study involves four visits with the exercise protocol requiring participants to walk on a treadmill in our environmental chamber. The research will take place at the Eastbourne Campus of the University of Brighton.
Rebecca Relf is conducting this research as part of her PhD studies, with Chanel Coppard, an MSc Applied Exercise Physiology student and Berenice Grimshaw, a BSc Sport and Exercise Science student, supporting her. The research team would like to speak to you if you are interested in getting involved and help improve our understanding of heat sensitivity in breast cancer survivors. Please see the recruitment poster below for details.
We have been a bit silent on the Environmental Extremes Lab Blog recently. In part, this has allowed us to recharge the batteries after a very busy last academic year. Nevertheless, plenty has been going on over the summer and early autumn months. We supported nine MSc research projects allied to environmental extremes, with some exciting results coming out of them to share in due course. Dr Alan Richardson and Dr Mark Hayes were interviewed as experts for a Ministry of Defence Service Inquiry into the death of a soldier during an annual fitness test at Brecon in 2016. Mark with Dr Ash Willmott presented to the GB Hockey team around pre and per cooling strategies leading up to Tokyo 2020. We supported another two Para-Monte Altitude Awareness Days for individuals heading to altitude. Well done to our own University of Brighton’s Sally Reeve and her daughter, Marianne, who successfully and safely completed their trek to Machu Picchu, passing Dead Women’s Pass on the way.
Recently, marked the 7th International Conference on the Physiology and Pharmacology of Temperature Regulation (PPTR), held in the beautiful city of Split, Croatia. The Conference was held over the 7th to 12th October and consisted of oral and poster presentations, symposia and workshops – all with an environmental extremes focus. This year’s meeting had 170 presentations of which nearly half were presented by young investigators.
Four of our University of Brighton research students (Gregor Eichhorn, Kirsty Waldock, Rebecca Relf and Emily Watkins) and members of the EEL group flew to Croatia to attend the conference. While it is important for a PhD student to present their own work before a scientific community to disseminate their findings, it can also be very useful to exchange ideas for future research and collaborations and improve communication skills and knowledge.
Rebecca Relf, a Technical Instructor and PhD Student within our Environmental Extremes Lab is investigating the ‘physiological differences in females that have been diagnosed and treated for breast cancer compared to those females who have not’.
Why Study Cancer & Environmental Extremes?
Cancer is one of the leading causes of mortality in the UK and worldwide, with approximately 2 million individuals living with cancer in the UK, and 1 in 8 females facing a diagnosis of breast cancer in their lifetime (Eisemann et al, 2013). With increasing advancements in technology and treatment, the survival rate is currently 78% in the UK and rising (Cancer Research UK, 2017).
However, the literature indicates that following the treatment of breast cancer, survivors are left with a multitude of varying side effects which differ in intensity for each person. The most common side effects have been reported as;
- Risk of recurrent cancer
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Persistent Fatigue
- Decreased immune function
- Depression and reduced quality of life
The research excellence framework (REF) provides funding to UK universities with the purpose to support the continuation of world-class research. The amount of funding received by a university is assessed against three main criteria: the quality of research outputs; the research impact beyond academia; and the environment that supports research (REF, 2018). A priority from the outset of my PhD (Heat waves in the elderly and the impact of acute and chronic heat alleviating strategies on health) was to achieve impact beyond academia. My aim was to provide evidence-based advice that the elderly could use to improve their health and wellbeing during periods of hot weather.
Kirsty Waldock (3rd year PhD student)