There's always something new to read about the Faculty, whether it's a new discovery by one of our academics, an award won by one of our students, or an upcoming event.
Most press releases will specify media contacts, but if in doubt, please get in touch with our Media Relations Officer, Michael Addelman, at firstname.lastname@example.org or on +44 (0)161 275 2111.
Fears over life-saving drug unfounded, finds review
(15 January 2019)
Fears over a drug that can be used to treat alcohol addiction are unfounded, according to its first ever systematic review, led by academics at The University of Manchester.
Unlike healthy tissues, tumours thrive in low-oxygen environments, often acquiring the ability to resist treatment and spread to other sites in the body. Despite being a well-known cause of therapy resistance and metastasis, the impact of low oxygen, known as hypoxia, on tumour cells is poorly understood. As reported today in Nature Genetics, researchers have discovered molecular hallmarks of hypoxia in the first-ever pan-cancer analysis of low oxygen in human tumours, with a special focus on prostate cancer.
English patients living in poorer areas are likely to be prescribed more opioids by their GPs, according to a study led by University of Manchester and University of Nottingham researchers.
Child abuse linked to risk of suicide in later life
(9 January 2019)
Children who experience physical, sexual, and emotional abuse or neglect are at least two to three times more likely to attempt suicide in later life, according to the largest research review carried out of the topic.
New Year Honours for University people
(28 December 2018)
Professor Fiona Devine has been made a CBE in the New Year Honours as has honorary lecturer in dentistry, Dr Claire Stevens.
Our New Year’s Resolution to visit the gym or do more exercise need not be a stab in the dark with the help of some clever psychology, according to a team of researchers.
Volunteering abroad is good for NHS, finds study
(20 December 2018)
Health professionals who volunteer in the developing world are providing substantial benefits to the NHS when they return, according to the Universities of Manchester, Nottingham and Health Education England researchers.
A small but significant minority of people who use illicit opioids such as heroin may unknowingly be using a powerful and potentially harmful synthetic opioid that has been linked to a number of deaths.
St Bernard dog was Manchester invention, say historians
(6 December 2018)
A new book published by University of Manchester historians shows that the much-loved St Bernard dog we know today was a Victorian invention.
Greater Manchester resident, Gen Buckley, who lost her father and brother early to bowel cancer, is urging the public to support new health research by sharing their ideas about saving lives from cancer.
Researchers uncover camouflage strategy of multi-resistant bacteria
(4 December 2018)
An international team of researchers including scientists from The University of Tübingen, the German Center for Infection Research (DZIF) and The University of Manchester have achieved a breakthrough in the decoding of multi-resistant pathogens. The team led by Professor Andreas Peschel and Professor Thilo Stehle was able to decode the structure and function of a previously unknown protein used by dreaded pathogens such as Staphylococcus aureus like a magic cloak to protect themselves against the human immune system. The study was published in Nature
Scientists at The University of Manchester have this week published research, funded by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) which shows, for the first time, possible genetic causes of a serious congenital heart condition, Tetralogy of Fallot (ToF).
New study sheds light on Stephen Fry’s portrayal of manic depression
(29 November 2018)
Despite the suffering caused by bipolar disorder – also known as manic depression, a significant minority of patients actually want to keep it because of the creative highs it gives them, according to new research from University of Manchester psychologists.
IVF linked to lower birth weight and child growth
(28 November 2018)
A study has linked babies conceived through a type of IVF to lower birth weight followed by increased growth after birth.
New nano tool could pave way for better cancer testing
(28 November 2018)
A new tool designed by scientists at The University of Manchester has laid the foundations for in depth analysis of blood that allows the identification of previously unknown molecules in blood.
The University of Manchester building for Manchester Cancer Research Centre (MCRC) researchers has been renamed in a ceremony to honour the contribution of Michael Oglesby, his family, and the Oglesby Charitable Trust to cancer research in Manchester.
LGB students at higher risk of self-harm
(23 November 2018)
University students who are Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual (LGB) are at higher risk of self-harm and attempting suicide than their heterosexual counterparts, finds new research.
Revealed: 35 kidney genes linked to chronic kidney disease risk
(22 November 2018)
An international study lead by University of Manchester scientists has discovered the identity of genes that predispose people to chronic kidney disease.
Research leads to new way of caring for pre-cancerous condition
(19 November 2018)
A University of Manchester study of care provisions for patients diagnosed with Barrett’s Esophagus, a pre-cancerous condition, has resulted in improvements in local NHS care, which may form a blueprint for other hospitals.
A new study published in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology highlights the need for psychological screening for families/primary caregivers after a child sustains a burn injury.
Drug combo doesn't benefit depression but leaves room for doubt
(5 November 2018)
A large clinical trial led by researchers at the Universities of Bristol, Exeter, Keele, Manchester and Hull York Medical School, and published in the British Medical Journal has found that a popular combination of antidepression drugs was no more effective in improving depression than a placebo. The studies' author's call on doctors to rethink their use.
Poverty blamed for widening north-south gap in young adult deaths
(31 October 2018)
A major study of mortality across England led by University of Manchester data scientists blames socioeconomic deprivation for sharp rises in deaths among 22 to 44-year-olds living in the North of England.
Planetary science could save thousands of lab mice
(31 October 2018)
Experimenting on animals is a big part of biomedical research and also a big concern for those interested in animal welfare. Scientists are encouraged to use as few animals as possible in their research, but reducing animal numbers also reduces how precise a researcher can be about the results of a study. If a treatment only has a small effect, lots of animals are needed to see it.
However, a new machine-learning technique (a type of AI) could reduce the number of animals needed in certain studies and still give precise results.
The method, called linear Poisson modelling, developed at the University of Manchester, was created to help planetary scientists automate the inspection of images of Mars and the moon. It was used to learn the different textures of planetary terrain, then measure how much of those same textures appeared elsewhere on the same planet. The method also helped the citizen science project MoonZoo count craters on the moon.
Now back on Earth, it has found a new use as a tool for cancer researchers to inspect medical images of tumours implanted in lab mice. And compared with traditional statistical methods, early tests show that using this method up to 16 times fewer animals may be needed to detect the effects of treatments in cancer research.
The machine learning method can describe the differences between groups of tumours that have been treated and those that have not. The medical images that were used in a proof-of-concept study we carried out used a type of scanning that measures the random motion of water molecules. This is useful because treated tumours become more watery as cell tissue breaks down.
Looking for these changes can be difficult because treatments take time to have an effect and tumours change over time whether they have been treated or not. Plus, there are lots of different ways that tumours can change and no two tumours are exactly alike. This complex behaviour can now be learnt using the machine learning method, allowing treatment effects to be precisely measured in individual tumours.
The more traditional approach, using what statisticians call a t-test, often requires using a dozen or more animals before a precise result can be seen.
A more sensitive method
Cancer treatments can work better in certain combinations and can work better or worse depending upon the genetics of a tumour. Finding out which combinations of treatment work best for different tumours is an ongoing challenge.
The number of genetic differences between tumours and the number of treatment combinations that are possible leads to many thousands of experiments that need to be performed. This new method has the potential to significantly reduce the number of animals needed for large experiments. The sensitivity of the method may also allow shorter experiments to be performed, thereby reducing the discomfort and distress of the animals involved.
Our proof-of-concept study is the first step to fully realising the benefits of the new approach, but it must first be demonstrated that similar results can be repeated on other tumour images. We are optimistic that they will.
Drugs’ side effects in lungs ‘more widespread than thought’
(29 October 2018)
A systematic review of research has revealed that the toxic effects on the lung of drugs commonly taken to treat a range of common conditions is much more widespread than thought.
Antibiotics are ‘avoidable trigger’ for bowel disease
(25 October 2018)
Scientists at The University of Manchester have shown for the first time how antibiotics can predispose the gut to avoidable infections that trigger bowel disease in mice.
Alzheimer's disease: mounting evidence that herpes virus is a cause
(19 October 2018)
Ruth Itzhaki, Professor Emeritus of Molecular Neurobiology, writes
More than 30m people worldwide suffer from Alzheimer’s disease – the most common form of dementia. Unfortunately, there is no cure, only drugs to ease the symptoms. However, my latest review, suggests a way to treat the disease. I found the strongest evidence yet that the herpes virus is a cause of Alzheimer’s, suggesting that effective and safe antiviral drugs might be able to treat the disease. We might even be able to vaccinate our children against it.
The virus implicated in Alzheimer’s disease, herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV1), is better known for causing cold sores. It infects most people in infancy and then remains dormant in the peripheral nervous system (the part of the nervous system that isn’t the brain and the spinal cord). Occasionally, if a person is stressed, the virus becomes activated and, in some people, it causes cold sores.
We discovered in 1991 that in many elderly people HSV1 is also present in the brain. And in 1997 we showed that it confers a strong risk of Alzheimer’s disease when present in the brain of people who have a specific gene known as APOE4.
The virus can become active in the brain, perhaps repeatedly, and this probably causes cumulative damage. The likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease is 12 times greater for APOE4 carriers who have HSV1 in the brain than for those with neither factor.
Later, we and others found that HSV1 infection of cell cultures causes beta-amyloid and abnormal tau proteins to accumulate. An accumulation of these proteins in the brain is characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease.
We believe that HSV1 is a major contributory factor for Alzheimer’s disease and that it enters the brains of elderly people as their immune system declines with age. It then establishes a latent (dormant) infection, from which it is reactivated by events such as stress, a reduced immune system and brain inflammation induced by infection by other microbes.
Reactivation leads to direct viral damage in infected cells and to viral-induced inflammation. We suggest that repeated activation causes cumulative damage, leading eventually to Alzheimer’s disease in people with the APOE4 gene.
Presumably, in APOE4 carriers, Alzheimer’s disease develops in the brain because of greater HSV1-induced formation of toxic products, or less repair of damage.
The data suggest that antiviral agents might be used for treating Alzheimer’s disease. The main antiviral agents, which are safe, prevent new viruses from forming, thereby limiting viral damage.
In an earlier study, we found that the anti-herpes antiviral drug, acyclovir, blocks HSV1 DNA replication, and reduces levels of beta-amyloid and tau caused by HSV1 infection of cell cultures.
It’s important to note that all studies, including our own, only show an association between the herpes virus and Alzheimer’s – they don’t prove that the virus is an actual cause. Probably the only way to prove that a microbe is a cause of a disease is to show that an occurrence of the disease is greatly reduced either by targeting the microbe with a specific anti-microbial agent or by specific vaccination against the microbe.
Excitingly, successful prevention of Alzheimer’s disease by use of specific anti-herpes agents has now been demonstrated in a large-scale population study in Taiwan. Hopefully, information inother countries, if available, will yield similar results.
We’re doing drug trials wrong – here’s how to fix it
(18 October 2018)
Image by Jason Salmon/Shutterstock.com
By Professor Tracy Hussell, Director of the Lydia Becker Institute of Immunology and Inflammation, which is launched today
By the age of 65, at least half of us will suffer from two or more long-term diseases. And the chance of having multi-morbidity, as it is known, increases with age.
Only 9% of people with coronary heart disease have no other condition. The other 91% have various combinations of hypertension (high blood pressure), heart failure, stroke, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, depression, dementia, chronic kidney disease and so on.
And it’s not just the elderly who suffer from several long-term conditions – young people do too. In poor areas, the occurrence of two or more diseases in the young [can occur ten to 15 years earlier] compared with those in wealthier regions.
People with multi-morbidities have to take a range of drugs: one or more for each disease. But whether drugs developed to treat single diseases are effective in patients with multi-morbidity is a matter of debate. In some patients, their body attacks the drug as though it were a pathogen. In other patients, the treatment causes [side effects] that are worse than the disease being treated, including an increased risk of infection.
A new class of drugs, so-called disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs, are being used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. These drugs treat the underlying disease rather than just ease the symptoms. This is a major advance, but at least 40% of the people taking them won’t see an improvement in their symptoms. This is probably because most patients have another disease, which may stop the drug working properly.
The root of the problem in developing all new medicines lies in the tendency to research, diagnose and treat diseases as a single entity. The single disease approach goes right back to the way biology is taught at school and university.
Multi-morbidity is the norm
A growing number of medical researchers think we should learn from disease combinations. This may seem like an impossible task, given the number of possible combinations, but some combinations are very common, such as heart disease and high blood pressure. And not taking multi-morbidities into account affects every stage of introducing a new drug, from its discovery to testing it in patients.
The decision to develop a new drug is based on the careful analysis of thousands of patient groups. But these groups are not divided based on the presence of other existing diseases. By not grouping patients based on pre-existing conditions, many relevant new drugs specific for particular disease combinations may be missed.
Once new drugs have been developed, they are first tested in animal models of a particular disease or in tissue culture, containing an individual cell type. There is no guarantee that this type of test is relevant for human disease, and there is also no guarantee that relevant drugs won’t be missed that might have worked in more complex disease combinations.
Multi-morbidities are also not taken into account when new drugs are tested in patients. Remarkably, the patients who have the most severe disease combinations, and are the most problematic to treat, are mostly excluded from clinical trials. In coronary heart disease, for example, on average, 69% of patients with multi-mobidities are excluded from clinical trials because clinicians are wary of making their disease even worse. Yet these are the patients that most need the treatment. Also, how the drug works may differ in patients with one disease compared with patients with more than one disease.
The situation is even worse for dementia patients where 95% have other diseases, yet in 86% of trials, patients with other conditions are excluded. Instead, recruitment for clinical trials picks those patients who are potentially less affected by the disease in question, as they do not have any of the commonly associated multi-morbidities, which could also mean they are in a younger age group that responds differently to the drug.
Appetite for a new approach
Is it any wonder that little progress has been made in the treatment of the most debilitating conditions affecting the human race? New targets for drugs should not be chosen irrespective of what else is wrong with the patient. Rather patients with a particular disease should be sub-categorised and studied based on the other diseases they have, and treatment specifically tested and tailored to their needs.
Also, science funding bodies and the pharmaceutical industry should drive the development of new animal and tissue culture models in which to test new drugs that encompass patient disease complexity. There is an appetite among researchers for this approach, but the momentum needs toincrease.
Hypothesis underpinning dementia research ‘flawed’
(16 October 2018)
A hypothesis which has been the standard way of explaining how the body develops Alzheimer’s Disease for almost 30 years is flawed, according to a University of Manchester biologist.
Older people who self-harm at highest risk of suicide, finds study
(16 October 2018)
People over 65 who harm themselves are more likely to die by suicide than other age groups according to new research published in the Lancet Psychiatry by University of Manchester and Keele University academics.
Candida test could save lives
(15 October 2018)
A study by a team of clinicians and scientists from Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust and The University of Manchester, published in the latest issue of the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, shows how deaths from a serious blood stream infection caused by the yeast Candida can be avoided.