Friday, 27 November 2015

Trip to Public Health England: Porton Down

On November 19th 2015, myself and another 3rd year Healthcare Science (Life Sciences) student spent a day visiting Porton Down, Wiltshire, as part of our Public Health Infections module. We visited the public health laboratory, but Porton Down is also home to MOD facilities. I wasn’t sure what to expect!

We discussed what Public Health England does, particularly its role in fighting the Ebola outbreak. Porton Down trained all of the lab staff who went to Sierra Leone to work with Ebola, and we were later given the opportunity to see the training lab and try out the containment level 4 lab equipment. I could just about use a pipette through the 3 layers of gloves! It was fascinating to hear about the outbreaks from the point-of-view of people who actually went to Sierra Leone, and have the opportunity to discuss it with them. 

We were also shown around the Rare and Imported Pathogens Laboratory (RIPL) where diagnoses of rare viral and bacterial infections such as Ebola, Anthrax and Lyme disease are made. Having recently spent 3 months on placement in an NHS Microbiology lab, I was intrigued to see where samples for non-routine infections were sent for diagnosis. We spoke to other teams of staff who worked with mathematical modelling, geographical information systems, epidemiology and health psychology to predict patterns in disease and public responses. This is a large part of public health which I knew little about, and it was really interesting!

I enjoyed the visit very much - everyone was friendly and keen to show us the laboratories and equipment we had never seen before. It also opened my eyes to other potential career opportunities outside of the NHS. It was a fantastic opportunity and I’m very grateful to Professor Simon Jackson (Plymouth) and Professor Nigel Silman (PHE) for organising the trip! 

Isabelle Drummond

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Nuffield Research Placement Celebration Evening

On the 11th of November, The Nuffield Foundation held a Celebration Evening at Penryn Campus in Cornwall, where project students and placement providers were presented with certificates. The School of Biomedical and Healthcare Sciences had four research placement students over the summer in various labs, and the following staff had provided supervision: Prof Simon Jackson, Dr Charles Affourtit, Dr Tracy Madgett and Dr Feisal Subhan. Students are typically in the middle of their ‘A’ levels and conduct their projects for 4 to 6 weeks. All the students were full of enthusiasm and were wonderful to work with. In spite of the wet weather, the function attracted a good number of people, and there was a chance to see all the interesting posters students worked on and also socialise over dinner. Rachel Delourme from Cornwall Learning organised the event, and she is responsible for placing students in appropriate research organisations. The Nuffield Foundation encourages students who don't have a family history of going to university, or who attend schools in less well-off areas, to take part in these placements.

Below we see a student with a strong interest in Biology (Ameila) with Feisal, and being awarded her certificate by Rachel.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

M.Sc. student wins prize for talk at scientific conference

Megan Sharp a Plymouth University postgraduate was last month awarded the prize of Best Research Project Presentation in the Immunology discipline whilst representing the University of Plymouth at the IBMS Congress 2015. Megan presented to a team of immunologists that attended the congress earlier this year and judged her as well as the other delegates. Along with the award Megan received a prize of £150.00 and gained CPD credits.

To present at the IBMS Congress 2015, students from the University of Plymouth’s MSc Biomedical science programme were invited to submit a research abstract from their MSc research projects, ahead of completing their masters. Megan took it upon herself to submit an abstract and was asked to present an oral presentation by the judges. The research abstract was accepted and will be published in the near future. Megan is pictured below receiving the award from the judge Mrs Maureen Moody (to Megan’s right).

Megan carried out her research at the University of Plymouth with supervisor Dr Kris Jeremy, as well as other staff and lecturers such as Dr Andrew Foey and Dr Paul Waines. The research project was entitled: Increased Phagocytosis of CML Cells Following CD47 Knockdown. Megan tailored her research project to her own interests and collaborated with several staff to gain the most from her research, learning several skills including flow cytometry and transfection.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at The University of Plymouth and the MSc Biomedical science programme has been the highlight of a brilliant four years. What attracted me to the master’s programme was the longer research project module which involved a several month period of laboratory experience. In this time I was entrusted to carryout laboratory work and learn several new techniques as well as supervise undergraduate students. I was very much in charge of my research and controlled the direction it would take, something that will help me in my future research. Dr Craig Donaldson, Acting Head of School of Biomedical & Healthcare Sciences, told us of an opportunity to present at the IBMS Congress 2015, something which would broaden our research profile. The opportunity was fantastic and something I would highly recommend to future students, wanting to share their research with fellow scientists.”

Megan graduated from the University of Plymouth with a distinction in MSc Biomedical Sciences specialising in Immunology and was also a previous student of the BSc (Hons) Human Biosciences

Advance in prenatal testing at Plymouth

Research into a simple, accurate and low risk blood test that can detect foetal blood group, sex, and genetic conditions in unborn babies has been published in the international scientific journal, Clinical Chemistry.

Kelly Silence, a PhD student in the School and lead author, writes "We have developed a highly sensitive and cost-effective test that enables rapid determination of fetal sex and RHD genotype from a maternal blood sample, which can be collected in the first trimester of pregnancy during the initial consultation. Developing non-invasive tests eradicates the need for invasive testing, such as CVS and amniocentesis, which are associated with a small but significant risk of miscarriage (1%).

Determining fetal sex is important for families at risk of X-linked genetic disorders and congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH), in which diagnosis can enable treatment to be targeted to female fetuses.
In addition, determining whether the fetus is positive or negative (for RHD) in mothers with a negative blood type, can enable treatment to be target to fetuses which are RHD positive, and thus at risk of developing haemolytic disease of the fetus and newborn (HDFN).

Currently, routine testing of fetal RHD status has been implemented in the Netherlands and Denmark using real-time PCR (qPCR). However, this approach can be associated with false negative results, especially if the level of cell-free fetal DNA (cffDNA) within the maternal circulation is low (<3%). False negative results can be detrimental, since treatment is not given, and thus fetus is at risk of developing HDFN.

By using droplet digital PCR (ddPCR) technology, we have identified an approach that enables accurate determination of fetal sex and RHD status, even when the cffDNA is present at <1%. This novel platform separates each sample into thousands of droplets (up to 20,000), which enables accurate detection of molecules present in low copy numbers.

Fetal aneuploidy is one of the most predominant reasons why women choose to undergo invasive testing, and although next generation sequencing techniques can determine fetal aneuploidy non-invasively with high sensitivity (>99%), these tests are too expensive for routine clinical testing (£400- £900). Our group has shown, using spike samples, that ddPCR can be used an alternative non-invasive test for a fraction of the cost (<£10). However, further analysis of clinical samples is required to determine the feasibility of this approach.

For more information see Clinical Chemistry publication entitled; ‘Fetal sex and RHD genotyping using droplet digital PCR demonstrates greater sensitivity compared to real-time PCR’ (". Links to press coverage are below.

Friday, 6 November 2015

Plymouth in World Antibiotic Awareness Week

PU activities for World Antibiotic Awareness Week (WAAW - 16-20th November) are being coordinated by Mat Upton, with help from staff in External Relations and Communications and Marketing. There is a social media campaign planned (Mat needing particular help because he is such a Twitter novice!) and student ambassadors will be out around campus at various times to help students carry out a short online survey and give more background. Details about WAAW are on the PU events webpage, but Mat is happy to talk to anyone who wants to know more (or wants to get involved!).

Mat has a particular interest in this subject, which is very relevant to some of his research, but he really feels that this is something we should all be interested in - rising levels of antibiotic resistance will have an impact on everyone. So…..learn about antibiotic resistance and how to protect these precious medicines by following the links on the webpage and think about pledging to be an Antibiotic Guardian!

Bonfire Night Health & Safety?

(left) Plymouth Healthcare Science student Nathalie Dinar puts on the Ebola Treatment Centre's PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) helped by Dr. Christopher Logue from the Novel and Dangerous Pathogens Training Group at Public Health England (PHE) at Porton Down. Christopher called in between his work for PHE in Sierra Leone to lecture on our third year Public Health Infection Science module. Students on this module will visit PHE at Porton Down soon to see at first hand how infectious disease threats are managed.

Students also learnt to correctly remove surgical gloves after handling a simulated contagious substance (below).

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Our first Biomed M.Sc. graduates

Along with friends and family, we recently celebrated the graduation of the first cohort on our MSc Biomedical Science programme (see photos below taken at the ceremony, which was held at the Hoe on Plymouth's seafront - Acting Head of School Craig Donaldson is the one without the mortarboard).

Five students graduated with Distinction and ten with Merit with Mark Atkin, seen here (left) receiving his MSc from Prof David Coslett, Interim Vice Chancellor, being awarded the Highest Achiever Academic Excellence Award for the highest overall mark in the taught elements and Amy Lakey the Highest Achiever Research Excellence Prize for her research dissertation (below, with Andy Evendon; Associate Dean of Teaching and Learning).

We wish all our graduates the best for the future. Please keep us up to date about your subsequent success.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Lecturer on the Today programme

Click here to listen to lecturer Mat Upton being interviewed on BBC Radio 4's flagship Today programme about his progress in making new drugs against dangerous pathogens such as MRSA. The interview is from 6:52 to 6:57am (note this link will only work for the next 29 days). They discuss how Mat is now working with an Edinburgh company Ingenza to manufacture these antimicrobials, planning to start clinical trials within the next 2 years, and the need for tighter regulation of antibiotic use and why big pharmaceutical companies are not doing more. More information is available in the university press release.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Student wins IBMS President’s Prize

Liana Gynn was awarded the IBMS President’s Prize at the recent graduation ceremony at Plymouth University having graduated with a first-class BSc (Hons) Biomedical Science degree.  The President's Prize of £100 plus certificate is awarded to one student graduating from an IBMS accredited BSc Hons programme who has achieved academic distinction in a particular year who is also a member of the Institute. They must be registered as a member of the Institute at the time of the application.

Liana is pictured below receiving the award from Andrew Usher, IBMS Council member for the South West Region (to Liana's left), along with Dr Craig Donaldson (to Liana's right: Acting Head of Department of Biomedical & Healthcare Science) and Dr Simon Fox (Biomedical Science Programme Leader).

Liana took full advantage of the opportunities available at Plymouth and proactively sought a placement year in the Centre for Biomedical Research. During the placement year she helped to establish stromal/mesenchymal cell cultures and  optimized several cytotoxic and genotoxic assays including the comet and micronucleus assays to examine chemotherapeutic induced damage to bone marrow stroma. She showed initiative throughout her placement and has was very proactive in seeking advice and setting up collaborations to move the research forward.

“Gaining practical research experience was something that I was really interested in, and so I was lucky to have been able to assist in the research of Dr. Craig Donaldson as a year’s placement. This gave me invaluable experience of what real research entails and helped me develop skills on both an academic and personal level. These skills formed a much stronger foundation for my final year and inevitably led to the successes I have seen since. Having had such a positive time in research so far, I look forward to what lies ahead in a research-based career.”

In her final year Liana studied Transfusion & Transplantation Science, Biochemistry, Molecular & Cellular Pathology and Current Developments in Biomedical Science and her research project was “‘Characterisation of Human Stromal Cells Exposed to Conventional and Reduced Intensity Chemotherapy using Mass Spectrometry-Based Proteomics.” She was very self-motivated, conscientious and again her attention to detail was exemplary. She was awarded the Research Excellence Award (Highest Achiever in Research Project YR3) for the best final year project and the Academic Excellence Award (Highest Achiever Year 3) on the BSc Biomedical Science degree.
“Along with the School’s weekly seminars and the lab meetings I attended through my placement and final year, I have also enjoyed the opportunity to partake in research conferences. I attended the UKEMS conference this July, which was a four day event covering many aspects of toxicology and cancer prevention, as well as presenting a poster of my final year research project at the University’s Biomedical Research conference this September. Not only were these fantastic learning opportunities, but they provided the structure to network with such a wide variety of research professionals, which I now know to be central to successful collaborative research.”

Liana will shortly be starting as a Research Assistant at the Royal Cornwall Hospital working on haematology and oncology clinical trials and we wish her well in her future career.

Friday, 25 September 2015

First years meet strange Plymouth residents

A good evening for all in the marquee on the Hoe as first year undergraduate students, postgrads and staff in all the health-related subjects meet up for drinks, magicians and gargoyles. Thank you to our students who posed here: enjoy your course and your time in Plymouth!

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Our undergraduate researching in Oxford - final letter

This is the last in a series of letters from one of our undergraduates, Kati O'Brien, who found funding to work over the summer at Oxford University: see her blog entry on Weds 22nd July.

The final days!

At the moment, I am busy writing up my results of my project, along with carrying out the remaining statistical analysis; I am required to submit a brief report to the Wellcome trust, alongside submission of my own report to the team in Oxford (which will be good practice for writing up my dissertation this year!) The team has made me feel so at home here and part of the family, and even threw me a wonderful leaving dinner (with lots of cake).

 I have had a wonderful time up here, and would thoroughly recommend making the most of any opportunities for research experience.  At the end of stage 1 I carried out a summer research project at Plymouth university, which allowed me to take more of a ‘hands-on’ approach than the taught components in the degree alone provided. Spending this summer in Oxford has further built on these laboratory skills, and has indeed opened my eyes to the more clinically orientated facets of science. It has enabled me to appreciate the vast opportunities that a career in research has to offer, and I would jump at the chance to do it all again!


Wednesday, 16 September 2015

World-leading Immunologist kicks off Biomed Research Day

Once every year the scientists from the Centre for Biomedical Research come together to show-case their current research data to scientists within the university, collaborators and invited external guests.  It was a great honour to have our research day opened by a presentation given by Prof. Siamon Gordon, Emeritus Professor at Oxford University who is a world-leader in the biology of macrophages.  Siamon eloquently set the scene for these innate immune cells and the role they play in immune defence; the function of which is clearly defined by subset and local tissue/cellular environment.

This talk was followed by a series of macrophage-focussed talks from our resident researchers.  Dr Andy Foey (Lecturer in Immunology) had the un-enviable task in following Siamon and presented how subsets of these cells make differential activation/suppression decisions in response to the oral pathogen, Porphyromonas gingivalis, a keystone pathogen in Chronic Periodontitis.  Prof Simon Jackson introduced his latest work on how macrophage functions are controlled through the expression and activity of an enzyme that controls cell membrane fluidity and “rafting” of receptor signalling molecules that respond to bacterial pathogens.  The aim of this work being to create a better mechanistic understanding that may lead to a molecular or cellular-based therapeutic regimen in the treatment of sepsis.  Dr Gyorgy Fejer changed focus to the lungs with MPI, a self-renewing tissue-resident alveolar macrophage cell line which can be used as an in vitro model for asthma and other lung diseases.  This macrophage focus was further reinforced by Prof David Parkinson who described the influx of reparative macrophages upon injury to peripheral nerves and schwann cells.

Changing track somewhat, Dr Matt Upton highlighted the grave issue of antibiotic resistance and his group’s efforts in the search for novel exogenous antimicrobial peptides as a viable alternative to current antibiotics prescribed by the doctor.  Dr Vehid Salih introduced the field of tissue engineering in dentistry; indicating the need for more appropriate 3D modelling in the characterisation of oral mucosal responses.  The growing dental research interests were further represented by the final talk of the day by Dr Sveta Zaric who presented data on the differences in bacterial LPS structure and how these different structures impact on the immune system’s ability to recognise and respond to oral pathogens. 
Last but not least......our research students: in addition to the talks, this research meeting included an opportunity for PhD students and Post-doctoral scientists to present their work in a poster symposium. These included presentations from all the research groups within the Centre for Biomedical Research and some of our collaborators outside the centre. The final recognition was given to the best scientific poster prize, presented to Kelly Sillence, one of our final year PhD students who presented her research data focussing on droplet digital PCR technology and its application for non-invasive prenatal testing of sex and blood genetic typing.

In conclusion, what was nicely demonstrated by this research day is the way that many of our research strands overlap and are converging to develop fruitful collaborations and a truly-interlinking research nucleus that will help the University of Plymouth punch above its weight with respect to Biomedical Research in the future.

Friday, 28 August 2015

Undergraduate researching in Oxford - update

It’s me again!

I have now finished my laboratory work and have been spending some time working on statistical analysis of the results. Word to the wise: if you are considering further study in research, pay attention to statistics/epidemiology-based modules whenever you can! Although the software here took a little getting used to, the basic principles are the same; even my course notes from stage 1 and 2 have enabled me to work more efficiently here.

There have been various interactive presentations given in a similar manner to the weekly seminar series at Plymouth (but with more cake!), either by team members or other research groups. I highly recommend attending these during term time; it can be a wonderful way to learn about current developments and broaden your scientific interest outside the curriculum boundaries.

 I have also been able to get involved with other projects, mainly investigating the changes in heart structure and function in pregnant women who have been diagnosed with preeclampsia, and comparing these attributes to those in normal pregnancies. This has been achieved by a combination of MRI and echocardiography (see images below), and has been a rather exciting addition to my time here.


Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Undergraduate researching in Oxford

This is the first in a series of letters from one of our undergraduates, Kati O'Brien, who has found funding to work over the summer at Oxford University.

I am all settled in now, and I have been here for just over a month. I am currently working on a study concerned with the effect of prematurity and hypertensive disorders of pregnancy on offspring and cardiovascular Health. My project is concerned with women who have recently given birth; I am testing the maternal blood samples for various biomarkers associated with preeclampsia, to investigate the post-partum cardiovascular effects on these women. I have some great results so far, and can’t wait to put the data together!

The team all work on separate projects branching from the main study, and everyone is very helpful and supportive, making my time here even more enjoyable. I work with a range of people including post-docs, research nurses, clinical leads and the professor of course. I have also been lucky enough to assist with MRI scanning and exercise testing in adults born preterm, and there are always opportunities to learn about other exciting research going on. 

I contacted Professor Lesson here at Oxford as I was interested in exploring more clinically orientated research. After submitting my university transcript, academic CV and having a couple of Skype interviews with the team here to determine my suitability, I then applied to the welcome trust for the ‘Biomedical Vacation Scholarship’ (The link for the welcome trust is: With support from the professor and Michael Jarvis, I was awarded the scholarship, which covers the cost of living etc up here for the duration.


Collaboration with Japan in exercise physiology

Dr Brynmor Breese recently received a travel grant from the UK Physiological Society to undertake a research project at Kobe University in Japan investigating the effects of nitrate supplementation on muscle deoxygenation responses during exercise. This project is the first of its kind to use innovative time-resolved spectroscopy (TRS) across multiple sites within quadriceps muscle to further explore the promising effects that have been reported during exercise after ingesting nitrate-rich beetroot juice. The research study was delivered under the supervision of Professor Shunsaku Koga and consisted of performing thirty-two exercise trials using human volunteers after consuming four days of either nitrate-rich beetroot or placebo juice (supplied by James White Drinks, Ipswich, UK). The TRS system was developed by Hamamatsu Photonics and is capable of measuring the absorption and scattering of near-infrared light emitted at different wavelengths into skeletal muscle tissue. Using this technology enables the quantification of absolute concentrations of deoxygenated hemoglobin/myoglobin which, in turn, can yield important information on the levels of oxygen being circulated in the bloodstream in relation to the muscles increased energy demand when we exercise. It is hoped this data will enhance our understanding of how dietary factors may play an important role regulating local blood flow which becomes impaired as we age or from cardiovascular disease and therefore contributes to the poorer exercise capacity observed in these states.

Friday, 10 July 2015

School students do well in '3 minute PhD' competition

Kathy Redfern and Sylvia Pregnolato (left and second to left respectively) made it through to the Plymouth final of the Three Minute Thesis competition. This is an international contest in which students have to give a talk that explains their research to the public in just three minutes.

You can read more about the contest here.

Kathy is looking at how diet and physical activity during pregnancy affect the timing and composition of gestational weight gain, and how these maternal lifestyle factors in turn affect infant birth size characteristics. Her project should help future pregnancy intervention strategies aimed at improving maternal and infant pregnancy, birth and postnatal outcomes (supervisor Gail Rees). Silvia is interested in the genetic contribution to postpartum psychoses - some of the most severe episodes seen in psychiatry, with sudden onset and rapid escalation shortly after childbirth. Her research combines both molecular work on a gene of interest and computational analysis to investigate the genetic relationship of these episodes with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and pre-eclampsia. Insights into the role of genetic factors will not only facilitate early recognition, management and drug development, but also improve our understanding and classification of these disorders (supervisor Elaine Green).

Monday, 29 June 2015

Lecturer's spin-off company gets boost

Spectromics, a company launched last year, have secured a significant investment for development of a device that can be used to tell whether a patient has a bacterial infection and, if an antibiotic is required, provide guidance on which drug to prescribe.

The founding scientists of Spectromics: Professor Roy Goodacre, of Manchester Institute of Biotechnology and Dr Mat Upton, of the School of Biomedical and Healthcare Sciences, Plymouth University, have worked on this technology for a number of years prior to company formation, they are now both Directors of the company.

The company is developing the technology into a point-of-prescription test that fits within a typical 10 minute doctor-patient appointment. It will consist of a low cost, simple to use instrument used together with test specific disposable cartridges. Each cartridge will test the sample for infection susceptibility against a panel of candidate antibiotics routinely used for that particular infection.

Friday, 5 June 2015

Students support research by fund-raising

A big research area at Plymouth is brain tumours. Here is the press release about a recent event about students getting involved in raising funds for this research.

Generous students from Plymouth University have raised more than £200 for charity Brain Tumour Research, at a ‘virtual’ horse racing event.

Arranged by Plymouth University Students Union, which has adopted Brain Tumour Research as one of its charities this year, those taking part were invited to place bets on a computerised horse race, or become the owner of a ‘virtual’ horse in return for a donation.

There were eight virtual runners in eight races, and the runners in the last race were put up for auction to raise even more funds.

Brain Tumour Research supports research at Plymouth University, which holds the reputation as a leading facility in Europe looking at low-grade brain tumours. The research team are exploring the potential for the repurposing of existing drugs to ‘fast-track’ potential treatments, instead of waiting for new drugs to be developed, tested and trialled and passed for patient use – a process that can take a decade or longer.

By understanding the mechanism that makes brain cells become cancerous in low-grade tumours, the team are looking at ways in which to halt or reverse this process. The results from this research assists investigations into high-grade tumours as high and low grade tumours share some common features.

The event was organised by a team led by student Emily Blacklock. She said: “Everyone had a great time and it was a huge success. We were really pleased to have been able to raise money for such a worthwhile cause.”

Left to right – Plymouth University students Emily Harris, Emily Blacklock, Bethany Lake and Kathryn Coate

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Funding to help find new antibiotics

One of our lecturers, Mat Upton, has been awarded £217,00 as Lead Academic on an Innovate UK/BBSRC award to help develop new antibiotics. The aim is to make a fermentation system to produce commercially viable amounts of the lead antibiotic, epidermicin, which could be a new therapy for MRSA infection. This is a collaborative project with the industrial biotechnology company Ingenza (Edinburgh).

The project is part of a larger programme of research by Mat into a new class of antibiotics called bacteriocins - antimicrobial peptides produced by bacteria to kill other bacteria. Epidermicin is a potent and novel bacteriocin that he and collaborators have shown to out perform current therapies in a model system. The new funding will help progress epidermicin towards clinical trials by demonstrating that it can be cost-effectively produced in large amounts.

Advance towards Ebola vaccine at Plymouth

A multi-institutional study is led by Dr Michael Jarvis here at Plymouth University shows the durability of a novel ‘disseminating’ vaccine strategy, which might enable us to combat ebolavirus infection in wild African ape species. You can access the article here and read about the work below.

African apes serve as a main source of ebolavirus transmission into the human population. As a consequence, the prevention of ebolavirus infection in African apes could reduce the incidence of future human ebolavirus outbreaks.  Ebola virus is also highly lethal to African apes, and is regarded as a major threat to the survival of these populations in the wild. Such a ‘disseminating’ vaccine offers hope for both stabilizing these endangered ape populations and protecting humans against the devastating effects of Ebola.

The innovative approach may overcome the major hurdle to achieving high vaccine coverage of these animals.  They live in of some of the most remote, inaccessible regions of the world which makes conventional, individual vaccination near impossible.

Apart from being very immunogenic (able to provoke an immune response) and species-specific, CMV can also spread easily from individual to individual, a process which remains remarkably unaffected by prior CMV immunity. This is the basis of the team’s current innovative strategy of using a CMV-based ebolavirus vaccine that can spread through wild ape populations as a means to provide high levels of protective ebolavirus-specific immunity without the need for direct vaccination.

The current publication expands on a 2011 study, in which the same collaborative research team first showed the ability of a CMV-based vaccine to provide protection against Ebola virus in a mouse challenge model.

Most Ebola virus vaccine mouse studies, including this earlier 2011 study, have only assessed protection against Ebola virus infection shortly after vaccination (generally within six weeks post-vaccination). The present study showed that immunity induced by CMV is extremely long-lasting, with Ebola virus-specific immune responses being maintained for greater than 14 months (equivalent to half the life span of a mouse) following only a single dose of the vaccine.

Importantly, immunity induced by the CMV vaccine was able to provide protection against Ebola virus at least until 119 days (approximately four months) post-vaccination. Long-lasting immunity will be critical for the eventual success of this disseminating vaccine approach. It is also an attractive characteristic for a (albeit non-disseminating) CMV-based Ebola virus vaccine for direct use in humans, which is an additional area of development of the current collaborative research group.  

The next step, which is nearing completion, is to trial the vaccine using CMV in the macaque EBOV challenge model (regarded as the ‘gold standard’ for testing vaccines in a model translatable to Ebola infection in great apes and humans). The results from this study further support the utility of this approach and will be published in the next few months. Many questions clearly remain, including the nature of the immunity conferred by disseminated CMV vaccines (in the current study mice were directly inoculated).

“We must walk before we can run, but this study provided a little skip,” said Dr. Michael Jarvis, corresponding author on the study from Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry. “However, this disseminating approach does potentially provide a workable solution to a currently intractable problem of achieving high vaccine coverage in inaccessible ape populations. Given the impact of ebolavirus on African ape numbers in the wild, and the role of apes as a route of ebolavirus transmission to humans via the bush meat trade, such a vaccine would be a win-win for humans and wild apes alike.”

To this end the project has been incorporated as a component of an international research program, which includes key players such as the World Wildlife Fund and National Institutes of Health, which are dedicated to driving the project forward to mobilization.

Friday, 6 March 2015

Students working at Plymouth Argyle football club

Below is a press release from this Wednesday entitled "Students are hungry to up their game".

Undergraduates on the Nutrition, Exercise and Health, and Health and Fitness degrees, are being are matched to sporting ‘partners’ from local clubs, University teams and sports scholarship students, as part of the practical element of their course.

This year is the first time students have teamed up with Plymouth Argyle Football club, who welcome the chance for feedback on ways to up their game. Three students – Sebastian Readhead, Samuel Downs and Katharina Gross – have been selected to work with the Argyle Academy players, where they will meet for an initial interview, give them a dietary assessment, including recording the players’ height, weight and body fat, and task them with keeping a record of training, as well as food and drink intake.

Gail Rees, Associate Professor in Human Nutrition from the School of Biomedical and Healthcare Sciences, said: “We are delighted the club has come on board with the study. The students learn a great deal from working with real clients. It helps their professionalism and communication skills and provides a ‘real life’ assessment in the module. Most students enjoy the ‘hands-on’ approach.” Once the information is collected, it will be analysed using a computer programme which will calculate the player’s intake of energy, fat, carbohydrate, protein, vitamins and minerals. Each player will receive a full breakdown of their diet and some advice on how to modify it, which their coaches can also use to support them in the future.

Sebastian Readhead said: “It’s great to be able to put the things we have learned in the classroom into practice. Our bodies require increased amounts of essential  macro and micro-nutrients to sustain intense or prolonged physical activity. We want to advise the footballers on how they can maintain the right diet to help with their development and give them the edge in their game.”

James Greenacre, Commercial Operations Manager at Plymouth Argyle Football Club, said: “We value any advice which affords our players the chance to increase their performance, and we are hoping to see great results on both sides from this partnership.”

Below. Sebastian Readhead with football player Liam Knowles.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Student 'highly commended' in national essay competition

Stefania Guiu - a second year Nutrition, Exercise and Health student - was shortlisted for a prestigious essay prize and invited to the event in London last week. The other shortlisted applicants were either studying at Oxford University or doing post-graduate research!

Stefania writes: "After sending an essay on “How has the modern diet contributed to the increase in mental ill-health” for the Henry Kitchener Prize 2015, organised by the Institute for Food, Brain & Behaviour, I was selected for the shortlist of prizes and invited to the event in London where the winner was announced. Among the speakers was Professor Michael Crawford from Imperial College, London, who gave a lecture on “The Global Crisis in Nutrition & Mental Ill-Health”.  My essay was awarded a 'highly commended' and attending this event was an amazing experience, developing an even greater passion for nutrition in me.  Moreover, it also proved how amazing and diverse this area actually is and how important it is, not only for the time being, but also for the future."