Jul – Dec 2015

Blog Articles from 2015

Knowing your enemy: viruses as the Trojan Horses of our immune system

It’s that time of year when we all seem to pass around the same cold; everyone seems to be sniffing a bit more than usual, or suffering from that irritating cough that you just can’t get rid of. A cold is just one of many ailments caused by viral infections, and although it might not always feel like it, your immune system is constantly fighting these viruses. But how does a cell know when it’s infected? New research from Jan Rehwinkel’s lab, published in Science earlier this year, shows that infected cells can in fact hijack the viruses themselves to help the body fight against them. Intrigued? Alice Mayer explains more…

How students see scientists: Part X

In the last of our series of blogs written by students who chose to spend their summers at the WIMM, Kristian Rutenberg-Houchen tells us how his time in Jan Rehwinkel’s lab has inspired him to pursue this ‘exciting and ever-changing career’.

How students see scientists: Part IX

Rarely do scientists regard failed experiments as ‘exciting’ (in fact, one would imagine they have a variety of choice words which they might use instead to describe such occurrences). However, in the latest in our series of blogs written by students who undertake work placements at the WIMM, Aliya Chandaria and Lisa Li remind us that what many scientists regard as routine and mundane procedures are actually pretty remarkable, and enable scientists to investigate human biology in fascinating detail.

Can our own immune system beat cancer?

The MRC’s annual science writing competition, the Max Perutz Science Writing Prize, challenges MRC-funded PhD students to communicate the importance of their research to a non-scientifically trained audience in 800 words or less. This year, several students from the WIMM submitted excellent entries to the competition, including Tomek Dobrzycki (whose entry was published on the blog last month) and the article below written by Lauren Howson, a DPhil student in Enzo Cerundolo’s lab.

How students see scientists: Part VIII

In the latest in our series of blogs written by students who spend their summers undertaking work placements at the WIMM, Miriam O’Hanlon describes her experiences during the week she spent working in Hal Drakesmith’s lab in July – and how relieved she was not to just be making the tea.

How students see scientists: Part VII

Last year the WIMM established a collaboration with the Chinese University of Hong Kong to encourage and support medical students on the Global Physician Leadership Stream to participate in exchange studies overseas. This year, Timothy Liong Tipoe chose to spend the summer break from his medical studies working in Paresh Vyas’ lab with Lynn Quek, and in this latest post in our series written by students undertaking placements at the WIMM, he explains how his time here has inspired him to pursue a career in clinical research.

Making faces: New insights into craniofacial malformations

Craniofacial malformations, i.e. those that affect the head and face, make up over one-third of all congenital birth defects. These types of abnormalities can also have the greatest impact on patients, who often have concerns about their appearance that can have a significant impact on their quality of life. Professor Andrew Wilkie has been part of the WIMM for over 20 years, where his Clinical Genetics Group try to understand the molecular basis of a type of skull malformation called craniosynostosis. In this blog, Aimee Fenwick tells us how far our understanding of this devastating disease has come in the past ten years.

Fishing for improved leukaemia treatments

To enter this year’s MRC Max Perutz Science Writing Award, MRC-funded PhD students were asked to answer the question: ‘Why does my research matter?’ Here, Tomek Dobrzycki (a PhD student in Roger Patient’s lab) publishes his entry for the Award, in which he describes why zebrafish might hold the key to understanding how blood stem cells are formed.

25 years of LMO2: from bad guy to good guy

Twenty-five years ago the gene that codes for the protein LMO2 was discovered. To mark this anniversary, the lab that made this initial finding, now based in the WIMM, have written a review article to highlight the history, current understanding and continued importance of this remarkable protein in human health and disease. In this blog, Jennifer Chambers, a PhD student in the lab, focuses on some key characteristics of this complex protein.

How students see scientists: Part VI

In the latest post in our series of blogs written by students who undertake summer placements at the WIMM, Isabella Watts (a second year medical student at the University of Oxford) tells us why she would definitely advise other students to do a research placement as part of their training, and that actually science can be quite fun…

How students see scientists: Part V

Every year, the WIMM plays host to students at varying stages in their careers who are keen to get an insight into life in the lab and, of course, to find out what scientists are REALLY like. In the latest in our series of posts written by students who undertake placements at the Institute, Eva Masmanian, a second year medical student on a Wellcome Trust Scholarship, tells us about her experiences working in Tatjana Sauka-Spengler’s lab.


Personalised medicine: hope or hype?

We all know that it’s important to eat our greens, but can any of us actually explain why? Vitamins are critical for the normal growth and function of our bodies, but not always in entirely expected ways. In this latest blog, Lauren Howson explains how a subset of white blood cells can use vitamins to detect and fight bacterial infections. Who knew?

Personalised medicine: hope or hype?

The idea that the information contained in your personal DNA sequence could be used to develop treatments that are specifically tailored to you is a hot topic in medical research, but how likely is it that this will ever become a reality? A recent collaborative study, involving scientists from the WIMM and many others across Oxford, set out to answer this question: and their findings were published in Nature Genetics earlier this month.

How do you fix broken blood?

Congenital Dyserythropoietic Anaemia (CDA) is a rare disease that causes insufficient production of red blood cells. This means that the body is unable to carry enough oxygen around to its vital organs, resulting in dizziness, chest pain, tiredness and shortness of breath. In severe cases, patients are dependent on regular blood transfusions for life. In a subset of these patients, the underlying cause of how this disease is passed down from generation to generation remains elusive – but two grants recently award to scientists working in Veronica Buckle’s lab in the MRC MHU hope to help solve this problem.

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