Biomedical Sciences

Zika Virus

Alex Sampson considers the spread and disappearance of a new disease In mid-2015, media attention shifted from the subsiding Ebola outbreak in West Africa to a new viral epidemic: Zika. Emerging from relative obscurity, Zika virus swept across the Americas within a single year, infecting over 1.5 million people and leaving an unforeseen trail of children born with neurological defects. Coinciding with the Rio 2016 Olympics, the Zika virus epidemic

Cannabis Joins The Fight Against Addiction

Rachael Rhodes explores the potential medical applications of a Class C drug In 1996 Californians voted to introduce an untested medicinal drug into the public marketplace. Although the drug had not been through clinical trials, plenty of people had apparently tested it for themselves and were convinced of its effectiveness. I’m talking about cannabis (aka: marijuana, pot, weed), a drug that was illegal nearly everywhere else at the time. This

Come Flu with Me

Holly Giles tracks the spread of post-World War II collaborations within international research communities In 1947, in a post-war world divided by intense political tensions, scientists from countries all over the planet joined their effort to tackle together one of the most serious threats to human health: influenza. Every year, flu epidemics are responsible for approximately 250,000 to 500,000 deaths around the world. Whilst it is commonly believed that the

Big Bucks for Big Bugs

Zoë Carter considers the role of commercial research in the global fight against antibiotic resistance “Without urgent, co-ordinated action by many stakeholders, the world is headed for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries which have been treatable for decades can once again kill.” ­This warning was given in 2014 by Dr. Keiji Fukuda, the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Assistant Director-General for Health Security. Antibiotic resistance occurs

Running Away from Unwanted Inflammation

Kimberley Wiggins explores the anti-inflammatory effects of exercise Inflammation – it can save your life, or it can kill you. The process is necessary for the body’s response to injury and infection, where it helps to repair damaged tissue and fight off invading microbes. The problems start when levels of inflammatory mediators rise throughout the body in the absence of infections or tissue damage. This is known as ‘chronic low-grade

Overherd Immunity

Caitlin Stewart discusses the importance of vaccination and the dangers of the anti-vaccination movement Vaccination has been all over the news in recent years, as deadly, vaccine-preventable diseases are returning and infecting the population worldwide. One of these diseases, measles, was declared eradicated in the USA in the year 2000, but has since made a resurgence; with a 3-fold increase in cases between 2013 and 2014, according to the CDC,

Multidrug Resistance

Arthur Neuberger explains how increasing antibiotic resistance is a global threat that we breed inside ourselves In an interview with the BBC on the emerging threat of antibiotic resistance, Professor Dame Sally Davies, the Chief Medical Officer for England, made clear that if global society does not take countermeasures against the spread of antibiotic resistance today, in 10 to 20 years from now, we all might be back to an

The Ageing Brain

Antonina Kouli and Bart Nieuwenhuis put the future of our brains under the microscope. Ageing is an inevitable part of life – but what exactly makes us age? While researchers agree that there is no single cause of ageing – rather, it is a continuous multifactoral process – we are far from a complete understanding of the mechanisms at work. In particular, ageing of the brain remains a mystery. “Brain

When Citizen Science Works

Kimberley Wiggins gives us the story of an email that led to a medical breakthrough There are many hallmarks of a great scientific mind: the ability to think outside the box, the capacity to see connections between seemingly unrelated situations, and the aptitude to ask relevant questions and think up a way to answer them. Although scientists try to nurture and develop these skills throughout their careers, you do not have

Revisiting the Test Tube

Sarah Foster considers the ethical implications of growing human embryos in the lab for longer-term experiments Still reeling from a flurry of discussion and soul-searching in the wake of the first attempts at human genome editing in 2015, the world of human embryo research now faces another controversial breakthrough. Two groups of researchers, including several Cambridge scientists, have grown human embryos in culture for an unprecedented 13 days. The researchers were