Biomedical Sciences

A Psychedelic Conversation: Tackling the Taboo

Antonina Kouli and Bart Nieuwenhuis report on the CamBRAIN panel discussion of psychedelic drugs’ medical potential As strange as it sounds today, psychedelic drugs like LSD and psilocybin (magic mushrooms’ active ingredient) showed great clinical promise in the early 1960s. Several early scientific papers suggested that psychedelics could be used to treat psychiatric disorders and even for pain relief. However, the simultaneous rise in psychedelic use by the public at

The Drug that Brought the Dress Back

Following Professor France Ashcroft’s 2015 damehood, Atreyi Chakrabarty examines how the work of one woman transformed both treatment and understanding of a debilitating childhood disease. Neonatal diabetes is a myth. At least that was what Frances Ashcroft was told in 1997 on her quest to find newborns with the condition. Yet her persistence and determination to find the cause and cure of this unique condition was unfailing. Not only did she

Standing on the Gene: an interview with Professor Wolf Reik

Jiali Gao and Salvador Buse discuss the emerging field of epigenetic modification, and ask Professor Wolf Reik where it might take us. In the news, in conversation, in the cafe – you have probably heard of epigenetics. But what exactly is it? Epigenetics literally means ‘on top of genetics’. Whereas genetics is the study of genes, which are stretches of DNA containing the information needed to make proteins, epigenetics is the study

Understanding the Irrational

Laura Nunez-Mulder discusses psychiatry’s future with Professor Paul Fletcher Psychiatry is changing. Historically, the field has been dynamic, undergoing transformation as institutions and asylums have come in and out of fashion. Over the last century, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), a handbook of checklists by which psychiatrists can make diagnoses, has been overhauled time and time again. The DSM is a controversial manual. Many disorders overlap,

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,