Researchers’ Weekly Bulletin: the Blog

News for researchers at the Manchester Metropolitan University

Study in twins finds blood protein that may indicate risk of Alzheimer’s disease

Monday, June 29th, 2015

“Scientists have identified a single blood protein that may indicate the development of Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) years before symptoms appear, a disorder that has been associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias.”

“The research, published [ ] in Translational Psychiatry, used data from over 100 sets of twins from TwinsUK, the biggest adult twin cohort in the UK. The use of 55 identical twin-pairs in the study allowed researchers to show that the association between the blood protein and a ten year decline in cognitive ability was independent of age and genetics, both of which are already known to affect the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia.”

“The study, the largest of its kind to date, measured over 1,000 proteins in the blood of over 200 healthy individuals using a laboratory test called SOMAscan*, a protein biomarker discovery tool that simultaneously measures a wide range of different proteins. Using a computerised test, the researchers then assessed each individual’s cognitive ability, and compared the results with the measured levels of each different protein in the blood.”

“For the first time, they found that the blood level of a protein called MAPKAPK5 was, on average, lower in individuals whose cognitive ability declined over a ten year period.!

The paper, entitled ‘Plasma protein biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease endophenotypes in asymptomatic older twins: early cognitive decline and regional bran volumes’, by Kiddle et al, doi:10.1038/tp.2015.78, will be published (Open Access) in Translational Psychiatry.

[Source Medical Research Council news: ]


Policy for digital cultural heritage in education

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015

“This document proposes a set of recommendations for the use of digital cultural heritage in education and learning. It concerns all forms and levels of education and learning, from formal classroom teaching in schools and universities to adult education and informal learning in, for instance, the context of associations or at home.”

“These recommendations are the work of policymakers from European Ministries of Culture and Education and experts in the field of education from 21 different countries. They were created at strategy meetings under the Italian and Latvian Presidencies (2014/2015), facilitated by the Europeana Foundation, European Schoolnet and EUROCLIO – European Association of History Educators.”

To read the document go to:

[Source Heritage Portal news: ]

New research project uncovers the nature of opportunities for UK publishers and writers in China

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015

“With wide-ranging social media, vast potential readerships, and innovative new literature models, China offers an overlooked yet increasingly attractive market for UK publishers and writers. New research findings published today explore how our book industry could break into this challenging international market, following extensive research and an innovative online translation experiment with award-winning British author, David Mitchell.”

“The findings are published in two new reports ‘Found in Translation: How Social Media Platforms Can Help UK Publishers Understand Their Market In China’ (Nesta), and ‘The Publishing Landscape in China: New and Emerging Opportunities for British Writers’ (The Literary Platform).”

“The reports are the result of a collaborative research project led by Nesta, and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), working in collaboration with The Literary Platform and Chinese social media reading site Douban Read, to better understand new and emerging opportunities for UK publishers and writers in China as a result of digital transformation.”

“The research critically explores the vaunted vast market potential in China for British cultural content. The two reports investigate how Chinese social networks and new business models for digital publishing can enable British writers to experiment with how they engage Chinese audiences.”

To access the reports go to:

[Source AHRC news: ]

Mapping business innovation in the UK

Monday, June 8th, 2015

“Most business innovation [is] in clusters from Cambridge through the South East Midlands, Oxfordshire and west along the M4 corridor – but London [is] far less innovative than thought, according to new ERC report.”

“This is the first time that a series of innovation benchmarks have been mapped locally across the UK. It has revealed areas of strong performance and also those with weaker indications.”

“The study was carried out by the Enterprise Research Centre (ERC), which is part-funded by the ESRC and focuses on small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) – and especially what drives their growth. It found that businesses showing the highest levels of innovation are in a cluster of economic areas stretching from Cambridge and Peterborough, through the South East Midlands to Oxfordshire and west along the M4 corridor.”

“The findings, published in the report Benchmarking local innovation, are based on a new analysis of data from 14,000 firms that responded to the UK Innovation Survey 2013 from the Office for National Statistics.”

To read the report Benchmarking local innovation go to:

[Source ESRC news: ]

Better safe than sorry – careful crows watch their tools

Wednesday, May 27th, 2015

“Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)-funded researchers at the University of St Andrews have discovered that crows, like humans, store their tools when they don’t need them. The study published today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society is the first to examine how non-human animals avoid accidental tool loss.”

“New Caledonian crows are famous for using stick tools to extract insects from tree holes and other hiding places. Crows hold tools in their bill when foraging, but need to put them down to eat their prey. In experiments with wild-caught birds, the researchers discovered that crows look after their tools more carefully when foraging at height than on the ground.”

“The crows were extremely good at keeping track of their tools, remembering where they had put them, and reusing them again to extract more meals shortly after.”

“This tool ‘safekeeping’ may be very important, as it means crows don’t have to repeatedly manufacture new tools and can help spend more time on the critical business of finding food. Exactly how long wild crows use individual tools for, and how far into the future they can plan, remains to be explored.”

The read the article ‘Context-dependent ‘safekeeping’ of foraging tools in New Caledonian crows’ in the Royal Society Proceedings B (Open Access) go to:

[Source BBSRC news: ]

Child obesity risk increases almost three-fold in five generations

Wednesday, May 27th, 2015

“Children born since 1990 are up to three times more likely than older generations to be overweight or obese by age 10 according to a new study.”

“Researchers from CLOSER, a consortium of leading UK longitudinal studies funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), looked at the body mass index (BMI) of more than 56,000 people born in the UK from 1946 to 2001. They found that around one in ten children born in 1946 were overweight or obese by age 11, compared to roughly one in four 11-year-olds today. Younger generations are also putting on weight more rapidly.”

“These findings will concern policymakers and health care professionals, as it is estimated that the obesity ‘epidemic’ will cost the UK’s National Health Service £22.9 billion per year by 2050.”

“Since 1946, every generation has been heavier than the previous one – and worryingly, it is the most overweight people who are becoming even heavier. For example, the heaviest 2 per cent of people born in 1946 had a BMI of around 20 by the age of 11, compared to 27 for the most obese children born at the turn of the century.”

The research ‘How has the age-related process of overweight or obesity development changed over time? Coordinated analyses of individual participant data from five United Kingdom birth cohorts’ has been published (Open Access) in PLOS Medicine:

[Source MRC news: ]

Don’t make a meal out of insects

Monday, May 18th, 2015

“Anyone for beetle dip, ant tacos, cricket fried rice? No? That doesn’t surprise researchers from the University of London’s School of Advanced Study (SAS).”

“Their blunt advice to those worried about dwindling food supplies is simple. Don’t make a meal of the insect ingredients – you’ll just put people off. Instead, simply produce brilliant dishes that no one can resist and let the tastes do the talking.”

“The report, ‘The insectivore’s dilemma, and how to take the West out of it’ is written [by Dr Ophelia Deroy, researcher at SAS’s Centre for the Study of the Senses (CenSes)]  in association with Ben Reade, former head of culinary research and development at the renowned Nordic Food Lab, and Charles Spence, professor of experimental psychologist at Oxford University. It is based on an exhaustive survey of all the recent research done on eating insects, and reveals everything that is wrong with the thinking that people will buy a packet of grilled crickets, or bread made with insect flour as healthy snacks or to save the planet. Public policies treating ‘insects’ as a general category and thinking that people will be convinced by arguments, are heading the wrong way.”

To read the report (Open Access) go to:

[Source School of Advanced Study news: ]

The good, the bad and the antibacterial – the UK Medical Heritage Library project

Monday, May 18th, 2015

The Secret of Health, with the Story of the Missing Bag is a combined story and lay medical tract that was published by Lever Brothers Ltd. (which later became Unilever) and is essentially an extended advert for Lifebuoy Soap. It is one of the many Wellcome Library books digitised as part of the UK Medical Heritage Library project, that are now available online at the Internet Archive.”

The Story of the Missing Bag, is a piece of charmingly trite melodrama in which a poor-yet-virtuous orphan turns her life around, escapes a cruel employer and marries a gentleman – all thanks to her timely discovery of Lifebuoy carbolic soap.”

“A key aspect of Victorian melodrama is that the virtuous are ultimately rewarded and the wicked are punished. Personal hygiene and moral hygiene often went hand in hand, and in this story, cleanliness is next to Godliness: our heroine’s high moral principles (and endorsement of the soap) are contrasted with her ex-employer’s scheming, cruelty and reliance on peptonised teas.”

“The term ‘soap opera’ derives from ongoing radio serials, which were frequently sponsored (and sometimes produced) by soap companies in the 1930s. The Story of the Missing Bag predates soap operas by decades, but its sense of melodrama is pure soap.”

[Source Wellcome Library: ]

Remember Me: The role of impact investing in dementia care

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

“Dementia is one of the biggest – and fastest growing – challenges facing our society. As more people develop the disease, there is a growing need for new innovation in the care and support for people living with dementia and their carers.”

Nesta has published “a paper that explores the role that impact investment can play in developing and scaling products to improve the quality of life of people with dementia. At Nesta Impact Investments, we have been focusing on dementia as an important part of our ‘Ageing Well’ area of interest, and we believe that there is both the opportunity and the need for businesses, charities and social enterprises to contribute to the market.”

To access the paper Remember me, go to:

[Source Nesta blog: ]

Report on peer review

Monday, April 27th, 2015

The Wellcome Trust has just published a short report on behalf of the Research Information Network (RIN) on Scholarly Communication and Peer Review:

The report reviews the current state of peer review including a need for more transparency and openness, guidance and training for reviewers, whether there should be reward or some other recognition for peer review, and the place and influence of article-level metrics.

[Source RIN website: ]