Researchers’ Weekly Bulletin: the Blog

News for researchers at the Manchester Metropolitan University

Damaged salad leaves can ‘massively stimulate’ Salmonella presence in bagged salads

Monday, November 28th, 2016

“Investigations by University of Leicester microbiologists, supported by BBSRC, have revealed that just a small amount of damage to salad leaves could massively stimulate the presence of the food poisoning bug Salmonella in ready-prepared salad leaves.”

“The scientists have discovered that juices released from damaged leaves also had the effect of enhancing the virulence of the pathogen, potentially increasing its ability to cause infection in the consumer.”

“The research is led by Dr Primrose Freestone of the University’s Department of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation and PhD student Giannis Koukkidis, who has been funded by a Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) i-case Studentship.”

“Their research investigates novel methods of preventing food poisoning pathogens from attaching to the surface of salad leaves to help producers improve food safety for consumers. This latest study, published today (18 November) in Applied and Environmental Microbiology found that juices from damaged leaves in bagged spinach and mixed salad increased Salmonella pathogen growth 2400-fold over a control group and also enhanced their adherence to surfaces and overall virulence, or capacity to cause disease.”

To read the article (Open Access) go to:

[Source BBSRC news: ]

In health informatics we trust? Thoughts on big data in healthcare research

Monday, November 28th, 2016

“The burgeoning use of big data in healthcare research is revolutionising the way health records are collected, used and shared. But, with controversial projects such as NHS still fresh in everyone’s minds, how can researchers reassure the public that highly sensitive data is safe in their hands?”

“Remember the NHS controversy from a couple of years ago? Of course – it was a complete public relations disaster for both the health service and health data research.”

“Eventually fully scrapped in July this year, wasting millions of pounds, it caused a public outcry over privacy and data sharing, amid accusations that the creation of a vast database of medical records was being rushed through without explaining to patients of the security implications for their highly sensitive information. Leaflets posted through letterboxes failed to include any information on the risks of sharing data (and in many cases apparently didn’t arrive at all) while it also emerged that many patients who had opted-out were still having their data shared.”

“NHS is one example, albeit a calamitous one, of the rise of health informatics – a rapidly expanding field seeking to exploit the potential of big data analytics for healthcare – and some of the red-hot issues around this new industry.”

[Source JISC news: ]

NERC partners with ESRC and AHRC to fund projects that will help developing countries cope with environmental hazards

Monday, November 28th, 2016

“Three of the UK’s research councils have funded 22 projects that will help communities in some of the poorest regions of the world understand, prepare for and manage a range of natural and man-made environmental hazards.”

“The Building Resilience research programme will take an inter-disciplinary approach to understanding what causes environmental dangers like droughts, land degradation, volcanoes, earthquakes and flooding, and build in preparedness to help countries cope.”

“The projects, worth just over £3·5m, and funded by NERC, the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC), are funded under the Global Challenge Research Fund (GCRF), a £1·5bn fund announced by the UK government in 2015 to support cutting-edge research that addresses the challenges faced by developing countries.”

[Source NERC website: ]

Changes to MRC Senior Non-Clinical Fellowship awards

Monday, November 28th, 2016

“MRC [Medical Research Council] Senior Non-Clinical Fellowships (SNCFs) are prestigious awards which help independent early-career researchers to develop their long-term research vision and enable their transition to become internationally recognised leaders in their fields. The MRC is committed to supporting this important career stage, recognising that a Senior Fellowship has been a significant stepping stone in the development of many international leaders.”

“The MRC’s Training and Careers Group recently reviewed our support mechanisms for transitions to leadership. The Group concluded that reverting the tenure of future SNCF awards from 7 to 5 years offers greater flexibility to fund a wider range of researchers, while still offering a generous package to support an ambitious, career-changing programme.”

“As part of the MRC’s fellowships for critical career stages, we have developed a range of tools and guidance for applicants and clarified:

  • the type of skills and experience applicants should be able to demonstrate in order to be competitive when applying for an MRC Senior Fellowship
  • when a fellowship will provide appropriate support for an individual’s long term career goals and chosen career route.”

“The tools and guidance are now available on our webpage. The 5-year tenure will apply from the next deadline for SNCF applications, which is on 25 April 2017.”

[Source MRC news: ]

UK’s largest ever study of family names reveals origins of 45,600 surnames

Monday, November 28th, 2016

“We all have a surname, but how many of us know anything about its origin and history? A major Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funded research project led by a team at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) has unveiled the UK and Ireland’s largest and most comprehensive collection of family names published by Oxford University Press.”

“Farah, Twelvetrees and Li (Lee) are amongst the 8,000 family names explained for the first time ever, alongside corrections to previous explanations such as Starbuck and Hislop in the newly published Oxford Dictionary of Family Names in Britain and Ireland. The result of a four year detailed investigation of the linguistic origins, history, and geographical distribution of 45,600 most frequent family names in Britain and Ireland, the print and online database, offers an explanation for all names from the very common to many rarer names with 100 current bearers.”

“Nearly 40,000 family names are native to Britain and Ireland, while the remainder reflect the diverse languages and cultures of immigrants that have settled from the sixteenth century to the present day: including French Huguenot, Dutch, Jewish, Indian, Muslim (Arabic), Korean, Japanese, Chinese and African.”

[Source AHRC news: ]

Fish oil supplements may improve muscle function in older women

Monday, November 21st, 2016

“Taking omega-3 supplements could improve muscle function in older women, potentially increasing their quality of life into old age and preventing unnecessary falls and loss of independence.”

“In a new study led by the Universities of Glasgow and Aberdeen and published [] in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, scientists have found that supplementing the diet of older women with 3g of fish oil results in greater increases (when compared to a 3g of safflower oil placebo) in their muscle function when combined with resistance exercise training over 18 weeks.”

“Before and after the exercise training programme researchers measured muscle size, using MRI, and muscle function, using a testing dynamometer, and calculated muscle quality (force produced relative to muscle size).”

“As expected the resistance exercise training increased muscle size, function and quality in all groups of participants. In men who were taking the fish oil supplements there were no extra gains in muscle function or size observed over the 18-week intervention period. However, in women, those taking fish oil their muscle function, but not size, increased to a greater extent compared to those in the placebo group.”

“In the women in the placebo group exercise training resulted in an average strength increase of 16%, however when the exercises were combined with an intake of fish oil that improvement increased to an average of 34%.”

The study, ‘Sex-differences in the effect of fish oil supplementation on the adaptive response to resistance exercise training in older people: a randomized control trial’ is published (Open Access) in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition:

[Source BBSRC news: ]

Being Human: a festival of the Humanities

Monday, November 21st, 2016

“Led by the School of Advanced Study, University of London, in partnership with the Arts & Humanities Research Council and the British Academy, Being Human is a national forum for public engagement with humanities research. The festival highlights the ways in which the humanities can inspire and enrich our everyday lives, help us to understand ourselves, our relationships with others, and the challenges we face in a changing world.”

This year’s festival is taking place nationally 17 – 25 November 2016.

Find out more at the Festival website:

[Source Being Human website as above]

Migration routes hold key to bird flu spread, global study finds

Tuesday, November 15th, 2016

“Monitoring the migration routes of wild birds could help to provide early warning of potential bird flu outbreaks, experts say. The recommendation follows new research that shows migrating birds can help to spread deadly strains of avian flu around the world.”

“Some strains of bird flu viruses are highly lethal in birds they infect and pose a major threat to poultry farms worldwide. In rare cases, the viruses can also infect people and cause life-threatening illness.”

“Researchers investigated how a subtype of bird flu called H5N8 spread around the world following outbreaks in South Korea that began in early 2014.  The virus spread to Japan, North America and Europe, causing outbreaks in birds there between autumn 2014 and spring 2015.  Scientists analysed migration patterns of wild birds that were found to be infected with the H5N8 virus. The team then compared the genetic code of viruses isolated from infected birds collected from 16 different countries.”

“Their findings reveal that H5N8 was most likely carried by long-distance flights of infected migrating wild birds from Asia to Europe and North America via their breeding grounds in the Arctic [and] …reinforce the importance of maintaining strict exclusion areas around poultry farms to keep wild birds out.”

[Source Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) news: ]

New world-class centre to reveal biological clues behind brain disorders

Tuesday, November 15th, 2016

“The MRC [Medical Research Council] has awarded £3 million to King’s College London for a world-class centre that will aim to transform our understanding of disease mechanisms underlying brain disorders, and translate this knowledge into clinical advances that change people’s lives.”

“The MRC Centre for Neurodevelopmental Disorders will benefit from the unique convergence of renowned leaders from multiple disciplines, including neonatology, neurology, psychiatry, neuroscience, genetics, stem cells and imaging technology.”

“Brain disorders account for one of the greatest burdens of disease in the developed world but the currently available therapies do not work effectively for many patients, and there is a lack of treatments for many conditions. In addition, current treatments are based on symptoms and are not disease modifying, and only around 50 per cent of people respond to them.”

“Drawing on expertise from eight different departments at King’s, the Centre will focus on three large groups of disorders that are thought to be caused by abnormal brain development – epilepsy, autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and schizophrenia.”

[Source MRC news: ]

Warming temperatures can reduce marine diversity but increase freshwater species – showing climate change responses are likely habitat-dependent

Monday, November 7th, 2016

“In contrast to previous research, scientists have found that habitat warming can reduce the diversity of species in marine environments, but increase speciation in freshwater habitats.”

“Scientists from the University of Bath’s Milner Centre for Evolution working with colleagues at the University of York have shown that for an important group of aquatic crustaceans called the Anomura, which include hermit crabs, king crabs and squat lobsters, habitat warming decreases species diversity in marine environments. Intriguingly the researchers found that diversity of Anomura species in freshwater habitats increased with warmer temperatures.”

“The findings suggest there is no universal rule about how species diversity is affected by warming temperatures and responses to climate change could be habitat dependent.”

“Previous research involving land-based vertebrates found that diversity tends to increase with warming and it had been thought this was a general trend across habitats.”

The paper is published in Nature Communications:

[Source BBSRC news: ]