Breast cancer survivors could be vulnerable to common illnesses

Breast cancer survivors treated with chemotherapy could be vulnerable to common illnesses because of the long-term impact on the body’s immune response, according to new research findings. Chemotherapy is used to treat 30% of breast cancer patients and whilst previous studies have investigated its effects on immune systems during the therapy itself - and up to a short period after the last treatment - little is known about the long-term impact on immunity. Researchers from University of Leeds and Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust measured the levels of lymphocytes, a group of white blood cells involved in the body’s immune response, together with antibodies. They found that chemotherapy reduced levels of some immune system components for at least nine months after treatment.

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Digital design to boost pharmaceutical industry

University of Leeds researchers are part of a project to transform the UK’s pharmaceutical industry by introducing new digital design processes. The £20.4 million ADDoPT (Advanced Digital Design of Pharmaceutical Therapeutics) project is a major four-year collaboration between the Government, industry and universities. It is expected to reduce the development time and cost of innovative medicines and improve the competitiveness of the UK’s pharmaceuticals sector.

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‘Big Data’ generates need for ‘Data Diplomacy’

“Data Diplomacy” seeks to better understand the role that data sharing plays as an agent in social and political relationships around the world. Examples of data diplomacy can include: negotiations between two competing health systems to enable access to electronic medical records of shared patients; cross-national sharing of outbreak data, such as ownership of and access to information about people impacted by Ebola virus; or the impact on diplomatic relationships among nations due to systematic “leakages” of data, evidenced by the Edward Snowden case.

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Leeds researchers conduct new training programme in Africa

A team of researchers led by the University of Leeds is conducting a new and innovative training programme in Africa. The Development in Africa with Radio Astronomy (DARA) project, led by Professor Melvin Hoare, seeks to provide people in the targeted countries with training to use radio telescopes. It also has an outreach programme to encourage young people to study the technological aspects of radio astronomy and pursue STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects. The project is funded by the Newton Fund – a novel initiative that aims to promote the economic development and social welfare of developing countries through scientific collaboration.

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A kink in the fault line explains why the Himalayas keep growing

An international team of scientists has shed new light on the earthquake that devastated Nepal in April 2015, killing more than 8,000 people. In a study published in the journal Nature Geoscience, the scientists show that a kink in the regional fault line below Nepal explains why the highest mountains in the Himalayas are seen to grow between earthquakes. The researchers, from the UK’s Centre for the Observation and Modelling of Earthquakes, Volcanoes and Tectonics (COMET), as well as academics from the USA and France, also demonstrate that the rupture on the fault stopped 11km below Kathmandu.

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CUHK Launches Global China Research Program

The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) recently launched the Global China Research Program with the goal of understanding China’s global presence and international relations, as well as the global reception of China’s outward engagements. 

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A fighting chance of survival: life-saving stents for heart attacks

A study of 300,000 heart attack patients, led by the University of Leeds, has found rapid rates in the uptake of a treatment which improves a patient's chances of survival after a major heart attack. The research, part-funded by the British Heart Foundation and the National Institute of Health Research, showed the uptake of heart attack treatment gives nine in ten patients fighting chance of survival. The use of emergency stenting treatment (PPCI) increased from 0.1% in 2003 to 86% in 2013 for patients with STEMI - a heart attack caused by a complete blockage of a coronary artery which accounts for 25-40% of all heart attack cases in Europe.

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Many colorectal cancer survivors struggle to cope with daily life

Around 7,000 colorectal cancer survivors in the UK struggle to cope with daily life years after their diagnosis, according to new analysis led by University of Leeds researchers. The study, recently published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology and partly funded by Macmillan Cancer Support, shows that just under 1 in 6 (15%) people who survive a year to three years after a colorectal cancer diagnosis in England experience ‘social distress’, perceiving their daily social interactions to be severely negative or distressing.

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Researchers uncover the key to the rise of the animal kingdom

A new study may have resolved a fundamental question concerning the development of Earth as a planet on which animals could flourish: what came first, increasing levels of oxygen or complex animals? Before now it was not known how quickly Earth’s oceans and atmosphere became oxygenated and if animal life expanded before or after oxygen levels rose. The new study, published in Nature Communications, shows the increase in oxygenation began significantly earlier than previously thought and occurred in fits and starts spread over a vast period.

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Controlling the ‘social life’ of proteins aims to transform drug discovery

A new £3.4 million programme will develop new tools to understand which interactions between proteins in the human body are relevant to disease. Currently, only a handful of drugs in clinical use work by targeting protein-protein interactions. The new project, which will launch on 1 February, 2016, will involve researchers from the University of Leeds, the University of Bristol and three drug discovery organisations: the Northern Institute for Cancer Research, Newcastle University; AstraZeneca; and Domainex.

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Antibiotic resistance could help find drugs for some of the most intractable diseases

Scientists have developed an innovative way of using one of the biggest problems facing health services—antibiotic resistance—to develop drugs to combat some of the most intractable diseases. The new study, from research led by Professor Sheena Radford from the University of Leeds and published in Nature Chemical Biology, outlines a way of using antibiotic resistance to find chemicals capable of stopping amyloid formation.  

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Groundbreaking microscopy unlocks secrets of plant virus assembly

New research into how a plant virus assembles could lay the groundwork for future use to carry drugs into the human body. The study, by a team from the University of Leeds’ Astbury Centre for Structural Molecular Biology and the John Innes Centre in Norwich, describes the structure of an empty version of Cowpea Mosaic Virus (CPMV) and the molecular “glue” that allows the virus to build itself and encapsulate its genome. The findings, published in the journal Nature Communications and based on revolutionary new electron microscopy, may be a crucial step to eventually allowing scientists to build custom versions of the virus that can carry medicines into the body and target disease. 

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