Dementia Awareness Week Public Engagement Event

Dementia awareness week (15th – 20th May) has all been wrapped up, and in light of the event Dr Jill Madine and her amyloid group (Kieran Hand, Dr Hannah Davies and James Torpey), Prof Jerry Turnbull and Dr Scott Guimond (Institute of Integrative Biology), and Prof Alan Morgan (Institute of Translational Medicine) participated in the Alzheimer’s Research UK North West public engagement event hosted by the University of Salford on Wednesday 17th May 2017. To celebrate the grand opening of the Universities new Dementia hub, scientific researchers from the University of Manchester, MMU, University of Liverpool, University of Salford and Liverpool John Moore’s engaged in an academic event in the morning showcasing what dementia research is taking place at each institution, followed by an afternoon demonstrating their on going efforts to tackle this life changing disease… to the public!  A breadth of “hands on” activities were available for all ages, and we also invited Liverpool Life Sciences UTC to get stuck in and showcase their ongoing collaborative projects! Activities ranged from how worms are really changing the way in which we can study dementia (with some brilliant videos) (Morgan group), how a ‘spoonful of sugar’ could help treat dementia (Turnbull group) and all the way to what dementia means to you (Madine group). In this activity, the Madine amyloid group asked individuals or groups if they could write or draw their feelings on dementia, have their photo taken with their work, where the public were delighted with the idea that it’s going to be made into a collage for others that were unable to attend the event to see. There were some truly incredible thoughts on the subject from individuals who had been directly impacted by dementia, and as a group we were incredibly humbled by the positive responses to our ongoing efforts in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and associated disorders. See you next year!

More Neuroblastology success!

This year our fruitful collaboration with Liverpool life sciences UTC has continued and we would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Laura Hurst on the success of her Year 13 Project.

Laura has been working on our Neuroblastology programme at UTC and designed and carried out an experiment to investigate the neuroprotective effect of lemongrass on brain cells in Alzheimer’s disease. Laura has cultivated SHSY5Y neuronal cells, exposed them to amyloid beta protein (protein involved in neurodegeneration in Alzheimer’s disease) and explored the protective effect of lemongrass on these affected cells. Laura has now finished the project, written an excellent report and presented her findings to her peers and the teachers at the school.

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This is her abstract from her report.

This project’s main purpose is to explore the potential neuroprotective effects of lemongrass (Cymbopogon Citratus) and how these effects can be utilised in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. The rates of this disease have greatly increased over the past few decades and so the development of new pharmaceuticals is increasingly important to society. To test the hypothesis of lemongrass having neuroprotective effects two well plates were set up with neuroblastoma cultures, one of which had beta amyloid protein (one of the key pathological markers of Alzheimer’s disease) added. Three different solutions of lemongrass essential oil were also added (0.1%,0.5%, and 1%) as well as two control groups containing either F-12 Ham’s nutrient media only or 100% ethanol. The results of the experiment suggested that an increase in lemongrass solution reduced the concentration of cells per mm² but increased the viability of the cells in the amyloid beta protein plate. 0.5% lemongrass solution almost doubled the viability of the neuroblastoma from 37.04% in the media only control group to 68.61%. These results support both the Amyloid hypothesis and the hypothesis established for this project, and so it can be concluded that lemongrass has potential as a treatment to Alzheimer’s disease if further research is carried out.

The school are so impressed they are using her work as a model to show students and teachers alike how science project work should be conducted and reported.

We would all like to congratulate Laura on her fantastic success and wish her luck in her dreams to pursue a career in neuroscience!

In more good news, Dr John Dyer at UTC is involved in the process of arranging an exchange programme to enable students from different schools in Europe to work on extended projects at different sites dependant on their interests. UTC (in collaboration with the University of Liverpool) is hoping to make the neuroblastology project their specialty! So hopefully soon we will be welcoming students from across Europe to learn cell culture techniques and do more exciting experiments.

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Postcard from Vienna, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease (ADPD) conference – 2017

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This was a huge display within the conference venue – amazing photography!

Last week three members of IIB, Dr Hannah Davies, James Torpey and Prof. Jerry Turnbull went to Vienna to find out about the latest research and technological advances in the field of neurodegeneration and dementia at ADPD 2017. This five day conference saw over 3000 clinicians, researchers industry specialists from around the globe discuss recent advances in the field, including reports on the latest drug trails, new avenues for treatment and patient perspectives. This busy meeting gave us the opportunity to catch up with colleagues from around the world, and share the exciting research we are doing here at Liverpool with a huge audience.

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The conference venue and an action shot of James presenting his findings at one of the poster sessions

During our stay in Vienna we were treated to welcome reception at Vienna’s beautiful City Hall, we ate traditional Austrian dishes, talked science and enjoyed an impromptu opera performance from one of our colleagues!

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Welcome reception in the impressive Vienna city hall

We came away from the conference, tired but full of new ideas and renewed enthusiasm for our projects.

Range High School Students annual visit to NMR Centre

On Wednesday 18th January chemistry A-Level students from Range High School visited the Institute for a workshop in the NMR Centre for Structural Biology organised by Dr Jill Madine. This visit has become an annual event which the students enjoy and say enhance their understanding of how NMR can be applied in a research environment.  The students learnt about the advantages and disadvantages of mass spec and NMR from Dr Mark Wilkinson and Dr Marie Phelan, carried out chromatography and learnt to prepare  and run NMR samples and how to interpret the data.  Prior to their visit, as part of a school practical, they have made salicylic acid – a precursor for aspirin. We obtained these samples and collected NMR spectra of their products ready for analysis on the day.  This enabled them to establish how successful their synthesis had been and compare their results across the class, with previous years’ students (and to the teacher!). 

A range of University of Liverpool postgraduate students and postdocs helped with the day providing practical and theoretical advice, including Dr Hannah Davies, Rudi Grossman, James Torpey and Kieran Hand (pictured above).

Amyloid adventures in Uppsala!

Guest post by Hannah Davies

Together with fellow IIB colleagues Jill Madine and Kieran Hand, I recently attended the XVth International society of amyloidosis conference in Uppsala. After a brief stop in Stockholm to visit the Nobel Prize museum for inspiration we headed north to discuss all things amyloid! This 5 day biennial conference sees clinicians and scientists come together to discuss recent advances in basic understanding, clinical trial results and new developments. I was given the privilege of presenting our recent findings in an oral presentation – although terrifying, this was a great experience and gave rise to lots of interesting discussion over coffee! The conference also gave us the opportunity to meet up with existing collaborators from around the world and to develop new exciting collaborations. Following a packed 5 days we left Uppsala tired, enthused and delighted that we had tried authentic Swedish meatballs!

Neuroblastology – Year 1 has a happy ending!

Guest post by Hannah Davies

The Neuroblastology project run with UTC Life Sciences School and funded by the Biochemical society has finished! Billions of cells grown, 25+ students participated, tens of compounds tested, 9.5/10 scored – overall, we all had a (neuro)blast!!

Here is Dr John Dyer, teacher at LLS-UTC:

This has been an incredibly successful project that has proved to be very popular with students from across the year groups. The students have gained valuable skills in cell culture and aseptic technique as well as a range of transferrable skills such as leadership, time management (in order to care for the cells), experimental design and evaluating and improving upon techniques and procedures. The level of enthusiasm and engagement that students have shown has been incredible and many students have happily given up time at lunchtime breaks and after school in order to tend to the cells or collect data. This enthusiasm and engagement has certainly been increased by the fact that Hannah spent time training the students at the start as well as coming in on a number of occasions to provide technical expertise and support with experimental design. Students regularly commented that they have enjoyed these sessions and found it useful to have direct contact with active researchers. Perhaps the most striking thing for me was how disappointed the students were when some of their cells got infected. However, they responded brilliantly by developing their procedures in order to minimise the risk of further contamination. This sort of resilience, coupled with the level of care, accuracy and precision required during this project will prove invaluable to students at the start of their scientific careers.

Although the project has come to and end for this year, we are delighted to report that it will continue next year as part of UTC’s enrichment curriculum! We are also in the process of moving aspects of the project online so more schools will be able to interact and participate so watch this space!!

If you would like to read more about the project, please see the following link for the Biochemical Society final report

#Neuroblastology! Stage 1 of the project gets underway

 

Guest post by Hannah Davies

A bit about the project…

We are living longer – which is great – however this also increases the incidence of diseases associated with aging. One such condition is Alzheimer’s disease. It is estimated that the cost of dementia to the UK economy is expected to be £59.4 billion by 2050. As such there is a drive to improve diagnosis and generate therapeutic agents that will tackle this devastating disease.

This project (supported by a Biochemical society outreach grant) will raise awareness of the societal implications of an ageing population and dementia alongside demonstration and explanation of some of the types of research that is currently ongoing to increase our understanding of the processes of ageing. A key area of research into understanding the ageing brain is development of in vitro model systems to provide an environment to test new diagnostic and therapeutic agents prior to clinical trials. The emphasis of this project is to give students an understanding of the important role that these cell systems can play in understanding the ageing brain.

This project will have two stages. The first stage will involve collaboration with John Dyer at Liverpool life sciences UTC to develop methodology and teaching materials around cell culture models in the context of the ageing brain. The second stage of the project will be to deliver the workshops/plenaries/practical sessions on the ageing brain to other local schools in the area.

Liverpool life sciences UTC is a specialist school for life sciences and has many students aspiring to work in health and science disciplines. Students are assigned to a selected ‘pathways’ that enables them to tailor their school activities to their future aspirations. One aspect of this is the innovation factory where students can design and test research questions. Currently, they are still developing their labs to accommodate the experiments dreamt up by the students using old instrumentation donated from industry and academia. At present, they have equipment suitable for cell culture (CO2 incubators and laminar flow hoods) but they do not have the expertise or reagents to enable experiments with live cells despite interest from many of their students.

Where we are up to…

On Monday 18th January 2016 after several months of discussions and preparation we took proliferating SHSY-5Y (a neuronal cell-line) cells into UTC. Armed with protocols, risk assessments and lab coats we taught some keen and able representatives from years 11, 12 and 13 how to care for the cells in our absence. The students will culture the cells until they have sufficient for their ambitious experiments. With so many students from several years interested they will need to passage the cells several times to get the volume/number required. Just before February half term they will harvest the cells and perform their experiments.  The students were excellent and I have every faith they will do a great job! Wish them luck!!

Look out for updates (#Neuroblastology) to see how they get on and what exciting experiments they have planned…