News in brief

5 April 2016

University of Sheffield reaffirms position as member of the School for Public Health Research

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) has today (5 April 2017) reaffirmed the University of Sheffield’s position as a member of its School for Public Health Research (SPHR).

The School was established in April 2012 to bring together leading academic centres in England demonstrating excellence in public health research and to complement other NIHR funding streams.

It aims to build the evidence base for effective public health practice including what works practically to improve population health and reduce health inequalities and can be applied across the country to better meet the needs of policymakers, practitioners and the public.

The focus of the School is to continue to have a positive impact on public health, policy and capacity building. It will also continue to integrate with the public health landscape including Public Health England. Funding of £20.5 million - over five years is available to support the School.

Following an open competition, the membership of the School from 1 April 2017 until 30 March 2022 is :

  • University of Bristol
  • University of Cambridge
  • Fuse - Research collaboration between Newcastle University, Durham University, Northumbria University, University of Sunderland and Teesside University
  • Imperial College London
  • LiLaC – Research collaboration between the University of Liverpool and University of Lancaster
  • London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
  • University of Sheffield
  • University College London (UCL)

Professor Liddy Goyder, Deputy Dean of the School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR) and School for Public Health Research (SPHR) lead at the University of Sheffield, said: “We are delighted that the University of Sheffield will to continue to contribute as a member of this important national public health research collaboration.”

28 March 2017

Motor neuron disease patients share their stories to help others making life-changing decisions

Jason_LizMotor Neuron Disease (MND) patients from across Yorkshire are sharing their personal stories and giving a unique insight into difficult care decisions they have faced, in order to support others living with the devastating disease.

Their stories will be shared on a pioneering online resource developed by the Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience (SITraN) and the MND Care Centre, which aims to provide support to patients as well as carers and their families who are facing difficult decisions about care interventions – specifically feeding tubes.

By sharing personal and informative videos the myTube website will offer an insight into people’s real life experiences of living with a feeding tube, patients considering whether to have one fitted, as well as information about potential alternatives so that individuals can learn more about the best option for them. The resource will also be of great value to professional carers and health care practitioners.

MND is a rapidly, progressive neurodegenerative disease which leads to the weakness and wasting of muscles that causes the increasing loss of mobility in the limbs, and difficulties with speech, swallowing and breathing. The disease affects 5,000 adults and kills six people per day in the UK.

As MND progresses it can lead to problems eating. This can result in weight loss, chest infections and even episodes of choking.

Jason Liversidge and his wife Liz feature in the myTube videos with their two daughters Lilly and Poppy.

After being diagnosed with MND in 2013 at the age of 37, Jason found mealtimes became very stressful and he began losing weight very rapidly.

Speaking in one of the innovative videos Jason from Rise near Skirlaugh in East Yorkshire, said: “It was a bit of a shock to start with having a tube fitted, but I think all in all it took me about a couple of days to come round to the idea.

“It doesn’t make a great deal of difference to your physical state – it is more a mental thing of knowing you’re going to have a hole in your stomach. But once you’ve got it, you don’t know it is there – it doesn’t interfer in your life. It is a bit of a no brainer.”

Professor Chris McDermott from SITraN will also be discussing his research into MND and the importantance of developing the myTube resource.

Professor McDermott said: “One of the common misconceptions is that once a person has had a feeding tube fitted they can’t eat anymore. That’s not true, people can continue to eat regardless of whether a feeding tube is in place as long as it is safe for them to do so and they continue to enjoy eating.

“People quite naturally are apprehensive or fearful of things they don’t understand, particularly if there is an operation involved. So to help and support people through the decision it is about giving accurate information, giving patient’s time to reflect on the information and ask questions.

“One of the purposes of putting this website together is to help support people in making those decisions.”

To find out more about myTube and the patients involved in the project please visit http://mytube.mymnd.org.uk/

9 March 2017

What’s the key to keeping your kidneys healthy?

Kidney thumbThe University of Sheffield is hosting a series of health checks and lifestyle advice workshops at the Students' Union to mark World Kidney Day (9 March 2017).

Experts from the University’s Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health will be helping to raise awareness of chronic kidney disease, which causes more than 40,000 premature deaths in the UK every year, and provide vital advice on how to keep your kidneys healthy.

Our kidneys filter around 180 litres of blood of waste and toxins every day. Not only do they produce urine but they play a key role in blood pressure control, keeping bones strong and healthy and preventing anaemia.

Andrea Fox, from the University’s School of Nursing and Midwifery, said: “World Kidney Day is an excellent opportunity to raise awareness about what the kidneys do and how to look after them.

“Kidneys do far more than filter the blood and produce urine. They help keep the bones healthy, maintain body pH, control blood pressure and ensure we have enough red blood cells to carry oxygen around the body.
“When the kidneys fail it has a profound effect on the individual physically, psychologically, socially and often financially.”

Health checks and kidney care advice will be available in the Students' Union Plaza between 1pm and 3pm today (Thursday 9 March 2017).

Albert Ong, Professor of Renal Medicine at the University, will also be taking his research lab on the road with a number of hands on experiments at a special public seminar from 5pm-7pm at the Medical Education Centre, Northern General Hospital.

Staff and students at the University’s Medical School will also be hosting health drop-in sessions along with a spin-bike-a-thon throughout the day in order to raise money for the Sheffield Hospitals Charity.

Ways to improve kidney health include:

• Monitor your Blood Pressure – High blood pressure accelerates kidney damage. To protect yourself from kidney disease you should also maintain a diet low in salt and saturated fats.
• Keep well hydrated – This helps the kidneys clear sodium, urea and toxins from the body which can significantly lower the risk of developing kidney disease.
• Keep fit and active – This helps reduce your blood pressure and therefore reduces the risk of kidney disease.
• Don’t smoke – Smoking slows blood flow to the kidneys, decreasing their ability to function properly.
• Eat healthily and keep your weight in check – This can help prevent diabetes, heart disease and other conditions associated with kidney disease.

For more information about World Kidney Day please visit http://www.worldkidneyday.co.uk/

Students seek to educate with ground-breaking conference on learning differences

16 January 2017

Experts will gather to debate disability, society and education at a student-organised conference, introduced by Lord David Blunkett.

Hosted by the Specific Learning Difficulties Society, the conference will take place in the Student Union’s Auditorium on Thursday 9 February 2017 from 6.30 - 9.30pm.

The evening brings together top experts in the fields of disability and learning difficulties, and is designed to create dialogue around the topic of disability in education.

Organising students have found a strong supporter in Lord Blunkett, who states that the society is ‘worthy of considerable praise’ for holding a debate ‘which aims to give a voice to those to whom lip service is often paid but practical action is long delayed in implementation.’

Tickets are on sale from https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/sheffield-university-spld-soc-conference-201617-tickets-29464700713

12 December 2016

Exposing weaknesses in the bacterial cell wall to prevent infection

A Sheffield researcher is part of an international team that has found a new way to attack one of our strongest bacterial enemies.

Dr Andrew Fenton, who recently joined the University of Sheffield, moving from Harvard University in the USA, has published research that has identified a part of the bacterial machinery that, if compromised, could offer a potential new target for novel anti-bacterial drugs.

Antibiotics, such as penicillin, are often used to treat bacterial infections. However, there is widespread concern that bacteria are becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics and that this could present a major hazard to human health.

Dr Fenton carried out research at Harvard, with Professors David Rudner and Thomas Bernhardt, to find out how the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae, which causes pneumonia and meningitis, controls the structure of its cell wall.

Dr Fenton said of the findings: "Now a weak spot in bacterial armour has been identified, my future research at the University of Sheffield will examine the opportunities to target this failing. If we can deliberately prevent CozE from doing its job, we can prevent the spread of infection and reduce the potential for life-threatening illness in patients.”

12 December 2016

University and Mironid collaborate on kidney disease drug discovery

The University of Sheffield has announced a new collaboration with a leader in cell signalling-directed drug development, Mironid Ltd, to identify and develop new molecules for the treatment of kidney disease.

The partnership will focus on advancing Mironid’s proprietary LoAc molecules towards clinical development with the aim of producing new therapies that can improve the health of patients with Autosomal Dominant Polycystic Kidney Disease (ADPKD).

ADPKD is a devastating, life-threatening and currently incurable genetic disorder in which kidney cysts progressively form throughout life. It affects around 12.5 million people worldwide, with around 50 per cent requiring treatment for kidney failure by the age of 60.
The cyst formation is driven by excessive generation of the cell signalling molecule cyclic adenosine monophosphate (AMP), and causes a wide range of health problems including abdominal pain, high blood pressure and urinary tract infections, eventually leading to kidney failure.

Albert Ong, Professor of Renal Medicine at the University of Sheffield's Department of Infection, Immunity and Cardiovascular Disease, said: “The University has developed leading edge, translational ADPKD models and expertise in biomarker development and clinical strategies for therapeutics for the disease. Prof Miles Houslay has spent over 30 years investigating the mechanisms of PDE4 biology, and we are very pleased to be working in partnership with his team at Mironid to progress the development of therapeutics for this debilitating disease.”

Dr Neil Wilkie, Director and Chief Operating Officer at Mironid, said: “Professor Ong is a world leading authority on ADPKD and his research at the University of Sheffield focuses on the molecular genetics, cell biology, pathogenesis and therapy for this disease. We are delighted to be working with his team to develop new therapeutics that have the potential to significantly improve the quality of life for patients suffering with ADPKD.”

8 December 2016

Royal Academy Fellowship for ‘outstanding’ energy researcher

An academic from the University of Sheffield has been awarded five years’ funding to advance their work in functional materials for energy applications by the Royal Academy of Engineering.

Dr Rebecca Boston, from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, was awarded the prestigious fellowship for her work, funded by the Lloyd’s Register Foundation.

Her research, in the area of nanostructured oxides for sustainable energy storage and recovery, is focused on creating functional ceramics for capacitors, thermoelectric generators, and fuel cell materials.

The Royal Academy of Engineering research fellowships are designed to advance excellence by encouraging the outstanding early career researchers to continue their work at the cutting edge of engineering developments and become future leaders in their field.

Dr Boston said: “I was extremely pleased to hear that I had been awarded a fellowship by the Royal Academy of Engineering. This distinguished award will allow me to focus on my research and will be a huge boost for my career.”

The University of Sheffield’s Energy 2050 institute is one of the UK’s largest energy research centres with world-class expertise in the area of energy storage – from materials and battery chemistry to testing facilities.

11 November 2016

Sheffield student’s Parkinson’s snap wins national award

A PhD student from the University of Sheffield has scooped a national award after capturing a striking image of pioneering Parkinson’s research.

The winning image

Scientist Karla Robles Lopez, from the University’s Department of Neuroscience, won the Picturing Parkinson’s annual research image competition which celebrates the beauty and art of research into the degenerative disease. It is thought Parkinson's affects 127,000 people in the UK.

The winning photograph depicts the trial of TIGAR which researchers believe may be involved in some genetic forms of the condition – however its role remains unknown.

All scientific research comes with no promises of success and Karla’s image - which shows a section of brain tissue where the TIGAR protein has been stained - represents years of painstaking work.

Picturing Parkinson’s is held in memory of scientist Dr Jonathan Stevens, a research supporter who was passionate about making research accessible and easy to understand. He communicated progress to inspire other people with Parkinson’s.

For more information about the Department of Neuroscience please visit Neuroscience

View the top 10 images from the 2016 Picturing Parkinson’s image competition

For more information about Parkinson’s please visit Parkinson’s UK