PhD student shortlisted for Max Perutz Science Writing Award

St George's PhD student Natasha Clarke has been shortlisted for the Max Perutz Science Writing Award for her essay submission ‘How artificial intelligence, and a cup of tea, could help diagnose Alzheimer's disease'. The award asks Medical Research Council funded PhD students to write up to 800 words about their research and why it matters, in a way that would interest a non-scientific audience. It is named after 1962 Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry Dr Max Perutz.

Of her essay submission Natasha says, “I am using language to try and help spot the signs of disease sooner. For part of my research I'm studying the spoken language of people diagnosed with early Alzheimer's, compared to people ageing healthily, following them over one year.


Poor diabetes control can lead to increased risk of serious infections, study shows

A new study has shown that diabetes patients with the poorest control of their blood sugars face the highest risks of hospitalisation and death due to infections.

The study, conducted by researchers at St George’s, University of London, analysed the electronic GP and hospital records of more than 85,000 English adults aged 40 to 89 years with a diabetes diagnosis and a measurement of glycated haemoglobin, or long-term blood sugar, which is a marker of diabetes control. The researchers compared diabetes patients with poor control to those with good control, and to people without diabetes.

St George’s best in the country for graduate prospects again

The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2019 has ranked St George’s best for graduate prospects in the UK, with 93.8% of our graduates moving straight into professional employment or further study.

This is the third year running that St George’s is top for graduate prospects in the Guide.This year the table also highlights that St George’s is 9th out of 132 universities for student:staff ratio with a rating of 12.4 students to each staff member. Overall, St George’s ranked at 13th in the London regional table and 80th in the 2019 guide in the table of overall university performances across the country.The Times website highlights: “Applications have risen 5% this year and with nearly 5,000 students it is one of the biggest medical schools in the UK.”Naz Hussain, Associate Director of Marketing and Student Recruitment, said: “To be consistently ranked UK’s top university for graduate prospects really underscores the university’s ability to prepare students for work. Our staff provide an immersive education with practical hands-on experience in a way that helps students stand out to employers. We are very proud of our students, who go on to make an immediate contribution to the health of our communities”.The full table is available to access online (subscription required).

Pioneering plant technology unveiled at the London Design Festival

Researchers Sebastian Fuller and Professor Julian Ma have been closely involved in work that is being presented at this week's London Design Festival.

“Plant Designer” showcases the state-of-the-art technologies involved in plant molecular farming, which uses engineered plants to produce large quantities of molecules for uses including medicines, diagnostics, vaccines and cosmetic products.

Air pollution may be related to heightened dementia risk

Air pollution may be related to a heightened risk of developing dementia, according to research carried out by St George’s and King’s College London.

Air pollution is an established risk factor for heart disease/stroke and respiratory disease, but its potential role in neurodegenerative diseases, such as dementia, isn’t as clear.The researchers used carefully calculated estimates of air and noise pollution across Greater London to assess potential links with new dementia diagnoses. They looked at patient data on 131,000 Londoners aged 50 to 79, and based on their residential postcodes, the researchers estimated their yearly exposure to air pollutants. These were specifically nitrogen dioxide, fine particulate matter and ozone, as well as proximity to heavy traffic and road noise, using modelling methods validated with recorded measurements.The health of the Londoners was then tracked over an average of 7 years. During the monitoring period, 2181 patients (1.7%) were newly diagnosed with dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.These new diagnoses were then examined with regard to concentrations of nitrogen dioxide and fine particulate matter estimated at the patients’ homes at the start of the monitoring period in 2004.Those living in areas in the top fifth of nitrogen dioxide concentrations ran a 40% heightened risk of being diagnosed with dementia than those living in the bottom fifth. A similar increase in risk was observed for higher particulate matter levels. These associations were consistent and unexplained by known influential factors, such as smoking and diabetes, although when restricted to specific types of dementia, they remained only for patients with Alzheimer’s disease.This is an observational study, and as such, can’t establish cause, and the findings may be applicable only to London. Nor were the researchers able to glean longer term exposures, which may be relevant as Alzheimer’s disease may take many years to develop.Many factors may be involved in the development of dementia, the researchers point out, the exact cause of which is still not known, and while there are several plausible pathways for air pollutants to reach the brain, how they might contribute to neurodegeneration isn’t clear.But Dr Iain Carey, Senior Lecturer in Epidemiology at St George’s, said; “While these findings need to be treated with caution, they do replicate results from other recent international studies which have suggested a link between exposure to air pollution and dementia. More research is now needed to investigate whether curbing exposure to pollution might be able to delay the progression of dementia.”