50-year spina bifida study shows surprising improvement in independent living

A unique study of spina bifida patients found that while mobility tended to decline in later life, surviving adults were more likely to live independently.  

In a study of 117 cases of spina bifida with 99% 50-year follow up, the percentage who could walk more than 50 metres dropped from around half at 9 years of age to a quarter at 50 years of age.

Spina bifida 1970 crop

Innovative diagnostic test could revolutionise cervical cancer screening

Coinciding with Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, researchers at St George’s are working on a field study to fine-tune an exciting new method of human papilloma virus testing that could revolutionise care for women in low and middle income countries.

The research team have partnered with molecular diagnostics firm QuantuMDx for the study, using the company’s Q-POC™ platform and its human papilloma virus (HPV) assay. The Q-POC™ compresses a molecular diagnostics laboratory into a simple-to-use, portable, affordable and battery-operated device that can be used anywhere, from basic rural settings to clinics and hospitals.

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Research into opioid painkillers could provide clues for safer drug development

Researchers have taken a step closer to understanding the body’s response to opioid painkillers such as morphine and fentanyl, which could lead to the development of safer opioid drugs.

Opioids are a class of powerful painkillers used to treat moderate to severe pain. They act on the nervous system, stimulating opioid receptors which then block pain. But continued use can lead to physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms, partly because the body’s tolerance builds up quickly and pain control diminishes.Now, research published in ‘Nature Communications’ has identified the specific molecular mechanisms in the body which respond to the opioids and cause this increasing tolerance. Dr Alexis Bailey at St George’s, University of London was part of the research team, which was led by Professor Schulz of Jena University Hospital, Germany. The researchers developed genetically modified mice that lacked phosphorylation sites of the ‘mu’ (µ) opioid receptor, the target of opioid painkillers in the central nervous system. These mice subsequently built up very little tolerance to opioids such as fentanyl and morphine. As a result, the painkilling effect of these drugs was dramatically increased. But the side effects of the drugs, such as constipation, respiratory depression and withdrawal symptoms, remained unchanged or were exacerbated. The researchers’ findings show that tolerance and dependence are two dissociable phenomena governed by separate molecular mechanisms. While it had been demonstrated that these “mu” phosphorylation sites played a role in opioid tolerance in cells, this is the first time it has been proven in animal models. In 2017, 23.8 million prescriptions were dispensed for opioids such as tramadol in England – one for every two adults. Hospital admissions in the UK involving opioid overdoses have almost doubled in a decade to 2017. Dr Alexis Bailey, Lecturer in Neuropharmacology at St George’s, said: “So-called ‘safe opioids’ that are less likely to result in dependence, tolerance and risk of accidental overdose have been the Holy Grail of opioid research. This study takes us a step closer to understanding the underlying molecular mechanisms of how they work on the body, which is an absolute prerequisite to devising new strategies for drug development.”

opiod pills

Finance Director appointed to external board

Nicola Arnold, Director of Finance has been appointed to the Advance HE board. Advance HE supports universities in putting institutional strategy into practice for the benefit of students, staff and society.

The full list of new board members are:

Nicola Arnold

Top London mental health trust welcomes Professor Deborah Bowman as new non-executive director

Professor Deborah Bowman MBE, Deputy Principal (Institutional Affairs) and Professor of Bioethics, Clinical Ethics and Medical Law at St George’s, has been appointed university nominated non executive director at South West London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust (SWLSTG). The Trust provides national and local mental health services across Richmond, Kingston, Sutton, Merton and Wandsworth.

 

Prof. Bowman