Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Professor Brian Littlechild lends his experience in the field of mentalhealth to new development group

Professor Brian Littlechild has been appointed to the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) and the Royal College of Psychiatrists Guidelines Development Group on ‘Violence and aggression: the short-term management of violent and physically threatening behaviour in health settings guidance’.

The development group will produce a report in 2015, updating the current NICE (2005) guidance (http://www.nice.org.uk/nicemedia/live/10964/29719/29719.pdf) which consists of recommendations and good practice.

Brian has carried out many research projects throughout his career, and has published widely in the areas of violence in mental heath work and child protection work as well as the risk assessment of aggression and violence. He also manages research and development projects on mental health issues in partnership with mental agencies/professionals and service users, including work on EU and DH Benefits for Patients programme funded projects.

Previously a social worker in mental health and child protection, Brian was one of the first to start training social workers in dealing with aggressive and violent clients over thirty years ago. He has worked extensively with a wide variety of agencies in policy development, and with their managers and front-line staff on anticipating and dealing with violent situations, and on how to access support before, during and after such violence. He also has provided debriefing for victims and published on working with perpetrators of aggression and violence and continues to work with young offenders and their families.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

‘Near miss’ asteroid – how long until one hits?

Friday 15 February marks the day an asteroid the size of a small office block is due to pass by Earth in one of the closest ‘near-misses’ in recent history. Although thankfully researchers at the University of Hertfordshire have reassured us that there is no chance of this one actually hitting Earth – it does raise the more pressing question of – will it happen one day, and if so, what devastation will it cause?

Weighing 130,000 tonnes and travelling at over 28,000 miles per hour – if this one was to hit Earth, it would likely take out an area the size of London. At Bayfordbury Observatory, astronomers Dr Mark Gallaway and David Campbell lead on a programme to monitor these ‘near earth objects’ (NEO), months, sometimes years in advance in order to understand their obit, what they are made of, and effective ways to change their path – should they be on a collision course to Earth.

Mark said: “Although there is absolutely no chance of this particular asteroid hitting Earth, it does highlight the dangers of so called ‘Near Earth Objects’ of which about ten thousand of the expected one million have been identified.

“By monitoring its movements we will be able to improve our understanding of these potentially hazardous objects.”

Too faint to see with the naked eye, the asteroid, which will pass closest to Australia on Friday night, will be visible through binoculars in the direction of the ‘plough’ constellation at approximately 9pm.

For more information on the research undertaken by Bayfordbury Observatory, visit http://www.herts.ac.uk/bayfordbury/research-at-bayfordbury-observatory

Thursday, 7 February 2013

US and UK collaborate in airborne climate science projects

NASA's Global Hawk.
Copyright NASA Photo / Lori Losey
Researchers from the University’s Centre for Atmospheric and Instrumentation Research (CAIR) are taking part in the first scientific collaboration of its kind - where British and American scientists are trading skills and expertise in the use of an unmanned robotic aircraft to gather high altitude atmospheric data.

The researchers are part of the first UK group to work with NASA using their unmanned aircraft, Global Hawk, as a science platform. The Global Hawk was originally developed for military missions but for these projects it will explore the region where the Earth’s air enters the stratosphere, known as the tropical tropopause layer.  In this region, pollutants and greenhouse gases can potentially influence our climate.

Of several NASA Earth science missions to study climate change and air pollution, one, the Airborne Tropical Tropopause Experiment (ATTREX), now has a UK counterpart called CAST (Coordinated Airborne Studies in the Tropics).  CAST is a collaborative project led by the University of Cambridge and funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). It will be very efficient in terms of sharing equipment, expertise and data as it investigates fundamental questions about how the movement of atmospheric pollutants can influence the Earth’s climate.

As part of CAST, two new atmospheric research instruments are being developed for the Global Hawk. One of these, the Aerosol Ice Interface Transition Spectrometer (AIITS), is being built by researchers led by Professor Paul Kaye at CAIR in collaboration with the University of Manchester. AIITS is a laser light-scattering instrument and will provide unique data on the microscopic ice crystals and other particles present at the high altitudes flown by the Global Hawk.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Designing a new drug against pancreatic cancer

Computer model of S100P, 
showing how drug molecules 
interact with the protein.
Stopping the growth and spread of pancreatic cancer is the focus of a new project led by Dr Sharon Rossiter University’s Department of Pharmacy.

The researchers will be investigating potential new drugs to block a protein called S100P which has been shown to be involved in the growth and spread of pancreatic cancer, as well as some other common cancers.

The new drugs will be designed using a computer model of the protein to identify novel compounds that will bind to the protein and prevent it from functioning. Once their effects have been tested on cancer cells, changes to the compounds will be made in the laboratory to improve their effectiveness at preventing cancer growth.

The aim of this new research project is to identify the best possible drug compounds which will hopefully eventually lead to a successful drug treatment for pancreatic cancer and is funded by the Association for International Cancer Research.

Pancreatic cancer is the tenth most common cancer in the UK, around 8,500 people were diagnosed in 2010.  It is an aggressive cancer that very few people survive from – only around four per cent of pancreatic cancer patients survive for five years or more, making it one of the lowest survival rates.  It is often diagnosed at an advanced stage when the cancer has become very aggressive and it quickly spreads to other organs of the body.  Currently there is no effective treatment for the disease at this advanced stage.