Tuesday 29 October 2013

CIMA: Ageing Skeletal Muscles

Date:  Tuesday 5th November 2013
Time:  12.30-1.30
Venue:  Changing Age Opportunity Room, Newcastle Biomedical Research Building (NBRB), Institute for Ageing and Health, Campus for Ageing and Vitality
Speaker: Prof Francesco Falciani, University of Liverpool
Title: A Network Biology Approach Reveals Novel Regulators of Energy Metabolism in Ageing Skeletal Muscles.

Falciani is Professor in integrative Systems Biology at the University of Liverpool and holds an honorary Chair in Systems Biology at the University of Birmingham. He is the Director of the new Centre of Computational Biology and Modelling (CCBM) at Liverpool University, which has a focus in large-scale data integration across different disciplines. He leads an interdisciplinary group in Systems Biology with nine researchers with backgrounds ranging from physics, computer science and experimental biology. His current research strategy, which integrates both experimental and computational biology, has two main streams. The first is the development of novel computational methods to address the most important challenges in the emerging discipline of systems biology. These include network biology, reverse engineering and network modularization methods. The second is the application of these methods to understand complex biological systems, such as muscle degeneration in chronic inflammatory diseases.

Francesco is also a member of the Centre for Integrated research into Musculoskeletal Ageing (CIMA), a collaboration between the universities of Liverpool, Newcastle and Sheffield.

If you would like to speak to Francesco after the seminar, please contact Carole (carole.proctor@ncl.ac.uk).

Monday 21 October 2013

Meeting Report: NIHR BRC Ageing Research

NIHR Newcastle Biomedical Research Centre
Frontiers of Ageing Research
St James’ Park, Newcastle upon Tyne
Thursday 17th October 2013

Despite the best efforts of the St James’ Park staff, this one day meeting sharing the latest developments in ageing research was well received by researchers and members of the public alike.
The event began with a presentation by Prof Patrick Chinnery describing the mission and rationale behind the Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) here in Newcastle.  

He traced the origins back to the Cooksey Report in 2006 and the establishment of NIHR as the R&D wing of the NHS headed by Professor Dame Sally Davies – herself a recent recipient of an honorary degree from Newcastle University. 

Prof Chinnery outlined the predicted demographic changes expected in the UK and the compelling  scientific and economic reasons underlying the drive toward personalized medicine and targeted patient care.  He described the critical importance of the patient in ensuring that resources were directed to solving problems that matter to patients. 

Hence the meeting.   

In addition he described how in the first twelve months alone the BRC had supported projects generating 145 scientific papers and attracting more than £12m in additional funding. 

Professor David Burn followed with a worked example describing the foundation of the Biomedical Research Unit in dementia with Lewy bodies.  He described the team’s drive to early diagnosis with identification, stratification and intervention targeted at those patients most likely to benefit from clinical interventions.

This session was then followed by a lively Q&A session with general discussion ranging from diabetes and ageing through to better tools to inform decision making for patients diagnosed with cancer.

The second session opened with a presentation by Dr Chris Morris outlining the work of the Newcastle Brain Bank.  He outlined expected changes in the prevalence of diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease given the expected demographic changes in the next ten years.
Dr Morris described the pioneering work arising from the foundation of the Brain Bank.  The work of Martin Roth, Bernard Tomlinson, Gary Blessed and David Kay.  He described the origins of the “cholinergic hypothesis’.  Based on the work of Newcastle researchers Elaine and Robert Perry and later work by Jim Edwardson and Ian McKeith this forms the basis of many current therapeutic interventions.  Dr Morris closed by stressing the importance of brain donorship in studying diseases of the ageing brain.

Chris was followed by Professor Mike Trenell.  Mike described data providing compelling evidence for the importance of cardio-respiratory fitness in older age.  Staying fit not only increases expected lifespan, but it improves our quality of life in old age.  He highlighted the important social dimension to staying fit.  Staying fit allows us to do the things we value doing for longer.

This second session was followed by an even more lively general Q&A session with topics discussed as diverse as fatigue and the prospect of a ‘cure’ for Alzheimer’s disease.  Questions ranged from how to become a brain donor, through the mechanism by which research is translated into the GP clinic, to the educational needs of the next generation.

After lunch, the meeting broke into three separate working groups to discuss three themes – the Ageing Brain, the Ageing Body and Ageing Limbs.

The focus of the Ageing Limbs meeting was arthritis.  Dr Louise Reynard broke the ice with a short presentation on research into osteoarthritis.  She described the socio-economic rationale behind targeting osteoarthritis.  With £3.5bn lost annually in working days and an expected 17m sufferers by 2030 this is a key target for intervention by the Newcastle BRC.  Dr Rachel Harry stepped in to describe the similarities and key differences between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. 
Louise and Rachel were joined by clinical researcher Dr Nishanthi Thalayasingam for the panel discussion. 
In a wide-ranging discussion members of the public were able to ask about subjects as diverse as pain management in arthritis, alternative medicines and holistic methods.  The team also fielded technical questions on palindromic rheumatoid arthritis, Paget’s disease and synovial fluid.  And finally, Dr Dennis Lendrem described the work of the Early Arthritis Clinic at the Freeman Hospital and the new Experimental Arthritis Treatment Centre at the RVI.

Despite technical issues at the beginning of the meeting everyone – researchers and members of the public alike – welcomed this opportunity to get together and learn more about the research we are doing in Newcastle and the issues and concerns of patients here in the NE.  

The meeting generated more questions than it did answers but these questions will be fed back to research staff shaping future research at the Newcastle BRC.

Dr Louise Reynard outlines risk factors in osteoarthritis.

Wednesday 9 October 2013

Frontiers of Ageing

Newcastle Biomedical Research Centre

Frontiers of Ageing Research:
Understanding Prevention

Thursday 17th October 2013
10:00 - 15:00

Bamburgh Suite
St. James' Park

Monday 7 October 2013

Osteoarthritis Research Day

Osteoarthritis Research Day
Newcastle University

Wednesday 16th October 2013
@Research Beehive
11:15 11:45 Ian Clark
(University of East Anglia)
(Cubby) Broccoli - ‘The Golden Gun’ for osteoarthritis?
11:45 12:00 David Wilkinson Serine proteinases in Osteoarthritis
12:00 12:15 Matt Barter microRNAs in chondrogenesis and osteoarthritis
12:15 12:45 TBC

12:45 14:00 LUNCH

14:00 14:30 Ray Boot-Handford
(University of Manchester)
Do increases in ER stress and loss of circadian rhythm contribute to the development of osteoarthritis?
14:30 14:45 Kasia Pirog
Mouse models of rare skeletal diseases as a tool to elucidate the pathomolecular mechanisms of osteoarthritis
14:45 15:00 Louise Reynard
Functional analysis of the osteoarthritis susceptibility locus residing at the carbohydrate sulfotransferase 11 gene CHST11
15:00 15:30 Chris Murphy
(University of Oxford) MicroRNA mediated regulation of chondrocyte function

15:30 16:00 coffee

16:00 16:15 Michael Ruston
Characterisation of the DNA methylome in knee and hip osteoarthritis
16:15 16:30 Rodolfo Gomez
Epigenetic control of MSC differentiation: Focus on adipocytic and osteoblastic fates
16:30 16:45 Mark Birch
Engineering biomaterials to influence musculoskeletal cell activity
16:45 17:15 Peter van der Kraan
(Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, Netherlands) Role of TGF beta superfamily members in OA pathology



Thursday 3 October 2013

New centre to speed up development of arthritis drugs

Researchers will be testing drugs for other conditions to see if they can be used to help people with arthritis.

Professor John Isaacs and his team have been awarded funding of £225,000 over three years to set up the Arthritis Research UK Experimental Arthritis Treatment Centre.  They will test drugs for rheumatoid arthritis that are being studied for other conditions such as cancer, in small numbers of patients.

Rheumatoid arthritis affects nearly half a million people in the UK. It is a chronic, disabling condition in which the body's immune system attacks the joints.  Although newer biologic treatments have made a huge difference to patients' lives, a proportion do not respond.

"We hope we can bring more treatment choices, in particular to test cancer drugs in patients with rheumatoid arthritis who have run out of options after trying all of the biologic drugs," explained Professor Isaacs, professor of clinical rheumatology at Institute of Cellular Medicine.

"At the other extreme, if we can find a treatment that 'switches off' arthritis, this could mean that patients with early disease only require a short-term treatment, after which they will not need to take drugs."

Being part of a trial

Professor Isaacs added that experimental medicine research could seem quite daunting to patients, as the treatments being tested were new and might not work, and the trials often involve a number of blood tests and other investigations.

"When patients become involved with research they generally benefit, regardless of the actual drug being tested. Because of this we feel it's very important for everyone to understand about research. Therefore we're also developing a programme of activities to provide better information to patients and their relatives, to help them to understand about research, and whether or not to become involved," he added.

Industry collaboration

The Newcastle researchers are working with pharmaceutical companies. "Often drug companies studying one disease can't afford to simultaneously test their drug in another condition such as arthritis, so we hope they will allow us to test their drugs for the, on our diseases," said Professor Isaacs. "If successful this will benefit the patient, the researchers, the company, the charity – and the economy – a win-win situation."

The new centre has already gained funding from the Medical Research Council to 're-purpose' a cancer drug called seliciclib being developed by Cyclacel Pharmaceuticals, a University of Dundee spin-out company.

Seliciclib has been evaluated to date in approximately 380 cancer patients and is currently being tested in combination with another Cyclacel drug in cancer patients with solid tumours.

Researchers hope to show that the treatment is safe and potentially effective. Initially they will treat patients who have had the condition for at least a year and who are already taking treatment but not responding well enough. If this research is successful then they will test the treatment in patients taking different treatments, at different stages of their illness.

Medical director of Arthritis Research UK Professor Alan Silman said: "There's a real need to do in-depth testing of the benefits and safety of new drugs in small numbers of patients before large scale trials can begin, and our new experimental arthritis treatment centres are providing  the resources to study patients in these key first stage studies."

Tuesday 1 October 2013

Extra Immunology

Another exicitng immunology talk is happening this week! "Modulation of immunity to pathogens by mast cells" will be presented by Prof. Soman Abraham of Duke University, USA. If you wish attend we'll be in LTF Newcastle University, 1pm this Thrusday. It would be a delight to see you there!