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  • Mutation of a single gene identified as the cause of a severely debilitating disease of brain blood vessels, according to new research

    The cause of a disease that targets blood vessels in the brain – leading to multiple debilitating symptoms and, often, to early death – has been tracked to a single mutated gene, opening up the immediate possibility of improved patient care through genetic testing, and of future treatments.

  • New exhibition lifts lid on leading ‘60s counterculture troublemaker

    One of the North’s great unsung anti-heroes is to get the wider recognition he deserves in a major new exhibition opening on Thursday 8 September at Manchester's John Rylands Library.

    Off Beat: Jeff Nuttall and the International Underground showcases the prolific work and global influence of the Lancashire-born writer, artist, musician, author and publisher, who died in 2004.

    Jeff Nuttall was at the centre of the network of artists and writers that cultivated the 1960s International Underground scene. Driven by social dissent and fear of imminent nuclear attack, Nuttall and his circle pushed the boundaries of decency, art and creative expression as a form of rebellion.

    Many elements of modern activism can trace their roots back to Nuttall. Concepts such as flash mobs, performance poetry, magazines as artworks and graphic novels all owe something to his legacy.

    Nuttall was regarded by parts of the Establishment as a dangerous troublemaker. His book Bomb Culture was criticised in Parliament and the Guardian labelled him a ‘priest and prophet of permissiveness’, alongside well-known subversives such as Bob Dylan, Allen Ginsberg and Fidel Castro.

    The exhibition features rarely-seen examples of Nuttall’s work including the self-published My Own Mag, a first edition of Bomb Culture, correspondence with other underground writers and original artwork.

    Other members of the International Underground whose works feature in the exhibition include William S. Burroughs, Michael Horovitz, Alexander Trocchi, Douglas Blazek, Mary Beach, Charles Plymell, Harold Norse, Carl Weissner and Eric Mottram.

    Visitors will be able to flick through virtual versions of My Own Mag, The International Times and a rare Nuttall illustrated manuscript, using a digital touch table.

    Off Beat: Jeff Nuttall and the International Underground
    8 September to 5 March 2017
    The John Rylands Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester M3 3EH
    www.manchester.ac.uk/rylands/off-beat
    #jrloffbeat

    Due to the adult nature of the content, the exhibition is not recommended for children.

  • EXPERT COMMENT: Giulio Di Toro on the recent Italian earthquake

    Professor Giulio Di Toro is the Geology Chair at The University of Manchester's School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, and was conducting research in central Italy this week when the earthquake struck. Here, he writes about why it was so destructive, and the research being done at Manchester into understanding the causes of such quakes in the country.

    The magnitude 6.0 earthquake that hit the Central Apennines in the early hours of Wednesday is quite typical in this part of Italy. In fact, at least four strong earthquakes have hit the villages of Amatrice, Accumuli and Norcia in the last few centuries: in 1639 (estimated magnitude 6.2), 1646 (estimated magnitude 5.9), 1703 (estimated magnitude 6.9) and in 1979 (mainly the area of Norcia, magnitude 5.9).

    Unfortunately, earthquakes of moderate to strong magnitude in the Central and Northern Apennines are characterised by relatively long seismic sequences that may last for months, or even years. These also include strong aftershocks (we cannot exclude at the time of writing that Wednesday’s shock could be a foreshock of a larger earthquake), plus hundreds to thousands of smaller ones (magnitude 2.0-4.0) that can be felt by the population. The largest aftershock so far occurred an hour after the initial quake, and was 5.3 in magnitude. 

    At the time of writing there have been 247 casualties, and the main shock at 3.36 am was felt in most of Central and North-East Italy - an area of about 100,000 square kilometres.

    Hospitals, police stations, schools and barracks in Amatrice and Accumuli completely collapsed during the earthquake - with the exception of a gym that is now being used to house displaced residents – whereas the village of Norcia, which was rebuilt adhering to the construction codes after the 1979 earthquake, suffered little damage and no casualties despite being located in the epicentral area.

    Earthquakes are the result of ruptures that spread along geological structures called faults. This particular quake happened at a depth of around 5-9km (more accurate hypocentral depth estimates will be released in the next days), and spread for about 20-25km along the fault.

    These earthquakes are due to the collision between the African and European plates, which results in the counter-clockwise rotation of the Italian peninsula and the 5mm annual extension of the mountains in the Northern and Central Apennines. This leads to a series of sub-parallel active normal faults striking about northwest-southeast and dipping towards the southwest, including those that ruptured in this case.

    To understand the mechanics of the earthquakes that hit Central Italy (including 2009’s magnitude 6.3 L'Aquila earthquake, which caused 309 casualties), the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at The University of Manchester is performing a multidisciplinary study which includes field investigations of seismogenic faults now exposed at the Earth's surface, experimental studies to reproduce in the laboratory seismic deformation conditions and microstructural studies on experimentally deformed and natural fault rocks to understand the deformation mechanisms that control how the earthquake engine works.

    These studies are funded by the European Research Council’s NOFEAR project, in collaboration with the Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia in Rome, the Dipartimento di Geoscienze at the University of Padova and the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Durham.

    The field studies at the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences involve Ph.D. Michele Fondriest, Ph.D. Francois Passelegue and B.Sci. Harry Leah. In particular, in his Master’s thesis in Geology, Harry is focusing on the structure of an exposed fault which is probably quite similar to those that are ruptured in this quake – in fact, Gran Sasso-Campo Imperatore, the field area he is investigating, is located only 25-30km away. This area was selected because of the excellent exposures, which allow us to conduct detailed field studies (from the km to the mm-scale) focusing on the geometry of these seismogenic faults.

  • £16.5m extension to Jodrell Bank’s SKA headquarters is approved

    The new SKA Global Headquarters at Jodrell Bank – an extension of the current facilities to house more staff as the project ramps up – has been approved by the local planning authority.

    Cheshire East Council has approved the application for the erection of new single storey research and administration building and associated landscape, car parking and road works connecting to the existing building. The proposed design takes inspiration from the radio waves that are at the heart of the SKA’s work, while embracing its natural environment.

    Early works are due to start in December, and construction is expected to last around 12 months. When completed, the building will be able to hold up to 135 staff, providing research and office space as well as catering facilities for the organisation that will supervise the international effort to build and operate the world’s largest radio telescope. Due to its international status, the building will also include a council chamber for representatives of the inter-governmental organisation’s Member States to meet in, which will double as an auditorium for science conferences and public lectures.

    “This is an important milestone towards constructing the headquarters of the international organisation that will build and operate the SKA.” said Colin Greenwood, Head of Administration at SKA Organisation. “We now look forward to the start of construction, and of course, inauguration of this new state-of-the-art facility.”

    The SKA Headquarters building sits alongside the University of Manchester’s Jodrell Bank Observatory. The University is playing a significant role in the international SKA project. Astronomers in the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics played an important role in contrubuting to the science book for SKA, describing how this telescope will be a revolutionary facility for radio astronomy. Additionally, researchers in the University’s School of Physics & Astronomy lead the international group working on the Signal and Data Transport for the telescope, and are members of four of the other nine international groups conducting detailed design work.

    Signal and data transport is the backbone of the SKA telescope, including a network to take astronomical data from the antennas to the computer facility, a network to distribute synchronisation signals from very accurate atomic clocks to each antenna, and a network to allow telescope control and monitoring information to flow throughout the whole SKA system. The University of Manchester leads the Non-Imaging Processing sub-tasks required for Pulsar searches and Pulsar timing experiments, key research areas at Jodrell Bank, and the University’s School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering is also leading work on a novel type of radio receiver element, an Octagonal Ring Antenna (ORA).

    The project is funded by the UK Government’s Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and the University of Manchester, with contributions from Cheshire East Council. The design is led by HASSELL and the construction by the firm Sir Robert McAlpine. 

    More information about SKA can be found here, and a webpage with more information about the new building is available here.

  • Rafi-tone app set to help millions of children with asthma

    Children with asthma will soon be able to breathe easier thanks to an interactive app created by a University of Manchester spin-out company.

  • Graphene under pressure

    Small balloons made from one-atom-thick material graphene can withstand enormous pressures, much higher than those at the bottom of the deepest ocean, scientists at The University of Manchester report.

  • Disruptions to sleep patterns lead to an increased risk of suicides

     

    The link between sleep problems and suicidal thoughts and behaviours is made starkly clear in new research from The University of Manchester, published in the BMJ Open.

  • Manchester student puts museum’s fossils on the map

    A student from The University of Manchester has created a computer application which records the fossil collection of Manchester Museum on an interactive map.

    As part of his master’s degree project at the University’s School of Computer Science, Olivier Staub has developed the application to allow people interested in fossils and palaeontology to submit discoveries made through the examination of the map.

    By using its exploration and filtering functions, users are encouraged to report any findings they consider interesting including patterns, missing information, comments or irregularities.

    Researchers expect that discoveries be made through chance while exploring the fossils, a phenomenon also known as ‘serendipity’.This is a collaborative project between the School of Computer Science and Manchester Museum. The work was inspired by the needs of the museum and the news about the discovery of archaeological remains using map software.

    “Our goal as human-computer interaction specialists is to understand how people make discoveries while they explore maps,” said Lecturer Markel Vigo, who is supervising the project under the advice of David Gelsthorpe, the museum’s Curator of Earth Science Collections. “Ultimately, this understanding will enable the development of tools that facilitate discoveries using geographical information systems.”

    Visit https://natureslibrary.co.uk/map to see the site.

     

  • Manchester researcher funded to help treat kidney disease

    Clinician scientist, Dr Rachel Lennon, has been awarded a prestigious Wellcome Senior Research Fellowship in Clinical Science worth more than £1.7 million, to help identify therapeutic targets to treat chronic kidney disease.

    Dr Lennon combines her time at the Centre for Cell-Matrix Research, based at The University of Manchester, with her role as Consultant Paediatric Nephrologist at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital (RMCH). The Senior Research Fellowship follows Dr Lennon’s Intermediate Clinical Fellowship from Wellcome in 2010, which consolidated her research into kidney disease.

    The Senior Research Fellowship is a five year award and gives clinical academics the opportunity to develop their research potential and to establish themselves as leading investigators.

    Chronic kidney disease is a long-term condition characterised by the gradual loss of kidney function. As a result, waste products build up, increasing the risk of developing heart and blood vessel disease, and other complications, which can ultimately lead to kidney failure. Damage to the kidney filters, which regulate the fluid and waste products out of the blood, is the commonest cause of kidney disease.

    Kidney disease affects 10% of the global population and when kidneys fail, patients require dialysis or transplantation. Currently, 60,000 adults and children in the UK require these treatments, costing the NHS around £2 billion per year.

    During the fellowship, Dr Lennon will be focusing on targeting force regulation to treat the condition in adults and children. Blood vessels in the kidney filters are made of specialised cells that are supported by a scaffold known as matrix. The cells and matrix need to sense and control changes in blood pressure in the filters, and Dr Lennon’s team will discover how the filters perform this function.

    Dr Lennon said: “I am honoured to have been awarded the Senior Research Fellowship and I hope that findings from the research we undertake throughout the next five years will go on to help patients and their families in the future. Kidney disease significantly restricts a patient’s lifestyle.

    “For people on haemodialysis, they usually need to have treatment in hospital three to four days per week, for four to six hours at a time, or with peritoneal dialysis they need to have the treatment daily or overnight at home. To improve the situation we need to advance detection of kidney disease and also find new treatments.

    “In the past, using specialised techniques such as proteomics and powerful microscopy, we have expanded understanding about the important cell and matrix molecules in the kidney filters and we have identified novel features of early kidney disease. However, we still need to understand why these changes happen.

    “I now propose that the connections between cells and matrix in the kidney filters are critical to counterbalance mechanical forces in the blood vessels and if the connections are disrupted there is a cascade that leads to scarring and loss of kidney function. In this fellowship my team will work out how force is regulated in the filters using cell and mouse models of kidney disease. I believe this work will have impact by identifying therapeutic targets to treat chronic kidney disease in children and adults.”

    Professor Neil Hanley, Head of R&I Division and a previous Wellcome Senior Research Fellowship beneficiary, added: “Dr Lennon’s recent award of a Wellcome Senior Research Fellowship following on from her Intermediate fellowship is a fantastic achievement and testimony to a lot of hard work by Rachel and committed support from her colleagues.

    “I am absolutely delighted for Rachel; having her achieve one of these five year awards, one of only fifty or so running across the whole country, is a fantastic flagship for CMFT and the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital. It shows what enthusiasm, intelligence and commitment can achieve and the important role that the NHS has to play in the development of if the next-generation of world-leading biomedical researchers.”

    Dr Lennon is the latest CMFT consultant to be honoured with the significant accolade. Other recipients of the award in the past include Graeme Black, Professor in Genetics and Ophthalmology and Paul Bishop, Professor of Ophthalmology and Matrix Biology. David Ray, Professor of Medicine and Endocrinology, is a Wellcome Trust Investigator.

  • Leukaemia blood testing has ‘massive potential’

    Researchers at The University of Manchester have unlocked the potential of a new test which could revolutionise the way doctors diagnose and monitor a common childhood Leukaemia.

  • The University of Manchester is one of the best for student employability

    The University of Manchester has been named among the very best for its students gaining employment after graduating, in a survey of individuals who recently completed their courses. The statistics for graduate-level work put the University top in the region, and fifth overall, in the rankings of the prestigious Russell Group of UK universities.

    Every UK university is required to conduct the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education survey on behalf of the Higher Education Statistics Agency. It provides essential statistics on the employment and further study activities of higher education leavers, which are used to construct league tables and in publications such as The Times’ Good University Guide.

    The University of Manchester also utilises the data for statistical and research purposes, and its Careers Service uses it to help students and graduates to plan their futures.

    The latest data for Manchester shows that 94% of its UK, full-time, first degree graduates were working or studying after six months, and that 82% were in graduate-level jobs and/or study.

    In addition, 92% of graduates reported that they felt the University prepared them well for further study, and 85% felt that it prepared them well for future employment.

    Sophia Bischof graduated last year from her Marketing course, and is now on an international graduate trainee programme with Barry Callebaut, one of the world's largest cocoa producers. She said a key reason for her decision to come to the University was its Manchester 2020 vision, and its commitment to continued academic excellence.

    Tammy Goldfeld, Head of the Careers Service at The University of Manchester, said: “These latest results clearly show that our students are increasingly landing excellent jobs after graduation. We are the most targeted university in the UK by graduate recruiters, and we work hard to prepare our students for entering the competitive graduate market.”

  • GPs’ uncertainty at dealing with those bereaved by suicide revealed

    Interviews carried out by The University of Manchester with GPs of parents whose children have died by suicide have revealed a lack of knowledge and confidence on how best to respond to and support those bereaved.

  • Manchester rises up the ranks of the world's top universities

    The University of Manchester has climbed six places in an annual global ranking of universities, which cements its place as one of the world’s best higher education institutions.

    The Academic Ranking of World Universities - often known as the Shanghai ranking - has been published annually since 2003. In total, 500 universities are ranked from across the world based on six indicators, including the number of award-winning staff and alumni and the number of articles published in prestigious journals Nature and Science.

    From a starting position of 89th, Manchester has risen up the rankings almost every year. Manchester is now in 35th place - a rise from 41st in 2015, and its highest position since the rankings began. Nationally, the university is in fifth position. The rise has largely been attributed to an increase in the number of its highly-cited researchers.

    In September, the university was also placed 33rd the world in the QS World Universities rankings - the seventh highest in the UK.

    The University of Manchester has 38,590 students and 10,400 staff, making it the second largest institution in the UK, and the country’s largest single-site university. It had an income of over £1 billion in 2014-15, of which £262.4 million was from research grants and contracts.

    The University has five 'research beacons' - addressing global inequalities, advanced materials, cancer, energy and industrial biotechnology - which are making pioneering discoveries and improving the lives of people around the world. Researchers in these areas are at the forefront of the search for innovative solutions to some of the biggest challenges facing the planet.

  • Exercise can tackle symptoms of schizophrenia

    Aerobic exercise can significantly help people coping with the long-term mental health condition schizophrenia, according to a new study from University of Manchester researchers.

  • Treatment option for Alzheimer’s disease possible

    A research project has shown that an experimental model of Alzheimer’s disease can be successfully treated with a commonly used anti-inflammatory drug.

  • Research finds out why people love to use fashion shopping apps

    Research undertaken by The University of Manchester has found that most people shop on fashion apps at 8pm, and apps with strong social media integration are the most popular.

    Shopping via mobile apps is becoming increasingly important. According to a 2015 IMRG (Interactive Media in Retail Group) report, visits to ecommerce sites via smartphone and tablet devices accounted for 45% of all ecommerce traffic in the UK, and retailers who have not ‘gone mobile’ are missing out on £6.6bn a year. Fashion shopping is also one of the most important areas of the online economy.

    Dr Christopher J. Parker and Huchen Wang wanted to find out why people love to use the most popular fashion shopping apps, in order for developers to be able to design better, more enjoyable and useful apps.

    The research found that companies who design shopping apps that focus on shopping efficiency and convenience are the most highly valued, and that consumers do most of their online shopping at 8pm, a time which the researchers suggest companies should target in their marketing.

    They also found that apps which offer personalisation and integration with social media are more likely to perform better, with customers wanting to use to app more often and make more purchases - but they say that most developers are yet to capitalise on this. For example, retailers such as Next, ASOS and Zara allow individual items on their app to be shared on social networks and instant messenger clients (e.g. Facebook, Twitter or Whatsapp) - however, such posts are not currently presented on these networks in a way that enhances person-to-person discussions and creates what they call 'social excitement'.

    The research provides an original insight into why people enjoy and use the most commerce fashion shopping apps, which differs from previous studies that focused on physical retail environments or general online shopping behaviours on non-fashion web stores accessed through a PC or laptop.

     

  • Millions deprived of life saving antifungal medicines, report finds

    The world is in the grip of a global crisis that kills the equivalent of the populations of Philadelphia, Kampala or Prague - around 1.6 million each year.

  • Manchester leading national drive to transform computing in schools

    The University of Manchester is at the forefront of a national drive to transform the teaching of computing in schools.

    In 2012, the University’s Professor Steve Furber chaired a Royal Society project which published a report that recommended a move from teaching IT to teaching Computer Science in schools. These changes were immediately enacted by the Government, resulting in an urgent need for training of teachers in secondary education - and Manchester has been at the forefront of this from the outset. The model adopted is of regional centres that support ‘Master Teachers’, who then guide other teachers in the region.

    Manchester’s Dr David Rydeheard led the challenge of helping schools to teach the new curriculum. As a result, The University’s School of Computer Science is now the North West Regional Centre for Computing At School. Over £200k of funding from the Department for Education pays for three staff members who have school-teaching experience and are managing the outreach to schools in the region.

    The Centre is supporting teachers to become Master Teachers, and there are now 50 in the North West. It is now working with over 2000 teachers in schools to develop exciting Computer Science teaching in primary schools, secondary schools and colleges. This involves around 80 students trained in outreach running one‐off events, through to full‐year engagement with schools and final-year projects developing teaching resources for use in secondary schools.

    The Centre provides training events for teachers throughout the school year, as well as exciting activities for schoolchildren to help them to appreciate the science and creativity inherent in the subject. This outreach activity has engaged the enthusiasm of students at The University of Manchester, has supported the region’s primary and secondary schools to rise to the major challenge of teaching new programmes, and has created a close relationship between the University and schools across the North West.

  • Spinning electrons could lead to new electronics

    Injecting electrons into one-atom-thick material graphene can control their movement, potentially leading to novel electronic applications, University of Manchester researchers have found.

  • Manchester scientists get £1.47million funding boost for lung cancer research

    The University of Manchester is to lead a £1.47million Cancer Research UK programme to bring major advances in lung cancer treatments – the North West’s most common cancer.