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ISSUE 61 DECEMBER 2009

Rude
awakenings
Life with
sleep apnoea

Free view
Medical history
films go online

Special agent
Meet Henry
Wellcome’s expert
collector
Wellcome News Editorial
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E publishing@wellcome.ac.uk who are salaried by their university or
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in 2010/11 before the final closure of these
sum up our thinking, I offer you two quotes
The Wellcome Trust is the largest charity in the UK. schemes. Wellcome Trust Investigators,
It funds innovative biomedical research, in the UK that I am sure will resonate with many
and internationally, spending over £600 million each Senior Investigators and fellows will be able
researchers. The first, from Sydney Brenner
year to support the brightest scientists with the best to apply for Enhancement Awards, which
ideas. The Wellcome Trust supports public debate – “It is only through the use of subterfuge
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and wellbeing. new opportunities that arise as their work
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The Wellcome Trust Limited, a company registered improvements in global health.
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Cover image: blackred/iStockphoto. See pages 4–5.
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This document was printed on material
to the very best researchers and their teams,
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riskier, more speculative lines of enquiry. Director of the Wellcome Trust

WellcomeNews | Issue 61
In this issue

Funding

Neurodegenerative Diseases Initiative 6


Studying health impacts of climate change 6
Thailand Programme hits 30 7

10
News

Nobel win for Trust-funded scientist 2


6
Making a drama of e-health 3
Research
Jo Brand announces Book Prize winner 3

Conceptualising dogs 8
‘My UKPMC’ helps grant reporting 8
Investigating influenza 10
Q&A with Matt Hurles 11

9 Noticeboard 13

Features

Obstructive sleep apnoea 4


Wellcome Film puts history online 9
Henry Wellcome’s star collector 12

3 8
WellcomeNews | Issue 61 | 1
News
Ramakrishnan celebrates Nobel win Trust support for new UK
components of the ribosome structure at drug development campus
different stages in its working process. He
also won a 2008 Wellcome Image Award
for pictures of the bacterial ribosome
structure (see below).
“The work by Dr Ramakrishnan and
his fellow Nobel Prize winners highlights
the importance of structural biology in
answering some of our most important
and fundamental questions,” said Sir Mark
Walport, Director of the Trust. “Ribosomes
are crucial for translating the DNA ‘code’
into a living organism. Understanding
Medical Research Council
how they work will help unlock many of
Dr Venkatraman Ramakrishnan (above),
the mysteries of life and, more pressingly,
a structural biologist at the Medical
provide us with targets for essential new
Research Council Laboratory of Molecular
antibiotics.”
Biology, was named one of the winners
of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2009.
Together with Thomas A Steitz of Yale
University and Ada E Yonath of the
Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel,
he was awarded the Prize for mapping
the structure of the ribosome at the
atomic level using X-ray crystallography. Courtesy of the Department for Business,
Innovation and Skills
The 1999 publication of the first X-ray
crystallography structures of a bacterial We have committed £6 million to a new
ribosome ended a decades-long challenge £37m Bioscience Campus in Stevenage,
in the field of biochemistry. Hertfordshire, in partnership with the
Dr Ramakrishnan was awarded a UK government, GlaxoSmithKline, the
programme grant from the Wellcome Technology Strategy Board and the East
Trust in 2007 to look more closely at of England Development Agency. The
Molecular model of a ribosome. MRC Laboratory of
Molecular Biology, V Ramakrishnan project aims to create a world-leading
hub for early-stage biotech companies,
What’s on at operating under a model of open
innovation and collaboration. Each
Wellcome Collection company at the Campus will have access to
specialist skills, equipment and expertise
Although it may be wintry outside,
to help to stimulate innovation in drug
there’s plenty to fire up your imagination
development. By sharing knowledge, each
at Wellcome Collection. Don’t miss our
company will also increase its chance of
current exhibition – Identity: Eight rooms,
success while retaining its independence
nine lives – which explores how science
so entrepreneurship can flourish.
has tried to determine human identity,
“The Stevenage Campus represents a
from fingerprinting to DNA sequencing.
huge investment in the future of Britain’s
A number of related events are taking
bioscience industry and is a strong new
place in early 2010. You can also come
platform for the work of our Office for Life
and explore the world of Ismond Rosen,
Sciences,” said Lord Mandelson, Secretary
distinguished psychoanalyst, gifted artist
of State for Business, Innovation and Skills.
and a pioneer of scientific and artistic
“It will leverage our existing strengths as
collaboration. His works are on show
a world leader in the sector, helping it to
throughout Wellcome Collection from 2
grow and reinforcing our international
December to 21 March.
competitiveness. And ultimately it
Wellcome Collection has teamed up
will help us build towards a stronger
with the new Times monthly science Artwork (top) by Ismond Rosen (above). From the printed
collection of Ruth Rosen UK economy coming out of the global
supplement for an exciting new series of
downturn.”
debates. Eureka Live, which launched on
The development is expected to house
10 December, hosts a panel of experts to If you’ve missed any, or aren’t based in
around 25 companies initially and to
discuss the latest science in the headlines. London, all talks are available to download
create up to 1500 new jobs, with plans to
Lastly, our ‘Packed Lunch’ series of as free podcasts on the Wellcome
increase capacity five-fold over the next
enlightening lunchtime talks continues Collection website.
ten years.
to highlight the work of local scientists. www.wellcomecollection.org

2 | WellcomeNews | Issue 61
Prized reading Prizes and appointments
The inaugural Wellcome Trust Book Prize
has been won by Keeper: Living with Nancy
– a journey into Alzheimer’s (Short Books).
Author Andrea Gillies (pictured, left)
was presented with the Prize at a special
awards reception at Wellcome Collection
in November.
Jo Brand, comedian and former
psychiatric nurse (pictured, right),
chaired the judging panel for the Prize
and made the announcement. She said: Professor John Gurdon (above), who
“Andrea Gillies’s account of living with works at the Wellcome Trust–Cancer
Alzheimer’s is the perfect fusion of Research UK Gurdon Institute in
narrative with enough memorable science Cambridge, has won the 2009 Albert
theme of health, illness or medicine.
not to choke you. It’s a fantastic book – Lasker Basic Medical Research Award,
The judging panel for the inaugural Prize
down to earth and darkly comic in places. along with Shinya Yamanaka, for
included BBC science journalist Quentin
The judges found it compelling.” “discoveries concerning nuclear
Cooper, Welsh poet and non-fiction writer
Keeper beat off strong competition from a reprogramming”, the process in which
Gwyneth Lewis, physician and author
varied shortlist featuring both factual specialised adult cells form early stem
Raymond Tallis and Richard Barnett, an
accounts and gripping novels, including a cells. Professor Gurdon first received
expert in the history of modern medicine.
philosophical approach to illness and a Trust support in 1998; his most recent
tender novel about the lives of twins that grant, to explore nuclear reprogramming
were born conjoined. • The 2010 Prize is now open for in Xenopus oocytes, was made in 2008.
submissions. For more, see:
The £25 000 Prize highlights outstanding
www.wellcomebookprize.org
works of fiction and non-fiction on the Professor Anne Glover is the new Chair
of the UK Collaborative on
Development Sciences (UKCDS). We are
New play explores e-health one of the member organisations of
UKCDS, which works to provide a more
its use in medical research. Each coordinated approach to development
performance is followed by a live debate, sciences research in the UK.
using electronic voting technology, during
which audience members are encouraged
to explore what they think about the issues
posed by the drama.
The production has been developed in
partnership with the Royal Academy of
Engineering. It is supported by Central
A scene from Breathing Country. Robert Workman
YMCA and the Wellcome Trust, as part of
Y Touring Theatre Company is taking a new our Electronic Patient Records and Databases
Trust-supported production on the road. in Research scheme. Breathing Country has
Breathing Country, by Ben Musgrave, aims to been touring schools throughout London
raise young people’s awareness of the new in late 2009, and will tour nationally in
NHS Electronic Patient Record system and spring 2010. www.ytouring.org.uk

Darwin year comes to a close Catherine Draycott (above), Head of


Wellcome Images – the Wellcome
The close of 2009 brings an end to a year of best poetry, performance and films on Library’s picture library (images.
celebrations for Charles Darwin and his work. evolutionary theory from the year-long wellcome.ac.uk) – has won the Royal
While February saw the 200th anniversary Evolving Words initiative, alongside live Photographic Society’s Combined Royal
of Darwin’s birth, November marked 150 music from hip-hop artist and jazz Colleges Medal for 2009. This award is
years since the publication of On the Origin saxophonist Soweto Kinch. given in recognition of an outstanding
of Species. Wellcome Collection celebrated Many of the Trust’s Darwin-themed contribution to photography and its
the latter with two evolution-themed activities can still be accessed online, application in the service of medicine
events. ‘Should We Stop Breeding?’ asked including the spectacular Tree of Life or surgery.
whether, with a global population set to top animation, free experiment kits for schools, • Check out the winners of the 2009
9 billion by 2050, we should put a limit on and all the webisodes and mini-games from Wellcome Image Awards and the
reproduction for the sake of the planet. the Routes series. stories beyond the images at
Meanwhile, a separate event showcased the www.wellcome.ac.uk/darwin200 www.wellcomeimageawards.org.

WellcomeNews | Issue 61 | 3
Take my
breath away
Waking hundreds of times a night, gasping for breath,
but with no recollection in the morning sounds like the
stuff of nightmares, yet for thousands of people with
obstructive sleep apnoea, this is a nightly reality. Chrissie
Giles talked to a man with the condition and a researcher
who has dedicated her career to studying it, to find out
what can be done to secure a good night’s sleep.
Ina Peters/iStockphoto

“I worked as a tax consultant in the City Mr Govan once fell asleep at the wheel Sleep studies
of London. One day I was in a one-to-one while driving his family in the fast lane of Around the same time as Mr Govan was
meeting with an important client and I the M6. Luckily, no one was hurt. diagnosed, Mary Morrell was completing
just dropped off – bang! Fortunately, the Spurred by this to seek help, Mr Govan her PhD, studying the changes in
client thought I’d died, which was less saw his GP. Unfortunately, years of fruitless breathing that occur during sleep.
embarrassing that the truth: that I’d fallen visits followed as a diagnosis remained With a Wellcome Trust International
asleep in the meeting.” elusive. In the end it was a chance Travelling Fellowship, she then worked
Frank Govan, now retired, recounts one comment made by his wife to an ear, nose at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
of the troublesome experiences that come and throat consultant at a dinner party in the USA with a group at the forefront
from living with obstructive sleep apnoea. that led to a referral to a sleep specialist and of research into the control of breathing
This common condition causes people to a diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnoea. during sleep.
stop breathing in their sleep, sometimes Mr Govan now uses a CPAP machine and “The Fellowship introduced me to large-
hundreds of times a night (see box, below). a mask over his nose whenever he sleeps. scale sleep and breathing studies,” she says.
They don’t remember their wakings in the A continuous stream of air is delivered, “At that time there wasn’t an equivalent
morning, but can suffer extreme fatigue which keeps his airway open without group in the UK researching the causes of
and sleepiness throughout the day. interfering with breathing. The effects of sleep apnoea, so I went to the USA to get
Some 2–4 per cent of younger adults and just one night of CPAP were spectacular. experience.”
over 15 per cent of elderly people have the “I felt refreshed and my energy had Inspired by her Fellowship, Dr Morrell
condition. Overweight men make up the returned,” he says. “I had my life back.” and colleagues in 1997 established the
majority of cases, although it is not clear
how many women are affected. Research
into sleep apnoea has improved our Sleep apnoea at a glance
understanding of the condition, and there
Sleep apnoea occurs when a person’s airway becomes blocked as they sleep,
is a cost-effective treatment that works for
causing them to stop breathing. These pauses can last from a few seconds to over
many people: continuous positive airway
a minute.
pressure (CPAP).
What causes this? When we sleep, our muscles relax. The upper airways
The years of intense tiredness – or feeling
(behind the tongue) are not reinforced with cartilage, so can go floppy. In
“zombified”, as Mr Govan describes it –
extreme cases, the airway collapses entirely and blocks, preventing air from
takes its toll on patients and their families.
reaching the lungs. If this happens, the brain eventually detects the struggle for
Mr Govan’s sleepiness had become a
breath and the resulting drop in blood oxygen levels, triggering the person to
standing joke among his friends. He was
wake up and breathe – often with a loud gasp or snort.
frequently so exhausted that he would fall
Sleep apnoea is more likely in people with narrowed airways, caused, for
asleep mid-meal at dinner parties: “I never
example, by large tonsils or a set-back lower jaw. Being overweight is also a
saw dessert,” he says.
risk factor, as the weight of fatty tissue around the neck can promote airway
Research shows that obstructive sleep
collapse. The bigger your collar size, the greater the risk of sleep apnoea.
apnoea is a known risk factor for road
accidents (see box, far right). Indeed,
Johanna Viljakainen/iStockphoto

4 | WellcomeNews | Issue 61
Clinical and Academic Unit of Sleep and
Breathing at the Royal Brompton Hospital,
National Heart and Lung Institute,
Imperial College London. The Unit is
dedicated to studying
the control of breathing
during sleep in patients,
focusing particularly on
sleep apnoea.
“The effects of sleep
apnoea are particularly
devastating,” says Dr
Morrell. “It’s like putting
a pillow over somebody’s
face and asking them to
breathe.”
Extreme fatigue is not
the only effect of sleep apnoea. Waking
Dr Mary Morrell (left) and Frank Govan wearing his CPAP mask.
up after each ‘apnoea’ (period without
breathing) causes a surge in blood pressure
and heart rate around twice as great as
that caused by spontaneous waking.
“You can’t breathalyse for sleepiness”
Cumulatively, these surges can lead to high The exhaustion caused by sleep apnoea Morrell from the Royal Brompton
blood pressure, meaning an increased risk can make everyday tasks life-threatening Hospital, London. “The problem is you
of cardiovascular disease, including stroke ones. Research suggests that the can’t breathalyse for sleepiness – we
and heart attacks, and memory problems. condition is associated with an increased don’t have good objective measures
Dr Morrell and colleagues set out to risk of road-traffic accidents.1 One for it.”
investigate what factors in the body affect study found that drunk healthy people Some researchers stress the need for
these surges. In a study of young adults performed better on a driving stimulator that kind of measure. Dr Charles George,
they made a surprising discovery: the size than sober people with sleep apnoea.2 University of Western Ontario, Canada,
of the surge in blood pressure and heart Bus and lorry drivers are at a particular writes: “Not all cases [of sleep apnoea]
rate was not affected by respiratory factors risk of sleepiness-related accidents. These are sleepy or have crashes and more
such as low blood oxygen or a blocked professions often involve long stretches data are needed for society to establish
airway, which can occur in obstructive of monotonous driving and shift work, and accept a ‘safe’ sleep apnea cutoff for
sleep apnoea. which can increase sleepiness. Such driving, akin to that for alcohol.”1
The researchers recognised that there sedentary jobs also encourage weight
was a lack of data about these surges in gain, a risk factor for sleep apnoea. References
older people. When they studied healthy “Most patients can overcome 1. George CFP. Sleep apnea, alertness, and motor vehicle
over-60s, they found that the surge in heart sleepiness except when doing something crashes. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 2007;176(10):954–6.

rate and blood pressure after waking was boring, such as driving,” says Dr Mary 2. behindthemedicalheadlines.com/articles/sleep-
apnoea-and-road-accidents
lower than in younger people, suggesting
that it decreases with age.
The implications of this finding aren’t Technology Assessment Programme Selected references
clear – a lower surge could mean that the for PREDICT, a UK-wide, randomised Peppard PE et al. The impact of obesity on
cardiovascular impacts of sleep apnoea controlled trial of CPAP in people over oxygen desaturation during sleep-disordered
breathing. Am J Respir Crit Care Med
are reduced in older people. Alternatively, 65 with sleep apnoea. The primary 2009;180(8):788–93.
given that many older people have ‘stiff’ outcome measure of the trial is an Goff EA et al. The cardiovascular response to
blackred/iStockphoto

arteries that predispose to heart disease, improvement in sleepiness, but the arousal from sleep decreases with age in healthy
adults. Sleep 2008;31(7):1009–17.
the effects of sleep apnoea on the risk study will also include a measure of
Morrell MJ, Badr MS. Effects of NREM sleep
of stroke or heart attacks could still be cost-effectiveness, to ensure that the
on dynamic within-breath changes in upper
substantial. economic impact of the findings can be airway patency in humans. J Appl Physiol 1998;
84(1):190–9.
The National Institute for Health and calculated.
Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines With a research portfolio that
published in 2008 recommend CPAP for combines studies of respiratory Want to know more?
adults with moderate–to-severe sleep physiology with investigations into the •Watch our video featuring Frank
apnoea. As Dr Morrell’s work shows, the clinical consequences, particularly in Govan and Mary Morrell at
causes and consequences of sleep apnoea older people, Dr Morrell is building on www.youtube.com/wellcometrust
are different in older people, so we can’t our understanding of obstructive sleep and www.wellcome.ac.uk
assume that CPAP will be as effective for apnoea and helping to guide future • The Sleep Apnoea Trust:
elderly patients. treatments. Thanks to her work, people T 0845 6060685
Dr Morrell has recently been awarded such as Mr Govan can get a good night’s www.sleep-apnoea-trust.org
funding from the UK NHS Health sleep at last.

WellcomeNews | Issue 61 | 5
Funding
Funding boost for neurodegenerative diseases research A gem of an idea
The Trust and the Medical Research RNA processing proteins and
Council (MRC) are jointly funding three neurodegeneration – exploring
new research programmes focusing on key mechanisms and modelling disease:
neurodegenerative diseases. Professor Christopher Shaw, of the MRC
These Strategic Awards, which total Centre for Neurodegeneration Research,
just under £17 million, will support King’s College London, and colleagues from
multidisciplinary collaborations to study King’s, Manchester, University of California
Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, San Diego, Cambridge and Dundee, plan to
frontotemporal dementia and motor model key aspects of motor neurone disease
neurone disease. It is hoped that the and frontotemporal dementia, including
research will improve our understanding mutations in the genes FUS and TDP43,
of these devastating conditions and, to explore the mechanisms of disease and
ultimately, lead to improvements in identify new therapeutic targets.
diagnosis and therapies. The Trust has launched a new scheme
A systematic investigation into the
to support teams of UK students hoping
Mechanisms of neurotoxicity of amyloid pathogenesis and course of Parkinson’s
to enter the iGEM synthetic biology
aggregates: Professor Peter St George- syndrome: Professors Nicholas Wood, John
competition. Run by the Massachusetts
Hyslop at the Cambridge Institute for Hardy and Anthony Schapira, Institute of
Institute of Technology, iGEM
Medical Research, University of Cambridge Neurology, University College London, and
(International Genetically Engineered
and colleagues from Cambridge, Bristol, colleagues at UCL, Dundee and Sheffield,
Machine) encourages undergraduate
Toronto and the Max-Planck Unit for will study Parkinson’s disease at its earliest
students to develop innovative projects
Structural Molecular Biology will use novel stages. They will examine the genetic basis
based around biological building bricks in
methods from physics, chemistry and of Parkinson’s, to identify and characterise
the same way that engineering students
molecular biology to discover how the the biochemical pathways involved.
might develop a robot using standardised
accumulation of amyloid beta and tau
For more on this, including parts.
proteins results in the death of brain cells in
four background videos, see Previous iGEM projects have included
Alzheimer’s disease and related
www.wellcome.ac.uk/neurodegen a biosensor to detect arsenic in water
neurodegenerative disorders.
supplies in developing countries, bacteria
that take photographs and bacteria that
smell of bananas. We are offering teams of
students stipends to enable them to enter
iGEM 2010. This will provide promising
undergraduates with hands-on experience
of synthetic biology.
“We need to attract the brightest young
minds to take advantage of the rapidly
emerging field of synthetic biology,” said
Dr Alan Schafer, Head of Science Funding
at the Trust. “We hope to foster innovative
ideas from UK teams and help students to
consider a career in this field.”
www.wellcome.ac.uk/igem

Single nucleotide polymorphisms. MRI scan. Mark Lythgoe and Chloe Hutton

Will lower carbon mean healthier lives?


This month, world leaders meet in group including the Trust, the research
Copenhagen, Denmark, to discuss how to examines the health impacts in four
tackle climate change. Many strategies to sectors (electricity generation, household
reduce greenhouse gas emissions, such as energy, urban land transport, and food
moving to low-carbon energy sources or and agriculture) in both developed and
encouraging cycling and walking, could developing countries.
also improve public health. The findings were reported in November
Now, researchers have conducted an at simultaneous events in London and
independent scientific analysis of the Washington DC, with speeches by the UK
potential benefits to public health of Secretary of State for Health and the US
different mitigation strategies, with the Assistant Secretary of Health, joined by
results published in a series of papers in representatives of the WHO.
the Lancet. Funded by an international www.wellcome.ac.uk/climatechange
Terrance Emerson/iStockphoto

6 | WellcomeNews | Issue 61
New Strategic Award Funding to fight flu
for Oxford

A frontal view of the fly brain showing two groups of


dopamine-producing neurons. Confocal images:
Adam Claridge-Chang; photomontage: Robert Roorda
and Gero Miesenböck. From Science 2009;326(5951).
Reprinted with permission from AAAS

In partnership with the Gatsby


Charitable Foundation, the Trust is
funding a new institute for neuroscience
at the University of Oxford, which is
expected to open in late 2010. Part-
funded by a £5 million Wellcome Trust
Strategic Award, the institute will help
to build research capacity in a key area of
neuroscience concerning the networks
H1N1 influenza virus. Digital artwork. Anna Tanczos
and circuits within the brain.
Professors Gero Miesenböck, Nicholas
In response to the pandemic H1N1 throughout the pandemic period.
Rawlins and Jonathan Flint from Oxford
outbreak in early 2009, we are undertaking With co-funding from the MRC, the
are applicants on the award, which will
a range of funding, policy and publishing Biotechnology and Biological Sciences
support research into adaptive
activities related to influenza. Find out Research Council and the Department
behaviour – understanding how activity
more at www.wellcome.ac.uk/influenza. for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs,
in our nerve cells leads to intelligent
Among the research projects prioritised we have awarded £500 000 to support
behaviour.
are two grants co-funded by the Medical two complementary grants that will
The award will build infrastructure in
Research Council (MRC) and us. Professor inform the control and management
four main areas: neuroanatomy, gene
Peter Openshaw from Imperial College of the epidemic in pig populations.
expression, optogenetics and behaviour.
London and colleagues have received The research groups, led by Dr James
Researchers will focus on the
£2.7 million to establish a network of Wood from the University of Cambridge
mechanisms of adaptive behaviour from
research centres to conduct detailed and Dr Ian Brown from the Veterinary
the level of individual synapses to whole
investigations on severe, hospitalised cases Laboratories Agency, will investigate the
organisms, using models including the
of H1N1 influenza. Meanwhile, Dr Andrew transmission of pandemic H1N1 in pigs
fruit fly, mouse and zebrafish. Further
Hayward from University College London in the laboratory and in the field, and will
capacity building comes in the form of
and colleagues will use their £2.1m grant analyse the risk to farm workers of pig-to-
advanced training – a number of postdoc
to lead a community initiative to study human transmission. They will also study
positions will be made available.
virus transmission. They aim to recruit the development and extent of the disease
The Gatsby Charitable Foundation is
10 000 people – representing about 4000 and the immune response in pigs.
also contributing £5m to the award, and
households – who will be followed up
the University of Oxford is providing a
building and £5m for refurbishment.
Thailand Programme celebrates 30 years
The Trust’s Major Overseas Programme in uncomplicated malaria.
Thailand is celebrating its 30th anniversary Several celebratory activities are planned,
this month. The Wellcome Trust–Mahidol including the opening of new laboratories
University–Oxford Tropical Medicine – with a traditional Buddhist ceremony – at
Research Programme opened in 1979 as a the Bangkok site, a cultural retreat to Khao
collaboration between scientists from the Yai National Park and a book marking the
University of Oxford in the UK and Mahidol anniversary.
University in Bangkok, Thailand. Today, it We have provided £21.6 million of
is recognised internationally for excellence funding to the Thailand Programme since
in tropical disease research, having made 2005. This core support, as well as support
numerous vital discoveries including the for the Major Overseas Programme in
development of artemisinin combination Vietnam, has just been renewed for the
therapy, now the frontline treatment for period 2010–15.
A researcher at the Thailand Programme. Joss Dimock

WellcomeNews | Issue 61 | 7
Research
If it barks like a dog… Citizen-scientists unite!
One of the defining characteristics of
human intelligence is our ability to use
prior knowledge when dealing with new
situations through the development of
concepts. For example, we know that an
animal that barks, has four legs, is furry
and has a snout is likely to be a dog.
Lucy Goodchild/Imperial College London
Researchers from the Wellcome Trust
Schoolchildren and members of the public
Centre for Neuroimaging at University
will be able to help collect data for scientific
College London have revealed that this
projects using a new mobile phone
ability is underpinned by a coupled circuit
application designed to help scientists in the
involving the hippocampus (an area of the
field to analyse their data remotely.
brain responsible for learning and
EpiCollect (above), developed by
memory) and the ventromedial prefrontal
researchers at Imperial College London, is a
cortex (used in decision making). Their
free smartphone application that allows the
findings suggest that the hippocampus
user to collect and record data, photos and
creates and stores these concepts, and Annette Shaff/iStockphoto
videos and send this to a central web-based
passes this information to the prefrontal
Dharshan Kumaran, who led the study. “It database. Users can request and view all
cortex where it can be put to use, for
reveals how so-called ‘memory’ regions analyses through their phones, allowing
example in making choices where rewards
like the hippocampus team up with researchers a quick and easy way to build up
are at stake.
‘decision modules’ in the prefrontal lobe to and share maps of, for example, disease cases
“Our study offers neurobiological
put this information to use.” or the distribution of endangered species,
insights into the remarkable capacity of
Kumaran D et al. Tracking the emergence of conceptual to identify patterns in the data.
humans to develop concepts based on knowledge during human decision making. Neuron “EpiCollect could be used for community
their visual experiences,” said Dr 2009;63(6):889–901.
projects, for example projects that ask
members of the public to track sightings of
birdlife in their garden,” said David Aanensen
from Imperial College. “It should be much
Easier grant reporting with UKPMC quicker and simpler to submit sightings to
the website by phone than email or the post.”
Want a simpler way to complete your UKPMC is a free digital archive of
The software runs on the Android
end-of-grant reports and keep track of biomedical journal literature set up
open-source operating system developed
your citations? ‘My UKPMC’, a new by leading UK research funders in
by Google and the Open Handset Alliance,
grant-reporting tool from UK PubMed partnership with the British Library. It
with an Apple iPhone version currently in
Central (UKPMC) can help. Through is open to grantholders funded by the
beta testing (consumer testing prior to
My UKPMC, Trust grantholders can member organisations, including the
official release).
report on and share the outcomes of Trust. Manuscript submission and grant
Aenensen AM et al. EpiCollect: linking smartphones to web
grants via publicly available web pages reporting services are available at: applications for epidemiology, ecology and community data
that update dynamically whenever a ukpmc.ac.uk/ukmss collection. PLoS One 2009;4(9):e6968.

new publication is added to PubMed or


UKPMC. The ‘My Impact’ report shows
the number of citations for each paper,
counts that are updated continuously
using data from the Thomson Reuters
Web of Knowledge and Scopus citation
services.
Dr Tim Hubbard, a researcher at the
Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute who
sits on the UKPMC Advisory Board, says
that the service should make it easier
for researchers to see which of their
publications are popular, and will help
others in the field to discover papers of
interest quickly. “My UKPMC will help
save time for researchers, who always
have too much to read, and should,
ultimately, improve the progress of
science.”
UKPMC report showing articles linked to a specific grant.

8 | WellcomeNews | Issue 61
A moving sight
As part of its digitisation programme, the Wellcome
Library is making over 450 films and videos on 20th-
century healthcare and medicine freely available
online. We have a look at what’s available so far
through Wellcome Film.

The black-and-white film begins with a Florence Nightingale’s appeal on behalf


caption explaining that you’re about to of the veterans of Balaclava, and a short
watch an operation to remove a brain audio interview with Alexander Fleming
tumour. Next comes an X-ray, clearly broadcast by the BBC in 1945 where he
showing a dark area at the front of the speaks prophetically about the dangers
patient’s head. Then the operation begins. of overexposure to antibiotics.
The eight minutes that follow are library.wellcome.ac.uk/wellcomefilm
fascinating, unflinching and, it has to be www.youtube.com/wellcomefilm
said, pretty hard to stomach in places,
particularly when the top of the skull is
Five not to miss
opened up. The Prefrontal Tuberculoma
A pick of some of the highlights of
film, made in Britain in 1933, is the most
Wellcome Film:
viewed video on the Wellcome Film
YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/ • A day at Gebel Moya, season 1912–13:
Experience life at one of Sir Henry
wellcomefilm).
Wellcome’s archaeogical sites in
This channel is one way to watch the
Sudan (1912–13)
videos and films made available through
Wellcome Film – the Wellcome Library’s • Conditioned reflexes and behavior:
Reconstructed experiments in Ivan
film digitisation project. Eventually, over
Pavlov’s laboratory (c.1930)
450 of the most frequently requested films
and videos from the Library’s Moving • The Both mechanical respirator:
Forgotten treatment regimens for
Image and Sound Collection will be made
respiratory paralysis caused by
freely available online, under Creative
polio (1950s)
Commons licences and in a number of
digital formats. So far, around 360 films are • D ying for a smoke: UK public health
information film on smoking (1967)
available, and the full complement is
expected to be online by spring 2010. • The story of the Wellcome Foundation
Ltd: Explore the origins of the
The Moving Image and Sound
Wellcome Trust (1955).
Collection includes material from a variety
of sources: broadcast television
programmes, departmental collections
Vital statistics
from universities, professional
The Moving Image and Sound
associations, charities and individuals.
Collection is the largest compilation
Possibly next in line for digitisation are
of film, video and audio of 20th-century
some of the 1500 or so audio titles held in
medicine and healthcare in Europe.
the Moving Image and Sound Collection.
It contains:
Stand-out items in the collection, which
contains broadcast and non-broadcast • over 1300 films, mostly on 16 mm but
with a few examples on 8 mm, 9.5 mm
material, include 1890 recordings of
and 35 mm
• 3500 videos in many formats,
including ¼" open reel tape, U-Matic
and Betacam SP
• 1500 sound recordings, mostly held
as audio cassettes and CDs.

library.wellcome.ac.uk/misc.html

WellcomeNews | Issue 61 | 9
WellcomeNews | Issue 61 | 9
Research
Round-up Influenza insights
Pandemic swine flu can infect cells situated cells deep inside the lungs, which can result
deeper in the lungs than seasonal flu, in a more severe lung infection. If an
according to researchers from Imperial influenza virus is able to bind to more than
College London. Seasonal influenza viruses one type of receptor, it can attach itself to a
infect cells by attaching to receptors found larger area of the respiratory tract, infecting
on the outside of cells in the nose, throat more cells and causing a more serious
Faruk Ulay/iStockphoto and upper airway. The researchers found infection.
that H1N1 swine flu can attach to those “Receptor binding determines how well a
Negative signals
receptors, but also to a receptor found on virus spreads between cells and causes an
Subliminal messaging – images shown
infection,” says Professor Ten Feizi, one of
so briefly that the viewer does not
the researchers from Imperial College. “Our
consciously ‘see’ them – is most effective
new study adds to our understanding of
when the message is negative, according
how the swine-origin influenza H1N1 virus
to researchers from University College
is behaving in the current pandemic, and
London. Participants asked whether a
shows us changes we need to look out for.”
fleetingly shown word was ‘neutral’ or
In a separate study, researchers found
‘emotional’ answered most accurately
consistent evidence that influenza triggers
when responding to negative words,
heart attacks. The researchers conducted a
even when they believed they were
systematic review of 39 studies,
merely guessing.
investigating links between influenza
Nasrallah M et al. Emotion 2009;9(5):609–18.
infection and acute myocardial infarction.
They say that influenza vaccines should be
encouraged, particularly for patients with
established cardiovascular disease.

Childs RA et al. Receptor-binding specificity of pandemic


influenza A (H1N1) 2009 virus determined by carbohydrate
microarray. Nat Biotechnol 2009;27(9):797–9.

Warren-Gash C et al. Influenza as a trigger of acute


myocardial infarction or death from cardiovascular disease: a
systematic review. Lancet 2009;9:601–10.
Fred Goldstein/iStockphoto
Jeroen Peys/iStockphoto

Delivery service Knockout mouse leads leaner, longer life


Indigenous Peruvian women with little
formal education do use childbirth Scientists have managed to extend the
but not so in males, who showed some of
delivery services if their needs are met, lifespan of mice by up to a fifth and
the health benefits but little difference in
say researchers from Salud Sin Límites reduce the number of age-related diseases
lifespan. The reasons for these differences
Perú and the London School of Tropical the animals suffer. The research, which
are unclear.
Medicine and Hygiene. This contradicts involved blocking a key molecular
common attitudes that ascribe high pathway, mimics the health benefits of Selman C et al. Ribosomal protein S6 kinase 1 signaling
regulates mammalian life span. Science 2009;326(5949):
levels of home births to cultural reducing calorie intake and suggests that 140–4.
preferences or ignorance. Introducing drug treatments for ageing and age-related
an appropriate model for childbirth to a diseases are feasible.
Peruvian community led to a 77 per cent In a study primarily funded by the Trust,
increase in births delivered at a health scientists from the Institute of Healthy
facility between 1999 and 2007. Ageing at University College London
Gabrysch S et al. Bull World Health Organ discovered changes in the ageing process
2009;87(9):724–9.
in a strain of knockout mice, which were
HIV fail unable to produce a particular protein
A substantial number of children still do known as S6 kinase 1 (S6K1).
not have access to life-saving HIV “Blocking the action of the S6K1
treatment, according to researchers protein helps prevent a number of
from the Africa Centre for Health and age-related conditions in female mice,”
Population Studies in South Africa. They says Professor Dominic Withers, who
found that, despite progress in led the study. “The mice lived longer and
improving the availability of free HIV were leaner, more active and generally
services, fewer than predicted HIV- healthier than the control group. We
infected children under one had started added ‘life to their years’ as well as ‘years to
essential antiretroviral treatment. their lives’.”
Cooke GS et al. PLoS One 2009;4(9):e7101. The effect was dramatic in female mice,
Rob Owen-Wahl

10 | WellcomeNews | Issue 61
Q&A
Older
Short-sighted
dads, greater
view on
risk?
sports
A
Scientists
rare form studying
of testicular
children
tumour from could
the help
to
Avonexplain
Longitudinal
why certain Study
genetic
of Parents
diseases
are
andmore
Childrencommon found inthat
the short-sighted
children of older maps haven’t shown is that some
fathers.
children were less physically active than duplicated sections of DNA have jumped
those
The without
link between short-sightedness.
the genetic conditionsIn the to new locations within the genome,
and
study,theresearchers
tumour arestudied the germ thecells
short- sometimes on to a different chromosome.
that
sightedness
produceofsperm. nearlyIf5000certainchildren
genetic aged CNVs seem to be less common in
mutations
10, and fitted arisetheinsame
thesechildren
cells, they with can introns [non-coding DNA sequences
be
accelerometers
passed on to to offspring
measure andtheir
cause
physical within a gene] – they’re selected against.
conditions
activity at age including
12. achondroplasia and It is known that deletions in these
Apert,
Short-sighted
Noonan and children
Costellohadsyndromes.
lower total regions can cause disease but we don’t
As
activity,
these mutations
lower levelshappen of moderate-to-
to be in fully understand the mechanism behind
genes
vigorous thatactivity
are involved
and were in controlling
more sedentary In 2006, the first map of human copy this yet.
cell
thanmultiplication,
those withoutthey short-sightedness.
also encourage number variants – lengths of DNA lost or
the
Although
mutantshort-sighted
cells to divide children
and multiply,
may be duplicated in the genome – was Was there anything unexpected?
causing
reluctant tumours
to join in to with
develop.
vigorous activities published. Now, a more detailed map has Studies of SNPs [single nucleotide
if they
When wear
these glasses,
mutant adjusting
cells divide,
for glasses
they been released, revealing more about this polymorphisms, sequence variations at a
copy
wearingthein mutation
this study to made
each daughter
little difference
cell. type of genetic variation. Dr Matt Hurles single DNA base] have gone some way to
So,
to the
theresults,
number indicating
of mutantthat cellsother
– andfactors from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, explaining why diseases cluster in
hence
may bethe responsible.
number of mutant sperm a leader on the project, talks us through families, but the majority of this
produced
The authors – increases
suggest with
thatage,
interventions
raising the the highlights. clustering is not explained. It was
risk
targeted
that older
at short-sighted
fathers willchildren
have affected are thought that CNVs might account for
children.
required, to make them aware of the What are CNVs? this so-called ‘missing heritability’, but
risks
Professor
of low Andrew
physicalWilkie
activity, from
particularly
the CNVs, or copy number variants, are we found that it’s highly unlikely that
University
as there is evidence
of Oxford, that
who childhood
led the study, relatively long sections of DNA gained or common CNVs explain a significant
explains:
behaviours “We canthink
be carried
most meninto adulthood.
develop lost in one individual relative to another. proportion of it, although rare CNVs may
these
Deere Ktiny clumps
et al. Myopia andof mutant
later physical cells
activityin
in their They’ve been known about for a long still play a significant role.
testicles
adolescence:asathey age. study.
prospective TheyBrare rather
J Sports Medlike time but, until the last couple of years, we
2009;43:542–44.
moles in the skin, usually harmless in haven’t really had the tools to get a sense Where is the missing heritability?
themselves. But by being located in the of how prevalent they are in the genome. We think that it’s most likely to be rare
testicle, they also make sperm – causing variation that hasn’t been well captured
children to be born with a variety of What was the aim of the study? by the approaches currently available.
serious conditions.” In 2006, we published a ‘first-generation’ We do point out in the paper that,
Goriely A et al. Activating mutations in FGFR3 and HRAS
map of the largest CNVs that could be because of the negative selection acting
reveal a shared genetic origin for congenital disorders and seen with the technology of the time. on some CNVs, many of these variants
testicular tumors. Nat Genet 2009;41(11):1247–52.
Since then we’ve been working to will necessarily be rare. Also, the fact that
produce a more comprehensive map that they’re being selected against suggests
captures the majority of common CNVs, that they may have an effect on disease.
and provides the resources to be able to
incorporate those into genetic studies: What’s next for CNVs?
essentially, a reference map for CNVs to One of our next steps will be to look for
drive research. these rarer variants. Ideally, we’ll do this
To do this, we had to screen the in a way that allows us to capture SNPs
genome at much higher resolution than and CNVs, so we’ll be maximising the
has been done before. We split the power to identify any region of the
genome into 20 different segments and genome that happens to harbour rare
put each on to its own microarray. We variants. It should be possible, but it is a
ended up screening the genome with 42 work in progress. While the new
million probes – at least a 20-fold higher sequencing technology can be very good
density than has been done previously. at capturing sequence variation, it’s an
We looked at CNVs bigger than 443 bp open question to what degree it can
[base pairs] occurring in one in 20 capture structural variation.
individuals.
What do you do outside of the lab?
What did you find? I enjoy spending time playing with my
We’ve discovered some interesting things young children, and sculling on the river
about CNVs, such as how they arise and Cam.
how frequently – at least one in 17
Conrad DF et al. Origins and functional impact
children every generation will have a new
of copy number variation in the human genome.
CNV. Something that previous CNV Nature 2009 [Epub ahead of print].

Reddoch Graphics/iStockphoto

WellcomeNews | Issue 61 | 11
Wellcome’s collector
In her new book, An Infinity of Things: How Sir Henry
Wellcome collected the world, Frances Larson explores
the fascinating collection of the Wellcome Trust’s
founder. In this abridged extract, she looks at the career
of expert collector Peter Johnston-Saint, a respected
colleague of Henry Wellcome.

A suave and well-connected ex-army officer,


Peter Johnston-Saint (above) was one of
Henry Wellcome’s most trusted collecting
agents. In his role as Foreign Secretary for
the Wellcome Historical Medical Museum
between 1927 and 1935 he travelled all over
Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.
Saint bought thousands of manuscripts,
books and artefacts for Wellcome. Amongst
his acquisitions were Turkish shoes made
from an old motor tyre, an eighteenth
century boot-shaped bath equipped with a
furnace (used by a French doctor who
suffered from leprosy), the doorway to a
school for training Buddhist monks as
doctors in Lhasa, an account of King Louis Johnston-Saint’s sketches of objects from Rome. Henry Wellcome (left) and Johnston-Saint .
XIV’s last illness written by one of his doctors
great beauty and value.”
at Versailles, and a single hair from the head “because the stench was so dreadful. A
In 1934 Saint was promoted to
of St Catherine of Siena held in a small dreadful old woman with whiskers came to
Conservator of the Wellcome Historical
piece of paper sealed with a cardinal’s seal. see what I wanted, and assuredly she did
Medical Museum, a post he held until his
Saint was the perfect ambassador. He had not add to the relief of the situation.”
retirement in 1947. He was one of the last
a wide social circle, but he was not a One bookshop in Valencia, which he
people to have talked to Wellcome before
pretentious man. He was equally happy found in March 1928, was in fact “a junk
he died in 1936. Saint’s constancy, his
talking to the King of Spain, whose wife he shop of the first order.”
diligence, and his delight in artefacts of all
had known since childhood, or drinking “It was in a narrow dirty street and it was
kinds must have left little doubt in
with locals in a remote tavern in the Sicilian lighted by one gas jet. The proprietor was
Wellcome’s mind that his great collection
mountains in the company of “goats, fowls reclining in a broken wicker chair smoking
was in safe hands.
and diminutive asses”. (Each of these the stump of a cigar. All around him in the
encounters, incidentally, yielded new small room, some 12' x 10' were piles of
accessions for the Museum to Wellcome’s rubbish, loose leaves, pamphlets, vellum Oxford University Press is
great satisfaction.) bound books and such like which you had pleased to offer Wellcome News
Johnston-Saint’s travel reports are littered to walk on indiscriminately.” readers a special price of £18.99
with the names of European politicians and Here, Saint unearthed medical books (inc. free UK p&p) on An Infinity
members of the aristocracy. Spanish dukes from the sixteenth and seventeenth of Things by Frances Larson.
and duchesses, Italian cardinals, Indian centuries that were virtually impossible to
To order your copy, visit
maharajahs and French princes all grace find in Spain. He purchased about 150 titles
www.oup.com/uk, add this title to
the pages of his diaries, but he could also there and then.
your shopping basket and enter
find himself in rather unsavoury quarters. “It has always been a matter of surprise to
promo code WEBWTFL09.
At Lisieux, in Normandy, where pilgrims me,” Saint wrote, “to find that in some
Alternatively, telephone 01536 741727
worshipped at the Shrine of Saint Teresa of squalid ramshackle shop which resembles
or email bookorders.uk@oup.com,
the Infant Jesus, he found a house that “was more a go-down than a shop, the owner
quoting promotion WEBWTFL09.
occupied by a sort of dealer in junk and produces most wonderful objects – jewels
Offer ends 31 January 2010.
odds and ends”, but he did not stay long, worth many thousands and objects of art of

12 | WellcomeNews | Issue 61
Wellcome Trust Biomedical
Vacation Scholarships 2010
Applications are invited from biomedical and veterinary science
departments for undergraduates to work on a biomedical science
research project during their summer vacation. Scholarships
provide the student with a stipend for up to eight weeks.
Research expenses are not provided.

Students should be undergraduates Preference will be given to Application forms and further
in the middle (i.e. not the first or last) undergraduates without previous details are available from the
years of their first degree studies. research experience. Students Wellcome Trust website at
They should be registered for a basic are encouraged to arrange their www.wellcome.ac.uk/vacation
science, medical, dentistry or veterinary scholarship away from their Applications must be submitted on
degree at a university within the UK usual place of study. behalf of the student, by the project
or the Republic of Ireland (RoI). supervisor.
Projects must be undertaken at a Forms must be returned by
UK or RoI university. 15 February 2010.

The Wellcome Trust is a charity registered in England, no. 210183.

Courses, conferences and workshops


9–12 June
Working with the Human Genome
Sequence 5–8
Advanced Course, Instituto de Higiene, The Evolutionary Biology of
Montevideo, Uruguay Caenorhabditis and Other
18–19 Nematodes
Perspectives in Clinical Proteomics Conference GC
Conference GC 9–13
Genomics of Malaria Epidemiology
Conference GC
April 19–26
Molecular Neurology and
17–21
‘Engineering DNA’ digital artwork. Oliver Burston
Neuropathology
Working with Parasite Database
GC: Event takes place at the Wellcome Advanced Course GC
Resources
Trust Genome Campus, Hinxton, Cambs.
Workshop GC
For information on Wellcome Trust
Conferences, see www.wellcome.ac.uk/
July
conferences. May 18–24
For information on Advanced Courses
and Open door Workshops, see Next Generation Sequencing
9–15
www.wellcome.ac.uk/advancedcourses. Advanced Course GC
Molecular Basis of Bacterial
21–27
Infection: Basic and applied
March 2010 research approaches
Human Genome Analysis: Genetic
analysis of multifactorial diseases
Advanced Course GC
1–3 Advanced Course GC
10–12
Therapeutic Applications of
Working with the Human Genome
Computational Biology and
Sequence
Chemistry
Workshop GC
Conference GC

WellcomeNews | Issue 61 | 13
A FREE DESTINATION FOR TUESDAY–SUNDAY (UNTIL 18.00)
LATE NIGHT THURSDAY (UNTIL 22.00)

THE INCURABLY CURIOUS


183 EUSTON ROAD, NW1
EUSTON, EUSTON SQUARE

FREE EXHIBITION

PROLIFIC VICTORIAN SCIENTIST


FRANCIS GALTON WAS DRIVEN
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SOLDIERS, PUBLIC SCHOOLBOYS
AND MURDERERS WERE AMONG
THOSE HE OBSESSIVELY MEASURED,
PHOTOGRAPHED AND COMPARED.

26 November 2009 – 6 April 2010

PART OF THE IDENTITY PROJECT FROM THE WELLCOME TRUST

GALLERIES | EVENTS | CAFÉ | BOOKSHOP | LIBRARY | CLUB | CONFERENCE CENTRE www.wellcomecollection.org


OR CALL 020 7611 2222

WELLCOME COLLECTION IS PART OF THE WELLCOME TRUST. THE WELLCOME TRUST IS A CHARITY REGISTERED IN ENGLAND, NO. 210183. DESIGNED BY COG.