It’s currently the Easter holidays and I’m spending my time…revising. While I was studying for biology I came across antigenic variability. I found this pretty interesting and therefore I decided to research it, this when I came across the fact that a universal flu vaccine is being created. More than 10,000 people aged 65 and over will be asked to take part in a study supported by the NIHR and delivered by the University of Oxford. The influenza virus currently impacts around a billion people worldwide a year with around 250,000 to 500,000 annual deaths, mainly in the over-65 age group. Currently, the available vaccines are only 30 to 40% effective of over 65s due to the immune system weakening with age and researchers believe the new vaccine could increase this.
The current vaccines available to fight this flu use the antigen proteins located on the surface of the virus to stimulate the immune system causing it to produce antibodies, however due to the virus changing each year, so do the surface proteins, haemagglutinin and neuraminidase, therefore the flu vaccine needs to change too. Global scientists normally have to predict what the new antigens will look like however this is not very effective. The new vaccine being made is different as it uses the core proteins of the virus instead of the surface antigens. These core proteins remain virtually unchanged in all influenza A viruses, giving researchers the opportunity to create vaccines that will work against all of them. This new vaccine stimulates the immune response to produce T cells rather than antibodies that will kill the virus.
The NHS has started clinical trials for this new vaccine in hopes of an elusive goal that would eliminate our need for annual injections and have massive benefits for global public health.
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Recently, from 17th to 19th of December 2017 I attended a course/conference called Medlink which was held in the University of Nottingham. This residential conference was held for aspiring medics including myself. I found this event to be highly beneficial as I found it to increase my knowledge due to it providing crucial information and is an event I would highly recommend. The course covered various different aspects such as preparation for admission tests, chemistry classes, and personal statement writing alongside general knowledge regarding the medical field of work.
This course allowed me to be confident in my choice of wanting to become a doctor as it confirmed this was the field of work I was interested in. Although I went with some great friends, at the end of it I realised I had made so many more. The experience of being able to talk and relate to individuals my age who had similar interests in me, encouraged me to stay confident and work hard to achieve my goals.
I found the speakers of the course to be extremely inspiring, beneficial, and informative. All of them had great enthusiasm, energy, and humour which allowed me and fellow attenders to stay interacted throughout the long lectures. My favourite speaker had to be James Ridgeway. This is due to him providing an extremely inspiring and insightful useful lecture that caused me to be proactive and do things such as create a blog to share my experiences online with other fellow students/ inspiring medics.
Although I do a lot of traveling, this was one of the first real experiences where I had gone away from home without my family. Spending time in the university residence halls allowed me to understand what my future may be like and provided an insight into university life. Furthermore, doing so allowed me to understand and recognise the fun side of university alongside the more academic aspects.
Near the end of the conference on the last day, I was able to interact with many representatives from various universities which I found to be incredibly beneficial as it allowed me to gain knowledge and answers to various questions I had such as entry requirements.
In conclusion, this experience allowed me to gain knowledge, become wiser, more inspired, and encouraged than I was previously.
Due to me being interested in scientific discoveries specifically those to do with medical advancements I decided to take part in an online course that I believed would help expand my knowledge regarding several topics. The course I participated in was offered by the University of Leeds and was called, CAUSES OF HUMAN DISEASE: UNDERSTANDING CAUSES OF DISEASE. I found this course to be wonderful as it was beneficial in providing information which I found crucial as it allowed me to deepen and expand my knowledge regarding issues and success that take place throughout the world due to medical advancements. The two week time period was effective as it allowed me to continue my academic studies but still spend time gaining extra information. The topics I learned about were the principles of population health, and the social determinants of health. Furthermore, apart from this my favourite topics that I learned about were health inequalities and global perspectives due to the fact that they provided information regarding issues that are occurring throughout the world that I wouldn’t necessarily have known about If I hadn’t done this course. Doing so allowed me to understand various things such as how developing countries often struggle with issues such as infant mortality rates due to them unfortunately not having advanced medical knowledge and resources.
Advancements of technology has allowed scientist and individuals to attain many beneficial and crucial medical advancements that will shape the future and allow for more endless possibilities to be discovered. Here are a few of the many developed this year:
1. Growing organs in a petri dish to help treat cystic fibrosis
A 53 year old patient known as Els van Der Heijden with cystic fibrosis took part in a medical advancement that has reshaped the medical world. At first doctors were confused as this patient was not benefiting from the expensive well known medicine she was taking and so therefore the doctors were hesitant to try an even more expensive drug as it had not been proven to work in people with the rare type of cystic fibrosis that Van der Heijden had. Instead of doing this the doctors effectively scraped some cells from the patient and grew a mini version of her large intestine in a petri dish in order to test the effectiveness of the drug. So far, doctors have grown mini guts – just the size of a pencil point – for 450 of the Netherlands’ roughly 1 500 cystic fibrosis patients.
2. Lymph-node transplant surgery in South Africa a success
A man suffering from Lymphoedema and an advanced skin cancer in South Africa has received successful reconstructive surgery. Lymphoedema is a common painful side effect of cancer and cancer treatment. At Life Vincent Pallotti Hospital, surgeons successfully performed a novel vascularised lymph node transfer. This procedure is done on small blood vessels to treat Lymphoedema and will now be able to benefit many individuals.
3. Lab-grown skin saves boy dying from rare genetic disease
A young boy in Germany with a rare genetic disease called epidermolysis bullosa was on the verge of death as this disease had destroyed 60% of his skin and had made it extremely fragile and thin. With the use of stem cells and gene therapy, doctors were able to engineer a fully functional skin for the boy. This made him the first individual in the world to receive a skin transplant of this magnitude. This advancement and operation has allowed doctors and scientists to understand and develop the potential of this specific technology.
4. HIV eliminated from mice
A study first published in the journal of Molecular Therapy stated the important breakthrough in regards to HIV. HIV is the human immunodeficiency virus which is estimated to affect around 37.7 million people in 2016. With the use of CRISPR (gene editing) therapy, scientists discovered that they could successfully cut out the HIV virus from mouse cell. In the time span of a few years scientists are hoping that this discovery could lead to a possible breakthrough with the cure of the disease in the hopes of improving the condition of many individuals’ lives.
5. The first robot-assisted super-microsurgery
Surgeons from the Maastricht University Medical Centre in the Netherlands executed the first robot-assisted super-microsurgery. The robot stitched vessels as small as 0.3 mm to treat lymphoedema in a patient. It’s a delicate procedure but the robotic assistance made it go without a drawback.
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Let’s wait and see what 2018 has to offer!
Turmeric. A common spice often used in dishes I grew up eating. Due to it having many health benefits I decided to make it the topic of today’s blog.
Cancer and Alzheimer’s disease are just two of the many diseases that turmeric may be able to treat. It is a common yellow spice often used in dishes such as curries. Turmeric is harvested from yurmeric root often most commonly founded in in Southeast Asia as it is native to there. In recent months due to scientific studies, it has been discovered that turmeric possesses anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
The spices benefits have been backed up by a cohort of studies including one made recently which discovered that turmeric contains a chemical known as curcumin which may be the key to a new cancer.
However, there are claims that consuming this spice which has been used for centuries in countries such as India and china may do little more than add flavour. A ground breaking discovery published by the journal of Medical Chemistry discovered that turmeric may have little health benefits as it involved a review of scientific literature on curcumin.
Michael Walters, co-author and research associate professor at the University of Minnesota, states: “These studies have become a part of folklore, and their actual results don’t really measure up to what they’re quoted as.”
Researches often had conflict over the validity of the spices power as they weren’t able to attain any double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials, known as the gold-standard of medical research, on the spice.
Due to their both being positives and negative aspects of the spice such as its ability to be beneficial for preventing insulin resistance, improving high blood sugar and reducing the toxic effects of high blood glucose levels – meaning it could help diabetes however it having a link to obesity causes there to still remain some confusion upon its actual desire of treating a disease.
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I am Mahrukh Khan. A 17 year old student from Littleover Community school in Derby. I moved from Canada in year 11, completed my GCSE’s in one year and am currently studying Biology, Chemistry, Geography, and Religious Studies in A level. My ultimate aim is to study medicine and become a doctor as it is something I have always aspired to do. In my spare time I like to play badminton, soccer, skateboard, and run cross country.