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CHECKATRADE TROPHY REPORT | CAMBRIDGE UNITED 1 NORTHAMPTON TOWN 1 (NTFC win 2-4 on penalties)

Cambridge United News Feed - Tue, 12/04/2018 - 22:22

Match Reports

Cambridge United’s Checkatrade Trophy campaign came to an end at the hands of Northampton Town via a penalty-shoot out, following a 1-1 draw in regular time at the Abbey.

Categories: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

Marmoset study gives insights into loss of pleasure in depression

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Tue, 12/04/2018 - 16:00

Now, in a study involving marmosets, scientists at the University of Cambridge have identified the region of the brain that contributes to this phenomenon, and shown that the experimental antidepressant ketamine acts on this region, helping explain why this drug may prove effective at treating anhedonia.

Depression is a common and debilitating condition which is recognised as a leading cause of disability worldwide. A survey published in 2016 found that 3.3 out of every 100 UK adults had experienced depression in the week before being interviewed.

A key symptom of depression is anhedonia, typically defined as the loss of ability to experience pleasure. However, anhedonia also involves a lack of motivation and lack of excitement in anticipation of events. All these aspects have proven difficult to treat. One major issue slowing down progress in developing new treatments is that the brain mechanisms that give rise to anhedonia remain largely unknown.

“Imaging studies of depressed patients have given us a clue about some of the brain regions that may be involved in anhedonia, but we still don't know which of these regions is causally responsible,” says Professor Angela Roberts from the Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience at the University of Cambridge.

“A second important issue is that anhedonia is multi-faceted – it goes beyond a loss of pleasure and can involve a lack of anticipation and motivation, and it’s possible that these different aspects may have distinct underlying causes.”

In fact, even when existing therapies do work, the reasons why they are effective are not always clear, making it difficult to target these therapies to individuals. 

Using marmosets, a type of non-human primate, Professor Roberts and MBPhD student Laith Alexander, along with other colleagues, including those at the Wolfson Brain Imaging Centre and Translational Neuroimaging Laboratory, have shown how over-activity in a specific area of the brain’s frontal lobe blunts the excitement seen when anticipating a reward and the motivation to work for that reward. Their results are published today in the journal Neuron.

In the present study marmosets were trained to respond to two sounds: if they heard sound A, they would receive a treat of marshmallows; if they heard sound B, they would not receive a treat. Once they had learned the association, they would become aroused at sound A, reflected in an increase in blood pressure and excited movements of the head. They would not show the same response to B.

The researchers then infused either a drug or a saline solution into a region of the brain known as ‘area 25’ through thin cannulae (metal tubes) in the marmosets’ head. Cannulae are inserted during a single surgical procedure, and once the anaesthetic has worn off they do not trouble the animals.

The effect of the drug was to temporarily make this particular brain region over-active, and this resulted in the marmosets showing less excitement and anticipation at the prospect of a marshmallow treat. They were however as quick to eat the marshmallow treat as before. The saline infusion made no difference to the activity in area 25 or to the marmosets’ excitement and anticipation.

In a second task, the marmosets had to make more and more responses to get their reward – while initially they would receive a marshmallow treat after pressing a coloured shape on a touch sensitive computer screen just once, as the task proceeded, they would be required to press the coloured shape an increasing number of times. Eventually, the marmoset would reach a point where it gave up, considering the treat to be no longer worth the effort required.

When the marmosets’ area 25 was over-activated, the researchers observed that the marmosets gave up much faster. This lack of motivation is another key symptom associated with anhedonia.

By using PET scanning techniques to observe activity across the marmoset’s brain the researchers found that over-activity in area 25 had a knock-on effect to other brain regions, which also became more active, indicating that these were all part of brain circuity controlling anticipatory excitement.

Finally, the researchers investigated the effect of the experimental antidepressant, ketamine. Marmosets were given the antidepressant 24 hours ahead of the experiment. This time, even when marmosets were administered the treatment to make area 25 over-active, they still showed excitement and anticipation at the marshmallow reward. PET scanning revealed that the brain circuits were functioning normally. In other words, ketamine had blocked the effects of over-activating area 25, which would otherwise blunt anticipation.

“Understanding the brain circuits that underlie specific aspects of anhedonia is of major importance, not only because anhedonia is a core feature of depression but also because it is one of the most treatment-resistant symptoms,” says Laith Alexander, the study’s first author.

“By revealing the specific symptoms and brain circuits that are sensitive to antidepressants like ketamine, this study moves us one step closer to understanding how and why patients may benefit from different treatments.”

Marmosets are used to study brain disorders such as depression because of the similarity of the frontal lobes to those of humans. Rats, which are often used in psychology studies, have frontal lobes quite different to those of humans, making it less easy to translate studies of frontal lobe circuitry directly into the clinic.

“Depression affects many millions of people worldwide, so it’s important we get to the problems within the brain that underlie the various symptoms,” says Professor Roberts. “Studying these symptoms in non-human primates, such as marmosets can help bridge the gap between findings from rodent studies and the clinic.

“Using marmosets, we are able to manipulate the activity in specific brain regions, helping us see which regions are causally involved. These effects are temporary, and wear off after a short time.”

The research was funded by Wellcome.

Reference
Alexander, L, et al. Fractionating blunted reward processing characteristic of anhedonia by over-activating primate subgenual anterior cingulate cortex. Neuron; 4 Dec 2018; DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2018.11.021

‘Anhedonia’ (the loss of pleasure) is one of the key symptoms of depression. An important component of this symptom is an inability to feel excitement in anticipation of events; however the brain mechanisms underlying this phenomenon are poorly understood.

Understanding the brain circuits that underlie specific aspects of anhedonia is of major importance, not only because anhedonia is a core feature of depression but also because it is one of the most treatment-resistant symptomsLaith AlexanderFree photosWindow view


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Categories: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

DISCOUNTED AWAY TRAVEL FOR TRANMERE ROVERS THROUGH AWAY DAYS INC.

Cambridge United News Feed - Tue, 12/04/2018 - 10:49

Ticket News

Away coach travel has been discounted for Saturday’s Sky Bet League Two trip to Tranmere Rovers, with £10 off ALL supporter’s travel thanks to Away Days Inc.

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Opinion: COP24: here's what must be agreed to keep warming at 1.5°C

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Mon, 12/03/2018 - 12:56

The Paris Agreement of 2015 has a central aim to keep global temperature rise this century well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to “pursue efforts” to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5°C. This is an ambitious aim – global temperatures are rapidly approaching the 1.5°C target and the 2°C limit is not far away.

The path to 1.5°C requires that the world achieve zero emissions before 2050. It is imperative, therefore, that we stop burning fossil fuels, known as mitigation. However, our present trajectory suggests we’re not on track. COP24 can’t take its eye off this ball –- there is no long-term plan that doesn’t include zero fossil-carbon emissions. The scientific consensus is that we need to reach “net zero” CO₂ emissions by 2050. But to tack closer to a scenario of 1.5°C warming, COP24 should set this target for 2035.

Black, observed temperatures; blue, probable range from decadal forecasts; red, retrospective forecasts; green, climate simulations of the 20th century. Credit: The Met Office Carbon removal and non-CO₂ emissions

The United Nations, in the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5ºC has accepted that there isn’t any obvious pathway to zero emissions in such a short time frame, so they have pegged their hopes on NETs – Negative Emissions Technologies. These approaches include carbon capture and storage (CCS), which involves sucking CO₂ from the air and storing it deep underground.

Carbon removal along these lines is the second imperative for COP24 in Katowice. Globally we emit around 40 billion tonnes of CO₂ annually, so net zero CO₂ by 2050 will require CO₂ removal of this scale, starting immediately.

Read more: Explainer: what is carbon capture and storage?

But CO₂ isn’t the only problem. We emit other greenhouse gases such as methane, nitrous oxide and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) which all contribute to climate change. Methane is on the rise and is 84 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO₂.

It comes from cows, and it leaks from oil wells and coal mines as “fugitive methane”. It is also seeping out of the melting permafrost in the Arctic. This is a worrying form of “positive feedback” where global warming causes the further release of gases that cause further warming.

Nitrous Oxide, which is 300 times more potent than CO₂, is rising too, caused by modern agriculture. And the concentration of refrigerant gases, such as CFCs, which are thousands of times more potent than CO₂, is not falling as fast as we’d hoped. So COP24 has a third imperative, to prevent the rise of non-CO₂ greenhouse gases. If we can stabilise non-CO₂ greenhouse emissions at present day levels we’ll be doing well, but concentrations are rising fast.

Limiting warming to 1.5°C or 2°C requires mitigation (energy efficiency and renewable generation) and CO₂ removal. Credit: MCC Desperate times, desperate measures

All of this is going to be hard work. We’re failing to cut down our emissions, the technologies for NETs don’t exist at any meaningful scale, yet and there are no political drivers in place to enforce their deployment. There is also a real risk of a dramatic rise in methane in the near future. COP24 will have to consider emergency plans.

One such plan is very controversial. There are so-called “geoengineering” technologies which can be used to cause changes in global temperatures. One of these is Solar Radiation Management (SRM), which involves injecting tiny aerosol particles high in the atmosphere where they reflect sunlight into space.

We know from the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991 that stratospheric aerosols caused a cooling of around 1°C over a year. The northern winter of 1992 saw a dramatic increase in sea ice and a stalling of glacial melting. SRM technologies exist and the first sun-dimming experiments are underway.

A proposed SRM technique which would inject sulphate aerosols into the atmosphere. Credit: Hugh Hunt/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

There is a realistic possibility that deploying SRM can buy us some time to enact the essential measures needed to stop warming at or before 1.5°C. The discussions at COP24 must keep all options on the table, and as unpalatable as geoengineering technologies might seem, their deployment may prove to be unavoidable.

The indicators are all in the danger zone. We are seeing increasing Arctic temperatures, rapid loss of Arctic sea ice, reduced Arctic reflectivity, rapidly melting ice shelves and methane release from permafrost. These are leading to rapidly rising sea levels, coastal flooding and storm surges, increased hurricane and storm activity, dry and hot conditions conducive to wildfires, and drought and crop failure.

The urgency for decisive action is the imperative for COP24. The UN must press on with four major strands for meeting the Paris 1.5°C target:

  1. Reduce fossil carbon emissions.

  2. Remove carbon from the atmosphere (NETs).

  3. Halt the rise of emissions of non-CO₂ greenhouses cases (Methane, Nitrous oxide, CFCs).

  4. Investigate techniques for geoengineering, including Solar Radiation Management.

All four of these must proceed simultaneously and in parallel. COP24 must make this perfectly clear. There is utmost urgency and no time to “wait and see”.

Hugh Hunt, Reader in Engineering Dynamics and Vibration, University of Cambridge

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

As the COP24 climate summit begins in Poland, Hugh Hunt from Cambridge's Department of Engineering outlines just what it will take to limit global warming to 1.5°C, as outlined in the 2015 Paris Agreement.  

Alto Crew on Unsplashiceberg near body of water


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QUID A KID RETURNS FOR YEOVIL TOWN FIXTURE!

Cambridge United News Feed - Mon, 12/03/2018 - 11:00

Ticket News

Cambridge United vs Yeovil Town – 15/12/18

The popular Quid a Kid promotion is set to return for the U's fixture against Yeovil Town on Saturday 15th December – Available online, in-store and over the phone today!

Categories: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

CLUB STATEMENT | JOE DUNNE

Cambridge United News Feed - Sat, 12/01/2018 - 10:35

Club News

Head Coach Joe Dunne has today left Cambridge United. Mark Bonner, Assistant Head Coach, will take charge of the first team with immediate effect. The process to recruit a successor is already underway.

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Cambridge alliance secures £72 million in government funding to drive innovation and boost construction

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Fri, 11/30/2018 - 14:55

The Centre for Digital Built Britain (CDBB) at the University of Cambridge has joined a new alliance with the MTC (Manufacturing Technology Centre) and BRE (Building Research Establishment) to transform the way that infrastructure in the UK is designed, built, and used. The Transforming Construction Alliance brings together experts specialising in digital, manufacturing, building performance standards and construction technology. It has been awarded £72 million by Innovate UK to deliver the Core Innovation Hub (CIH), a key investment to transform productivity in the construction sector within the Transforming Construction Programme, funded from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.

Announcing the award at BRE Watford on 30 November 2018, Business & Industry Minister Richard Harrington said: “We have the opportunity to revolutionise construction in the UK and the Core Innovation Hub will help us build smarter, greener and more efficient buildings much faster and cheaper than we do now.

“From the introduction of virtual reality to off-site manufacturing, our modern Industrial Strategy, is helping the UK construction sector to develop new techniques and skills - modernising the sector and delivering the homes and buildings our nation needs.”

The Core Innovation Hub will act as the focal point for construction related innovation, and strengthen links between the research base and businesses. It will support collaboration to develop and commercialise digital and manufacturing technologies for the construction sector to enable the schools, hospitals and infrastructure of the future to be built with strong levels of safety, quality and energy performance.

Through the Core Innovation Hub, the CDBB will continue its development of a framework, pilot projects and set of principles to guide the development of digital twins for built assets and infrastructure, to ensure that the data is interoperable, supporting better integration of services across the built environment. Through its research, policy and change programmes it will support the promotion and adoption of effective information management and the digital transformation of the built environment. These new digital tools, standards and technologies will create new business and export opportunities for the UK infrastructure sector; and ensure that our social and economic infrastructure is designed, built and operated to improve quality of life.

Keith Waller has been appointed Programme Director to lead the Transforming Construction Alliance. A civil engineer by profession, Mr Waller led development of the UK government’s recent Transforming Infrastructure Performance report. “I look forward to working alongside government, industry and the talented teams at MTC, BRE and CDBB to realise the vision of a transformed construction sector,” he said.

“The alliance brings together three trusted organisations with strong research, development and engagement programmes to deliver the evidence base and value case for change, alongside those who will benefit most from it,” said Professor Andy Neely, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Enterprise and Business Relations at the University of Cambridge and Director of the Centre for Digital Built Britain. “CDBB will collaborate widely to deliver a digital programme that will create the framework to underpin the future built environment and grow export opportunities for the UK.”

“There is huge potential for transformation of large parts of the construction sector to a manufacturing industry,” said Neil Rawlinson, Strategic Development Director at MTC. “The widespread appetite for change throughout the industry and the impact that this change will have on so many aspects of life in the UK make us enormously excited to be delivering this pivotal role. The complementary skills of the alliance partners will ensure we deliver for Industry and government.”

The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund will strengthen research and innovation in science and business in the UK. Its Transforming Construction programme aims to support £600 billion worth of infrastructure and construction projects over the next decade, creating new processes and techniques, including standardisation of modular components for manufacture.

For more information visit the CDBB website.

 

The Centre for Digital Built Britain (CDBB) at the University of Cambridge has joined a new alliance with the MTC (Manufacturing Technology Centre) and BRE (Building Research Establishment) to transform the way that infrastructure in the UK is designed, built, and used.


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LEFT THE CHRISTMAS PARTY TO THE LAST MINUTE AGAIN THIS YEAR?

Cambridge United News Feed - Fri, 11/30/2018 - 13:02

Commercial

Cambridge United Christmas Party Packages

Have you left the staff Christmas party to the last minute again this year? Don’t worry we’re here to help, with places available for our shared party nights and private party packages!

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COMMERCIAL | CB GROUNDWORKS PERMANENT FIXTURE AT THE ABBEY

Cambridge United News Feed - Fri, 11/30/2018 - 12:03

Commercial

Local company CB Groundworks are the latest business to see the benefits of advertising with the U’s.

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The Lost Words: inspiring children to find, love and protect nature

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Fri, 11/30/2018 - 09:28

First there was the finding that British primary school children were more at ease naming their favourite Pokémon character than they were at naming a hare, a deer or an oak tree.

Then there were the revisions to a new edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary: out went everyday nature words like acorn, bluebell and kingfisher, no longer used enough by children to merit inclusion; in came attachment, broadband, voice-mail, reflecting today’s tech-savvy child who is more at home on the internet than they are in the woods.

Fascinated and concerned by these changes, Dr Robert Macfarlane began to wonder about the relationship between childhood and the living world...

READ STORY HERE

The Lost Words is a book by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris that summons the magic of nature to help children find, love and protect the natural world.

Once upon a time, words began to vanish from the language of children…’From 'The Lost Words'Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris, The Lost Words"I am Raven"


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Spanish Flu: A warning from history

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Fri, 11/30/2018 - 09:22

The early origins and initial geographical starting point of the pandemic still remain a mystery but in the summer of 1918, there was a second wave of a far more virulent form of the influenza virus than anyone could have anticipated.

Soon dubbed ‘Spanish Flu’ after its effects were reported in the country’s newspapers, the virus rapidly spread across much of the globe to become one of the worst natural disasters in human history.

Doctors, nurses and volunteers were left helpless as their patients, the majority previously healthy young adults, languished and died from respiratory failure. There is now a broad consensus among experts that in just three years, Spanish Flu killed between fifty and one hundred million people. Despite this, public awareness of the disaster and the ongoing threat posed by influenza remains limited.

To mark the centenary and to highlight vital scientific research, the University of Cambridge has made a new film exploring what we have learnt about Spanish Flu, the urgent threat posed by influenza today, and how scientists are preparing for future pandemics. The film presents original photographs from the 1918 outbreak and exclusive interviews with four leading experts:

  • Dr Mary Dobson, a historian of infectious diseases 
  • Professor Derek Smith, Director of Cambridge’s Centre for Pathogen Evolution
  • Dr AJ te Velthuis, a virologist studying how RNA viruses amplify, mutate and cause disease
  • Professor Julia Gog, a mathematician of infectious diseases including influenza

One hundred years ago, celebrations marking the end of the First World War were cut short by the onslaught of a devastating disease: the 1918-19 influenza pandemic.


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Pregnancy losses and large numbers of children linked with increased risk of cardiovascular disease

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Fri, 11/30/2018 - 00:36

Women who experience pregnancy loss and do not go on to have children are at greater risk of cardiovascular disease, such as heart disease and stroke, compared with women who have only one or two children, according to new research from the University of Cambridge and the University of North Carolina.

The study, published today in the Journal of Women’s Health, also found that women who have five or more children are at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease in later life.

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death among women in every major developed country and most emerging economies. Approximately 28,000 women die from heart attacks each year in the UK. In 2016 alone, 20,000 women died after having a stroke – a higher number that that in men.

During pregnancy, the mother’s body experiences changes during pregnancy including weight gain and accumulation of abdominal fat, higher levels of cholesterol, increased insulin resistance, and changes in the structure of the heart. Although most changes that occur during pregnancy are temporary, these changes are known to be risk factors for cardiovascular disease in the general population.

Previous studies have attempted to assess the relationship between pregnancy and childbirth on the one hand and cardiovascular disease on the other. However, due to limitations in these studies – including not taking into account breastfeeding history and grouping together women who had never been pregnant with those who had been pregnant but experienced pregnancy loss – their results have been inconclusive and sometimes contradictory.

In this new study, a team of researchers in the US and the UK analysed data from more than 8,500 White and African-American women, aged 45-64 years, in the US. This included health service data on cardiovascular disease over a thirty year period (1987-2016) and self-reported data on the number of pregnancies and births, and breastfeeding practices.

Within the study population, 138 women reported having experienced pregnancy loss and having no live born children. 3,108 women had one or two live born children, 3,126 had 3-4 live born children, and 1,694 had five or more live born children.

The researchers found that women who experienced pregnancy loss and did not have any live born children were at 64% greater risk of both coronary heart disease and 46% greater risk of heart failure compared to women with one or two children. Women with five or more births had a 38% higher risk of having serious heart attack, regardless of how long they breastfed for.

The team say that there may be several possible reasons for the link between cardiovascular risk and multiple births. Repeated pregnancies could result in long-lasting changes within the body including weight gain, especially around the waist, and increased levels of cholesterol in the blood. Also, the number of children a woman has also encompasses other factors including child-rearing, age at menopause and health conditions. Therefore, the researchers say it is unclear whether the increased risk of heart failure, coronary heart disease and heart attacks reflect the direct impact of repeated pregnancies, or the stressors associated with rearing multiple children, or both.

The increased risk of coronary heart disease and heart failure found in women with prior pregnancies, but no live born children, may reflect the increased risk previously identified after a history of miscarriage. Several mechanisms have been proposed to underlie the relationship between miscarriage and coronary heart disease, including immune disorders, chronic disease and dysfunction of the endothelium (cells that line the interior of blood vessels).

“Conditions such as heart disease and stroke together are the leading cause of death in women in the developed world and it is essential that we understand why this is the case,” says Dr Clare Oliver-Williams, a Junior Research Fellow at Homerton College who works at from the Department of Public Health and Primary Care at the University of Cambridge. “Our work suggests that there is a relation between cardiovascular disease risk and both pregnancy loss and having a large number of births.

“This study isn’t designed to stress and worry women, especially those who have experienced the distress of pregnancy loss. Instead we want to empower women with knowledge that will help them to reduce their risk.

“Most women know by the age of 40 how many children and pregnancy losses they have had, which is years before most heart attacks and strokes occur. This provides a window of opportunity to make lifestyle changes, such as exercise and diet that can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.”

The research was funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, in the USA, and the British Heart Foundation and Homerton College, University of Cambridge, in the UK.

Reference
Oliver-Williams, C, et al. The association between parity and subsequent cardiovascular disease in women: The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study. The Journal of Women’s Health; 27 Nov 2018; DOI: 10.1089/jwh.2018.7161 

Women who experience pregnancy loss and do not go on to have children are at greater risk of cardiovascular disease, such as heart disease and stroke, compared with women who have only one or two children, according to new research from the University of Cambridge and the University of North Carolina.

Conditions such as heart disease and stroke together are the leading cause of death in women in the developed world and it is essential that we understand why this is the caseClare Oliver-WilliamsGeraltHeartResearcher profile: Dr Clare Oliver-Williams

Dr Clare Oliver-Williams first came to Cambridge in 2002 to study Natural Science as an undergraduate “and never fully left”, as she puts it. She studied her PhD here and is now a Junior Research Fellow at Homerton College.

Clare took a career break to have a family, but says she received “excellent support that made returning to academia feasible and enjoyable”. Her time now tends to be spent between her college or the Department of Public Health and Primary Care, though her research involves collaborating with researchers across the world, including in the United States and Europe, which has given her the opportunity to travel widely including to Denmark and North Carolina.

“Cambridge is a wonderful place to work for so many reasons,” she says. “It’s a hub of knowledge and activity, bringing together people from around the world. The enthusiasm so many researchers have for their work is infectious. It can make for inspiring conversations where you hear about the work and passions of others. Even when the topic of conversation is far removed from your own interests, you walk away feeling energised and motivated.”

Clare’s own research builds on her PhD, which focused on the link between miscarriages and the development of heart disease in women. She is now trying to understand the relationship between a range of female traits, such as the menopause and pregnancy, and the risk of cardiovascular disease.

“Cardiovascular disease is often thought of as a primarily male disease, but it affects large numbers of women as well,” she says. “Women undergo unique experiences in their reproductive life which may affect their risk of cardiovascular disease. I want to further our understanding of what these experiences are, and what they mean for the long-term health of women.”

Clare says she has already had her own, “tiny 15 minutes of fame” when at a British Cardiovascular Society conference, where her work led to a surprising amount of media attention, including being interviewed on live radio, being recorded for a podcast and responding to lots of email queries. It also helped her get noticed by her fellow conference attendees.

“To top it all off, I ended up winning a prize at the hackathon, an event devoted to developing solutions to clinical problems. As the announcement of the winners was late, my team mate and I ended up with my children alongside us when we accepted the award on stage!”


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Categories: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

HOSPITALITY | COMPLIMENTARY CHRISTMAS GIFT FROM THE U’S FOR BOXING DAY CLASH

Cambridge United News Feed - Thu, 11/29/2018 - 17:05

Commercial

FREE SIGNED SHIRT WITH BOOKINGS OF TWO OR MORE PLACES

Enjoy an extra Christmas gift from Cambridge United when booking two or more places in the 8build Executive Lounge for our Boxing Day game against Crawley Town – A FREE U’s home shirt signed by the first team!

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GALLERY | EFL GIRLS CUP 2018/19

Cambridge United News Feed - Thu, 11/29/2018 - 14:20

Community

Eleven teams of girls from seven local secondary schools took part in the U’s club stage of EFL Girls Cup, with the winner earning a place as Cambridge United’s representatives at the area finals.

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GALLERY | EFL KIDS CUP - 2018/19

Cambridge United News Feed - Thu, 11/29/2018 - 13:43

Community

This week saw pupils from 12 local primary schools take part in the annual EFL Kids Cup at Bottisham Village College, with the winners earning the chance to represent the U’s in the area finals at Swindon Town in January.

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WE MUST PUT IT RIGHT SAYS HARRISON DUNK

Cambridge United News Feed - Thu, 11/29/2018 - 11:44

Club News

Harrison Dunk didn’t hide his disappointment following Tuesday’s defeat to Crewe Alexandra, and says the U’s players must react very quickly in order to put it right.

Categories: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

‘Mini-placentas’ could provide a model for early pregnancy

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Wed, 11/28/2018 - 18:00

Many pregnancies fail because the embryo does not implant correctly into the lining of the womb (uterus) and fails to form a placental attachment to the mother. Yet, because of the complexities of studying this early period of our development, very little is understood about what is happening normally and what can go wrong. Animals are too dissimilar to humans to provide a good model of placental development and implantation.

“The placenta is absolutely essential for supporting the baby as it grows inside the mother,” says Dr Margherita Turco, the study’s first author, from the Departments of Pathology and Physiology, Development and Neuroscience at the University of Cambridge. “When it doesn’t function properly, it can result in serious problems, from pre-eclampsia to miscarriage, with immediate and lifelong consequences for both mother and child. But our knowledge of this important organ is very limited because of a lack of good experimental models.”

Efforts to grow human placental cells started over 30 years ago in the Pathology department where Professors Ashley Moffett and Charlie Loke were studying cellular events in the first few weeks of pregnancy.  With their chief technician, Lucy Gardner, they found ways to isolate and characterise placental trophoblast cells.  These techniques, combined with the organoid culture system, enabled the generation of miniature functional models of the early placenta – or ‘mini-placentas’.

In the past few years, a new field of research has blossomed that uses these organoids – often referred to as ‘mini-organs’ – enabling insights into human biology and disease. At the University of Cambridge, one of the world leaders in organoid research, scientists are using organoid cultures to grow everything from ‘mini-brains’ to ‘mini-livers’ to ‘mini-lungs’.

In a study funded by Wellcome and the Centre for Trophoblast Research, the Cambridge team was able to grow organoids using cells from villi – tiny frond-like structures – taken from placental tissue. These trophoblast organoids are able to survive long-term, are genetically stable and organise into villous-like structures that secrete essential proteins and hormones that would affect the mother’s metabolism during the pregnancy. Further analysis showed that the organoids closely resemble normal first-trimester placentas. In fact, the organoids so closely model the early placenta that they are able to record a positive response on an over-the-counter pregnancy test.

Professor Graham Burton, a co-author and Director of the Centre for Trophoblast Research, which last year celebrated its tenth anniversary, says: “These ‘mini-placentas’ build on decades of research and we believe they will transform work in this field. They will play an important role in helping us investigate events that happen during the earliest stages of pregnancy and yet have profound consequences for the life-long health of the mother and her offspring. The placenta supplies all the oxygen and nutrients essential for growth of the fetus, and if it fails to develop properly the pregnancy can sadly end with a low birthweight baby or even a stillbirth.”

In addition, the organoids may shed light on other mysteries surrounding the relationships between the placenta, the uterus and the fetus: why, for example, is the placenta able to prevent some infections passing from the mother’s blood to the fetus while others, such as Zika virus, are able to pass through this barrier? The organoids may also be used for screening the safety of drugs to be used in early pregnancy, to understand how chromosomal abnormalities may perturb normal development, and possibly even provide stem cell therapies for failing pregnancies.

Last year, the same team supported by Cambridge’s Centre for Trophoblast Research reported growing miniature functional models of the uterine lining.

“Now that we’ve developed organoid models of both sides of the interface – maternal tissue and placental tissue – we can start to look at how these two sides talk to each other,” adds Professor Ashley Moffett.

Professor Moffett also co-directed a recent study published in Nature that used genomics and bioinformatics approaches to map over 70,000 single cells at the junction of the uterus and placenta. This study revealed how the cells talk to each other to modify the immune response and enable the pregnancy, presenting new and unexpected cell states in the uterus and placenta, and showing which genes are switched on in each cell.

References

Turco, MY et al. Trophoblast organoids as a model for maternal-fetal interactions during human placentation. Nature; 28 Nov 2018; DOI: 10.1038/s41586-018-0753-3​

Vento-Tormo, R, et al. Single-cell reconstruction of the early maternal–fetal interface in humans. Nature; 14 Nov 2018; DOI: 10.1038/s41586-018-0698-6​

Researchers say that new ‘mini-placentas’ – a cellular model of the early stages of the placenta – could provide a window into early pregnancy and help transform our understanding of reproductive disorders. Details of this new research are published today in the journal Nature.

The placenta is absolutely essential for supporting the baby as it grows inside the mother. When it doesn’t function properly, it can result in serious problemsMargherita TurcoTitle: Image reproduced with the permission of SPD Swiss Precision Diagnostics GmbH (SPD)Researcher profile: Dr Margherita Turco

Dr Margherita Turco began her career studying the development of embryos in domestic animals during her studies for Veterinary Biotechnology at the University of Bologna, in Italy. During her PhD in Molecular Medicine at the European Institute of Oncology in Milano, she became interested in how early cell lineage decisions are made and began using various stem cells models to address this question.

This led Margherita to come to Cambridge in 2012 to carry out her postdoctoral work on human trophoblast stem cells at Cambridge’s Centre for Trophoblast Research (CTR), during which time she was awarded a Marie Curie Fellowship. She now has a Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Fellowship that has enabled her to build up her own research group.

Margherita’s goal is to understand how the human placenta grows and develops during pregnancy.

“The placenta is a remarkable organ that is formed early in pregnancy.  It plays the crucial role of nourishing and protecting the baby throughout its development before birth,” she says.

There is a lot that can go wrong during this period, however.

“Complications occurring during pregnancy, such as pre-eclampsia, fetal growth restriction, stillbirth, miscarriage and premature birth, are principally due to defective placental function. These conditions, which collectively affect around one in five pregnancies, can pose a risk to both the baby and mother’s health. Understanding early placental development is the key to understanding successful pregnancy.”

Human placental development has been a ‘black box’ for ethical and practical reasons. “The lack of reliable experimental models that accurately mimic how placental cells behave has hindered our ability to ask even quite basic questions,” she says.

To address this issue, Margherita was funded by the CTR to develop models of the human placenta.. Her mentors have included Professors Ashley Moffett and Graham Burton from the Centre, and Dr Myriam Hemberger from the Babraham Institute, bringing together different a wide range of expertise to this challenging project.

Margherita uses a type of model known as an ‘organoid’ and has now managed to generate organoid models from both the mother’s uterus and the placenta, the two sides of the maternal-fetal interface.

“As their name suggests, organoids are essentially mini-organs grown in the laboratory that preserve the normal cellular architecture and function,” she says. “They have proved to be powerful tools in investigating development and biological functions in many other organ systems – the heart, gut, liver, kidney and brain. They can also be used for screening drugs and studying how pathogens affect tissues. I believe they will be equally transformative for the investigation of early pregnancy and the origin of later complications.”

Cambridge has been the ideal place for Margherita to carry out her research because of the unique concentration of placental and stem cell biologists within the CTR.

“There is no other place in the world with such a combination of skills, knowledge and resources,” she says.

“I hope to be able to uncover the mysterious events that occur early in human pregnancy that previously were not possible to study. In the longer term, I hope this will alleviate the suffering experienced by couples affected by infertility or complications of pregnancy.”


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