Cambridgeshire

MATCH REPORT | COLCHESTER UNITED 1 CAMBRIDGE UNITED 2

Cambridge United News Feed - Sat, 08/17/2019 - 17:38

Match Reports

Cambridge United produced a superb second half turnaround to secure a 1-2 win over Colchester United and put their first three points of the Sky Bet League Two season on the board.

Categories: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

More than 60 disadvantaged students who achieved top A-level results get “second chance” place at Cambridge under Adjustment

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Fri, 08/16/2019 - 16:04

The UCAS system of Adjustment provides students with a second chance of getting on to their first-choice course.

Adjustment is an optional process that allows students who have met and exceeded the terms of the conditional offer that they are holding to refer themselves for consideration by another institution.

Seventy one students from under-represented backgrounds who referred themselves for consideration on A-level results day (15 August) were offered places on courses from English to Computer Science, and 67 accepted. Seventeen medics got places through Adjustment, while others will study Economics, Engineering, Law and Natural Sciences.

Students took to social media to express their delight at earning a place, including Selina B who tweeted: "soooo I’m #GoingToCambridge now ?????? WHat is LIFE. SEE U SOON".

Dr Sam Lucy, Director of Admissions for the Cambridge Colleges, said: “When we announced the Adjustment scheme, we received many emails from students saying the second chance of a place at Cambridge was inspiring them to work even harder to achieve the best A-level results they could.

"It is wonderful to see that so many who may not have managed to show their full academic potential during the main Admissions round have gone on to excel at A-level due to their hard work and determination.”

She added: “We are delighted to have been able to offer so many of them a place at Cambridge in the pilot year of Adjustment and hope that more disadvantaged students will make an application to Cambridge in future years with the knowledge that this route will also be available to them.”

Each student who applied under the Adjustment scheme had to meet at least three criteria (known as ‘contextual flags’) demonstrating they have not had the same educational advantages as others.

Competition for Cambridge’s approximate 3,500 undergraduate places grows fiercer each year, with more than 14,000 students who apply not being made an offer.

In the first year Cambridge has offered Adjustment places, 67 students from around the UK who did not originally get into Cambridge saw their dream of a world-class education come true after achieving stunning A-level results.

"We hope that more disadvantaged students will make an application to Cambridge in future years with the knowledge that this route will also be available to them."Dr Sam Lucy, Director of Admissions for the Cambridge Colleges


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Categories: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

CAMBRIDGE UNITED BOARD TO RECOMMEND PAUL BARRY TAKEOVER PROPOSAL

Cambridge United News Feed - Fri, 08/16/2019 - 11:57

Club News

The Cambridge United Board announced today that it is recommending to shareholders that they accept an offer from Paul Barry to become the sole owner of Cambridge United FC.

Categories: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

Stormzy announces second year of 'The Stormzy Scholarship', a student funding scheme with Cambridge University

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Fri, 08/16/2019 - 11:16

‘The Stormzy Scholarship’ studentship, announced in August 2018, is a scheme for University of Cambridge students, which will see British black students provided with financial support during their degree courses. 

It will cover the full cost of four tuition fees (2 students in 2018 and 2 students in 2019) and a maintenance grant for up to four years of any undergraduate course. Like last year, this year's studentships will be self-funded by Stormzy, however he hopes to engage more support from additional investors to become part of the scheme. 

The first two students funded under the scheme have now completed their first year. Their identities have been protected to enable them to settle into University life without any additional pressures being placed upon them. Stormzy met with them both last year and has continued to take a great interest in their studies. The two students are expected to graduate in 2021.

A showman like no other, double BRIT-Award winner Stormzy’s remarkable ascent has been accompanied by his honest and relatable character. A true spokesman of black empowerment and social activism, Stormzy is one of the UK’s most inspiring young men who has consistently stood up for people from all areas of life, encouraging his fans and listeners alike to speak openly about their beliefs, vote and fight for their rights.

In 2018, the number of black students admitted reached 61, an all-time high. But at just over 2% of the total intake, the University recognises it is still too few. The University works with Target Oxbridge on a flagship programme to raise aspirations among young black students, providing them with advice on how to apply to both Cambridge and Oxford Universities. This year saw a significant increase in the number of students who registered for the programme. The University also supports a number of access schemes run by its African-Caribbean Society. Students who are members of that Society often act as mentors for applicants. 

Around twenty-five per cent of all students at Cambridge come from a BAME background. The University is committed to doing more to encourage young black students to aspire to the top grades to apply. Stormzy’s support, it believes, can help inspire new generations of black students. The University is also determined to ensure black students feel supported at Cambridge. Many of the Colleges host BAME-themed conferences and the University has helped a number of young black student vloggers launch their online profiles.

To be eligible for a 2019 entry ‘The Stormzy Scholarship’ applicants must be of black heritage and be holding an unconditional offer. Applications must be submitted no later than Sunday 1 September 2019. The students will be selected from a list of applicants by a panel of University staff. The University encourages all students with high academic potential and enthusiasm for their chosen subject to apply. 

For more details on eligibility criteria, follow this link: www.cam.ac.uk/stormzyscholarship

British musician Stormzy is delighted to announce that he is funding a further two undergraduate students at the University of Cambridge this autumn.

Stormzy with students


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Categories: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

AWAY SUPPORTER INFORMATION FOR COLCHESTER UNITED FIXTURE

Cambridge United News Feed - Fri, 08/16/2019 - 10:14

Club News

Colchester United have kindly provided a comprehensive match day guide for travelling Cambridge United supporters to tomorrow’s fixture at the Jobserve Community Stadium.

Categories: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

Shelley’s Peterloo poem took inspiration from the radical press, new research reveals

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Fri, 08/16/2019 - 07:00
This is the conclusion reached by Philip Connell, a senior lecturer in Cambridge’s English Faculty, who has identified new links between the two men and their writing. His findings, first published in the Times Literary Supplement (full study in Review of English Studies, 1 September 2019), shed new light on the meaning of a poem which has become a powerful inspiration for protest movements from the Chartists to the modern Labour Party.   Connell says: “Richard Carlile was not only an important eyewitness to the massacre, he also provided one of the most radical responses to appear in the English press, by arguing that the murderous actions of the Manchester authorities justified revolutionary violence. This changes how we read The Mask of Anarchy. It brings Shelley's poem much closer to Peterloo. It also explains why Shelley urged the working people of England to 'Rise like Lions', while arguing so passionately that protest must remain peaceful.”    Until now, it has been assumed that Shelley’s principal source of information about Peterloo was Leigh Hunt’s moderate, middle-class reformist newspaper, the Examiner. But Connell has found compelling evidence to suggest that Shelley also engaged with a far more uncompromising response to the massacre which took place on St Peter’s Field, Manchester, on 16 August 1819.   Connell’s research indicates that while Shelley was living in Italy in 1819, he received one or more issues of the radical periodicals, Sherwin’s Weekly Political Register and The Republican, both of which were edited by Richard Carlile in London. The most likely supplier of this material is Shelley’s friend Thomas Love Peacock. On 21 September, Shelley wrote to Peacock: ‘I have received all the papers you sent me, & the Examiners regularly … What an infernal business this of Manchester! What is to be done? Something assuredly.’   Connell identifies close links between the Shelley–Hunt circle and Carlile, as well as circumstantial evidence that Peacock was well-placed to lay his hands on Carlile’s controversial publications. The study also suggests that Carlile and Shelley had some contact in the period before and after Peterloo. In the Republican for 24 September, Carlile printed Shelley’s Declaration of Rights, a rare single-sheet fly bill originally produced in Ireland in 1812. This is likely to have happened following some form of communication, probably involving other members of the Hunt circle in England.  

Connell argues that there are significant echoes of Carlile’s writings in the Mask of Anarchy which are at least as compelling as Shelley’s debts to Hunt’s Examiner. Most striking perhaps is the similarity between Carlile’s vision of the Home Secretary’s mask concealing ruthless bloodlust (‘you […] have thrown off your mask and set the first example of shedding blood’) and Shelley’s sinister personification: ‘I met Murder on the way – / He had a mask like Castlereagh’. Viscount Castlereagh was Leader of the House of Commons at the time and supported his Government’s repressive actions which led to cavalry charging into a crowd demanding parliamentary reform, leaving 18 people dead and 700 injured.   “Several instances of shared imagery and language suggest that Shelley drew on Carlile’s prose in his visionary reimagining of the massacre”, says Connell. “Immediately after describing Murder having ‘a mask like Castlereagh’, Shelley wrote that ‘Seven bloodhounds followed him’. This echoes Carlile’s language in articles which I believe Shelley read. Carlile published several descriptions of the Manchester Yeomanry as bloodhounds and Castlereagh and his fellow government ministers as ‘those men who could direct their bloodhounds to attack and destroy a peaceable meeting’.”   Another telling similarity, Connell argues, lies in the emphasis that both Carlile and Shelley place on women. The Times newspaper condemned the ‘female Reformers’ present at the start of the meeting on St Peter’s Field as delusional and this account found its way into Hunt’s Examiner. By contrast, Carlile praised these women. In particular, he honoured Mary Fildes, the ensign of the Manchester Reform Society, who appears prominently in his commemorative print, standing on the platform holding a flag (image attached).   In a similar vein, Shelley’s Mask gives a central role to an allegorical female figure in arresting the progress of Anarchy. He wrote of ‘a Maniac Maid, / And her name was Hope, she said: But she looked more like Despair’. She later ‘lay down in the street, / Right before the horses’ feet’, only to be saved from ‘Murder, Fraud and Anarchy’ by a quasi-divine intervention.   Despite these convergences, Shelley and Carlile took very different positions on the question of violence. Connell says: “Carlile vigorously defended violence as a legitimate response to the massacre yet while Shelley urges the ‘Men of England’ to ‘Rise like Lions’ he also betrays a deep anxiety about the possible consequences of working-class revolution. Shelley’s exposure to Carlile’s outraged militancy helps to explain his insistence on peaceful resistance.”   Reference   Connell, P., ‘A voice from over the Sea’: Shelley’s Mask of Anarchy, Peterloo, and the English Radical Press.’ The Review of English Studies (1 September 2019); https://doi.org/10.1093/res/hgz029

Percy Bysshe Shelley’s The Mask of Anarchy, the most celebrated literary response to the Peterloo massacre – which has its bicentenary on 16 August – drew on accounts of the tragedy written by the radical journalist and freethinker, Richard Carlile.

This changes how we read The Mask of Anarchy. It brings Shelley's poem much closer to PeterlooPhilip ConnellManchester Library Services (public domain)The Peterloo Massacre by Richard Carlile (1819).


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Categories: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

Ancient faeces reveal how ‘marsh diet’ left Bronze Age Fen folk infected with parasites

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Fri, 08/16/2019 - 00:53

New research published today in the journal Parasitology shows how the prehistoric inhabitants of a settlement in the freshwater marshes of eastern England were infected by intestinal worms caught from foraging for food in the lakes and waterways around their homes.

The Bronze Age settlement at Must Farm, located near what is now the fenland city of Peterborough, consisted of wooden houses built on stilts above the water. Wooden causeways connected islands in the marsh, and dugout canoes were used to travel along water channels.  

The village burnt down in a catastrophic fire around 3,000 years ago, with artefacts from the houses preserved in mud below the waterline, including food, cloth, and jewellery. The site has been called “Britain’s Pompeii”.

Also preserved in the surrounding mud were waterlogged “coprolites” – pieces of human faeces – that have now been collected and analysed by archaeologists at the University of Cambridge. They used microscopy techniques to detect ancient parasite eggs within the faeces and surrounding sediment.

Very little is known about the intestinal diseases of Bronze Age Britain. The one previous study, of a farming village in Somerset, found evidence of roundworm and whipworm: parasites spread through contamination of food by human faeces.

The ancient excrement of the Anglian marshes tells a different story. “We have found the earliest evidence for fish tapeworm, Echinostoma worm, and giant kidney worm in Britain,” said study lead author Dr Piers Mitchell of Cambridge’s Department of Archaeology.

“These parasites are spread by eating raw aquatic animals such as fish, amphibians and molluscs. Living over slow-moving water may have protected the inhabitants from some parasites, but put them at risk of others if they ate fish or frogs.”

Disposal of human and animal waste into the water around the settlement likely prevented direct faecal pollution of the fenlanders’ food, and so prevented infection from roundworm – the eggs of which have been found at Bronze Age sites across Europe.

However, water in the fens would have been quite stagnant, due in part to thick reed beds, leaving waste accumulating in the surrounding channels. Researchers say this likely provided fertile ground for other parasites to infect local wildlife, which – if eaten raw or poorly cooked – then spread to village residents.

“The dumping of excrement into the freshwater channel in which the settlement was built, and consumption of aquatic organisms from the surrounding area, created an ideal nexus for infection with various species of intestinal parasite,” said study first author Marissa Ledger, also from Cambridge’s Department of Archaeology. 

Fish tapeworms can reach 10m in length, and live coiled up in the intestines. Heavy infection can lead to anaemia. Giant kidney worms can reach up to a metre in length. They gradually destroy the organ as they become larger, leading to kidney failure. Echinostoma worms are much smaller, up to 1cm in length. Heavy infection can lead to inflammation of the intestinal lining.

“As writing was only introduced to Britain centuries later with the Romans, these people were unable to record what happened to them during their lives. This research enables us for the first time to clearly understand the infectious diseases experienced by prehistoric people living in the Fens,” said Ledger.

The Cambridge team worked with colleagues at the University of Bristol’s Organic Chemistry Unit to determine whether coprolites excavated from around the houses were human or animal. While some were human, others were from dogs.

“Both humans and dogs were infected by similar parasitic worms, which suggests the humans were sharing their food or leftovers with their dogs,” said Ledger.

Other parasites that infect animals were also found at the site, including pig whipworm and Capillaria worm. It is thought that they originated from the butchery and consumption of the intestines of farmed or hunted animals, but probably did not cause humans any harm.

The researchers compared their latest data with previous studies on ancient parasites from both the Bronze Age and Neolithic. Must Farm tallies with the trend of fewer parasite species found at Bronze Age compared with Neolithic sites.

“Our study fits with the broader pattern of a shrinking of the parasite ecosystem through time,” said Mitchell. “Changes in diet, sanitation and human-animal relationships over millennia have affected rates of parasitic infection.” Although he points out that infections from the fish tapeworm found at Must Farm have seen a recent resurgence due to the popularity of sushi, smoked salmon and ceviche.

“We now need to study other sites in prehistoric Britain where people lived different lifestyles, to help us understand how our ancestors’ way of life affected their risk of developing infectious diseases,” added Mitchell.

The Must Farm site is an exceptionally well-preserved settlement dating to 900-800 BC (the Late Bronze Age). The site was first discovered in 1999. The Cambridge Archaeological Unit carried out a major excavation between 2015 and 2016, funded by Historic England and Forterra Building Products Ltd.

‘Coprolites’ from the Must Farm archaeological excavation in East Anglia shows the prehistoric inhabitants were infected by parasitic worms that can be spread by eating raw fish, frogs and shellfish.

Consumption of aquatic organisms from the surrounding area created an ideal nexus for infectionMarissa Ledger Left: Marissa Ledger. Right: D. WebbLeft: Microscopic egg of a fish tapeworm. Right: Must Farm excavation.


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Categories: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

A-Level results day 2019 #GoingToCambridge

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Thu, 08/15/2019 - 15:31

After two years of hard work, A-Level students across the country are receiving their results today (15 August). Among them is the next intake of Cambridge undergraduates, whose hard work and dedication has finally been rewarded.

City and Islington College student Chakira Alin, 18, is coming to Cambridge to study English after getting two A*s in Sociology and History, and an A in English Literature.

“I’m so happy because all the stress has paid off, and I got my grades for university," she said. "I felt really apprehensive over the past few days but it’s all done now and I’m delighted."

Director of the Sixth Form College, Peter Murray, added: “Congratulations to all our students and their teachers for the hard work that went into today’s results. More of our students achieved the highest A* grade this year and we know that our highest achieving students have gained entry to some of the most competitive universities such as Cambridge, King’s College and the London School of Economics".

Gower College Swansea student Emma Rowley has secured a place to read Linguistics at Magdalene College – she completed A-Levels in English Literature, Maths and French.

Principal Mark Jones said: “What is particularly great this year is the progression routes of these young people now they are leaving College. While many are heading to top universities across the UK to begin a higher education course, others have chosen to take apprenticeship or degree apprenticeship routes while others are heading straight into employment. At Gower College Swansea, we are delighted to have helped them on their way to whatever progression pathway they are taking.”

Fiorella Gallardo Sarti, 18, who studied A-Levels at The Belvedere Academy in Liverpool, will be the first member of her family to go to university when she takes up her place at Christ's College to study Law. 

She said: "Getting into Cambridge has showed me how hard work and dedication will always pay off. I am so excited to begin my journey there and take advantage of all of the opportunities Cambridge has to offer."

Hasan Nazir and Reuben O'Connell from Beckfoot School in Bingley, near Bradford, are both on their way to Cambridge. Hasan scored two A*s and an A, and will read Medicine; Reuben achieved two A*s and two As and will read Human, Social and Political Sciences.

Mathematician Lewis Gorton, 18, is heading to Cambridge after achieving A*A*A*A in his A-Levels at Nelson and Colne College, Lancashire. He gained his grades in Mathematics, Further Mathematics, Physics and Computer Science.

He said: “I’m delighted with my results and I’m relieved! The idea of going to Cambridge is something that has developed while I have been at Nelson and Colne College and I’m happy to be progressing there.

“I've always been interested in Mathematics and my ultimate ambition is to become a researcher in the field. I’m grateful to NCC for funding additional one to one tutoring for me, which helped me to prepare for Cambridge’s entry exams and supported the development of my problem-solving skills."

Caroline Thurston, who studied her A-Levels at Hunterhouse College in Belfast, has secured a place to study Medicine at Murray Edwards College. 

Principal Andrew Gibson: "Caroline has excelled in her time at Hunterhouse, gaining outstanding results at both GCSE and A Level. Caroline's positivity and generosity of spirit shines through in everything she does and we have all benefited from having her as part of our school community. We wish her the very best for the years ahead and look forward to hearing of her further success."

A Twitter post by London student Meghan Kimani - who got the grades to study Human, Social and Political Sciences at Cambridge - went viral today, attracting thousands of likes and retweets. 

wow so i really did that #alevelresults2019 pic.twitter.com/UZOaxbVlEF

— meghan (@meghankimani) 15 August 2019

We're celebrating the success stories of students who are #GoingToCambridge.

Getting into Cambridge has showed me how hard work and dedication will always pay off. I am so excited to begin my journey there and take advantage of all of the opportunities Cambridge has to offer.Fiorella Gallardo Sarti, 18, who studied A-Levels at The Belvedere Academy in LiverpoolJenna SelbyCity and Islington College student Chakira Alin, 18, who is #GoingToCambridge


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Categories: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

BUNN DEAL | U’S APPOINT MARK BUNN AS NEW PERMANENT GOALKEEPER COACH

Cambridge United News Feed - Thu, 08/15/2019 - 15:24

Club News

Cambridge United can today confirm former Norwich City and Aston Villa man, Mark Bunn, has been appointed as the Football Club’s permanent Goalkeeper Coach.

Categories: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

BEN SZRETER TO DEPART COMMUNITY TRUST

Cambridge United News Feed - Thu, 08/15/2019 - 13:14

Community

Graham Daniels writes on behalf of the Board of Directors and the Trust Board.

Categories: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

Women in STEM: Fiona Iddon

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Thu, 08/15/2019 - 07:00

My sisters and I were the first in our family to go to university so I was very excited to get the chance to study Geological Sciences at Leeds. I’ve always had an interest in the natural world, I loved physical Geography at school and everything just clicked when I studied Geology for A level. It’s such a broad subject, there is always something new to learn and explore, and the fieldwork in amazing, even if the weather is slightly damp!

Volcanology is definitely the coolest bit of geology. Volcanoes are such powerful natural phenomena and there is so much we still don’t know about them. The more we understand about them the better we can be prepared for future eruptions, and we can also help people harness their energy through geothermal exploration.

My fieldwork on the Main Ethiopian Rift was incredibly exciting. I went there several times to collect rock samples and make field observations. It’s such an amazing country. The landscape is awe-inspiring, the food is interesting, and the people so warm and friendly.

There is a strong volcanology community here, despite the clear lack of volcanoes in Cambridgeshire! This has allowed me to learn from lots of different people, experts in their own fields. The knowledge pool here is so diverse, from analogue experiments to gas geochemistry and volcano seismology. The name also carries weight in the international community, increasing interest in my work at conferences and fostering collaborations. Day to day I’m usually at my desk, crunching numbers and stressing over spreadsheets. As a volcanic geochemist, it is really important to collect high-quality chemical data and find interesting patterns. My thesis aims to improve understanding of where magma chambers are and how they behave in continental rifts.

My area of research is a great field to be part of. The Main Ethiopian Rift is part of the larger East African Rift, which is causing the horn of Africa to split away from the rest of the continent. This type of volcanism has not received much research attention, and a lack of literature can be challenging but new discoveries are so exciting. There are well over 50 volcanoes in Ethiopia, some of which have erupted in dramatic fashion and formed vast calderas in the past, and with the second-fastest growing economy in the world, the number of people and infrastructure near to them will increase. I have integrated my work with geophysics to improve volcanic monitoring efforts in the region and aid in geothermal exploration, an increasingly important energy source for Ethiopia.

The best day I’ve had so far was when I learned how to install geophysical equipment in Ethiopia. I’m a complete novice when it comes to geophysics so it was great to learn from an expert. The equipment is used for measuring the electrical conductivity of the Earth. The measurements we carried out can indicate the presence of magma in the Earth and have produced intriguing results that, along with my geochemical knowledge, I’m helping to interpret. It took a whole team of scientists and local people all morning to dig the holes and bury the equipment; there was a real sense of teamwork, even with the language barriers!

I’ve developed a real passion for making science accessible. This was prompted by my experiences as the assistant editor of a history of science book produced by Cambridge University Press. It showed me that there are viable and exciting careers outside of academia, and I am due to start a career in publishing this fall.

A friendly collaborative attitude goes a long way.  So many female scientists I have encountered feel the need to be tough and uber-competitive to survive in what they perceive as a ‘man's world’.  Be kind and stay true to yourself.

 

Fiona Iddon is a PhD student in the Department of Earth Sciences, where she studies volcanoes. Here, she tells us about making science accessible, being the first in her family to go to university, and working at the place where the horn of Africa is splitting away from the rest of the continent. 

Fiona Iddon at Mount St. Helens


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Categories: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

Joint lubricating fluid plays key role in osteoarthritic pain, study finds

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Thu, 08/15/2019 - 07:00
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. It causes joint pain and stiffness, and in some people swelling and tenderness of the joints. The condition affects an individual’s quality of life and costs millions to the global economy, both directly in terms of healthcare costs and indirectly due to impact on the individual’s working life.   Osteoarthritis tends to occur later in life and has been largely considered as a degenerative disorder in which pain is produced by damage and wear and tear to bone and cartilage. However, in recent years it has become clear that osteoarthritis is not restricted to cartilage damage, but is a failure of the entire joint, with inflammation – the body’s response to stress and injury – being a major contributor to the pain experienced by patients. A recent collaboration between the two pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Eli Lilly has found that their anti-inflammatory drug, tanezumab, produced pain relief for osteoarthritic patients in a phase 3 clinical trial.   When inflammation occurs during osteoarthritis, the body produces an increased number of cells within and around the joint. These cells release inflammatory substances into the synovial fluid, the lubricant that allows joints to move smoothly. During osteoarthritis, synovial fluid becomes less viscous and these inflammatory substances come into direct contact with sensory nerve cells in the joint, producing the sensation of pain.   In a study published on 13 August 2019  in the journal Rheumatology, researchers at the University of Cambridge and Addenbrooke’s Hospital, part of Cambridge University Hospitals, examined whether synovial fluid produced during osteoarthritis is capable of directly exciting sensory nerves supplying knee joints – those nerves responsible for transmitting pain signals.   “Osteoarthritis can be a very painful condition, but we only know a little about what causes this pain,” says Sam Chakrabarti, a Gates Cambridge Scholar. “We wanted to investigate what was happening in the joint and to see whether it was the lubricant that ordinarily keeps these joints moving that was contributing to the pain. Studies such as these are important in helping us develop better treatments.”   The researchers obtained synovial fluid from consenting osteoarthritis patients at Addenbrooke’s Hospital and from post-mortem donors with no known joint disease. They then incubated knee sensory nerves isolated from mice in either healthy or osteoarthritis synovial fluid and recorded the activity of these nerves.   The team found that when incubated with osteoarthritic synovial fluid, the knee nerves were more excitable. The nerves also showed an increase in the function of TRPV1, a molecule that detects the hotness of chilli peppers (TRPV1 is also activated by heat, which is why chillis tastes hot). Although the presence of inflammatory chemicals in osteoarthritis synovial fluid has been known since 1959, this is the first evidence that synovial fluid can directly excite sensory nerves and hence is an important contributor to an individual’s experience of pain.    “This is the first time we have been able to use synovial fluid from human osteoarthritis patients to excite sensory nerve cells, making it more clinically-relevant than mouse studies alone, and so will hopefully help translating treatments from bench to bedside,” says Dr Ewan St John Smith from the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Cambridge.   “In the future, this set up can be used to identify the specific components of synovial fluid that cause pain and then to test if and how a drug will be useful in arthritic pain. Since synovial fluid is regularly collected from arthritic patients as part of their treatment regime, our technique can be easily set up in laboratories throughout the world to understand and help to identify a cure for arthritic pain.”   Dr Deepak Jadon, Director of the Rheumatology Research Unit at Cambridge University Hospitals, adds: “This study highlights how much we can learn with the help of our patients, as well as the importance of collaboration between clinicians and basic scientists.”   The research was funded by Versus Arthritis and the Gates Cambridge Trust.   Reference Chakrabarti, S et al. Human osteoarthritic synovial fluid increases excitability of mouse dorsal root ganglion sensory neurons: an in-vitro translational model to study arthritic pain. Rheumatology; 13 August 2019; DOI: 10.1093/rheumatology/kez331

A team at the University of Cambridge has shown how, in osteoarthritis patients, the viscous lubricant that ordinarily allows our joints to move smoothly triggers a pain response from nerve cells similar that caused by chilli peppers.

In the future, this set up can be used to identify the specific components of synovial fluid that cause painEwan St John SmithCourtesy for Jamelah e. under CC licenseResearcher profile: Sampurna Chakrabarti Around the time that Sam Chakrabarti graduated from the University of Buffalo, the State University of New York, the US was caught in the middle of the opioid crisis, in part because these addictive pain killers were being over-prescribed. Spurred on by the crisis, Sam joined the lab of Dr Ewan St John Smith at Cambridge as a Gates Cambridge Scholar, eager to improve the lives of other by furthering the understanding of pain pathways. “I want my research to contribute towards a world where pain relief is safe and affordable, a world where the reason people take time off work is to go on vacation, not because they are in excruciating pain,” she says.   Originally from Kolkata, India, Sam is interested in finding better ways of studying painful knee arthritis to help identify drug targets. Arthritis affects millions of people worldwide, but patients often receive inadequate pain relief. A major reason for this is the lack of understanding of the basic biology underlying the disease, but Sam recognizes that tackling arthritic pain will require a much broader approach than basic science.    “I hope my research will lead to an understanding of pain that crosses many disciplines and breaks down the language barrier between psychologists, biologists and computer scientists,” she says. “Pain is complex and manifests at multiple levels – a way to understand a phenomenon like this should also be multidisciplinary.”   Sam has been at Cambridge since 2016, during which time she says: “I have met more fascinating, inspiring and engaging people than in my entire life. At Cambridge I feel I am a part of the quest for knowledge that transcends grades and papers, but reflects our innate curiosity.”


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AI used to test evolution’s oldest mathematical model

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Wed, 08/14/2019 - 19:00

The researchers, from the University of Cambridge, the University of Essex, the Tokyo Institute of Technology and the Natural History Museum London used their machine learning algorithm to test whether butterfly species can co-evolve similar wing patterns for mutual benefit. This phenomenon, known as Müllerian mimicry, is considered evolutionary biology’s oldest mathematical model and was put forward less than two decades after Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection.

The algorithm was trained to quantify variation between different subspecies of Heliconius butterflies, from subtle differences in the size, shape, number, position and colour of wing pattern features, to broad differences in major pattern groups.

This is the first fully automated, objective method to successfully measure overall visual similarity, which by extension can be used to test how species use wing pattern evolution as a means of protection. The results are reported in the journal Science Advances.

The researchers found that different butterfly species act both as model and as mimic, ‘borrowing’ features from each other and even generating new patterns.

“We can now apply AI in new fields to make discoveries which simply weren’t possible before,” said lead author Dr Jennifer Hoyal Cuthill from Cambridge’s Department of Earth Sciences. “We wanted to test Müller’s theory in the real world: did these species converge on each other’s wing patterns and if so how much? We haven’t been able to test mimicry across this evolutionary system before because of the difficulty in quantifying how similar two butterflies are.”

Müllerian mimicry theory is named after German naturalist Fritz Müller, who first proposed the concept in 1878, less than two decades after Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species in 1859. Müller’s theory proposed that species mimic each other for mutual benefit. This is also an important case study for the phenomenon of evolutionary convergence, in which the same features evolve again and again in different species.

For example, Müller’s theory predicts that two equally bad-tasting or toxic butterfly populations in the same location will come to resemble each other because both will benefit by ‘sharing’ the loss of some individuals to predators learning how bad they taste. This provides protection through cooperation and mutualism. It contrasts with Batesian mimicry, which proposes that harmless species mimic harmful ones to protect themselves.

Heliconius butterflies are well-known mimics, and are considered a classic example of Müllerian mimicry. They are widespread across tropical and sub-tropical areas in the Americas. There are more than 30 different recognisable pattern types within the two species that the study focused on, and each pattern type contains a pair of mimic subspecies.

However, since previous studies of wing patterns had to be done manually, it hadn’t been possible to do large-scale or in-depth analysis of how these butterflies are mimicking each other.

“Machine learning is allowing us to enter a new phenomic age, in which we are able to analyse biological phenotypes - what species actually look like - at a scale comparable to genomic data,” said Hoyal Cuthill, who also holds positions at the Tokyo Institute of Technology and University of Essex.

The researchers used more than 2,400 photographs of Heliconius butterflies from the collections of the Natural History Museum, representing 38 subspecies, to train their algorithm, called ‘ButterflyNet’.

ButterflyNet was trained to classify the photographs, first by subspecies, and then to quantify similarity between the various wing patterns and colours. It plotted the different images in a multidimensional space, with more similar butterflies closer together and less similar butterflies further apart.

“We found that these butterfly species borrow from each other, which validates Müller’s hypothesis of mutual co-evolution,” said Hoyal Cuthill. “In fact, the convergence is so strong that mimics from different species are more similar than members of the same species.”

The researchers also found that Müllerian mimicry can generate entirely new patterns by combining features from different lineages.

“Intuitively, you would expect that there would be fewer wing patterns where species are mimicking each other, but we see exactly the opposite, which has been an evolutionary mystery,” said Hoyal Cuthill. “Our analysis has shown that mutual co-evolution can actually increase the diversity of patterns that we see, explaining how evolutionary convergence can create new pattern feature combinations and add to biological diversity.

“By harnessing AI, we discovered a new mechanism by which mimicry can produce evolutionary novelty. Counterintuitively, mimicry itself can generate new patterns through the exchange of features between species which mimic each other. Thanks to AI, we are now able to quantify the remarkable diversity of life to make new scientific discoveries like this: it might open up whole new avenues of research in the natural world.”

Reference:
Jennifer F. Hoyal Cuthill et al. ‘Deep learning on butterfly phenotypes tests evolution’s oldest mathematical model.’ Science Advances (2019). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaw4967

Researchers have used artificial intelligence to make new discoveries, and confirm old ones, about one of nature’s best-known mimics, opening up whole new directions of research in evolutionary biology.

We can now apply AI in new fields to make discoveries which simply weren’t possible beforeJennifer Hoyal Cuthill J Hoyal Cuthill, photo credits S Ledger and R CrowtherButterfly co-mimic pairs from the species Heliconius erato (odd columns) and Heliconius melpomene (even columns). Illustrated butterflies are sorted by greatest similarity (along rows, top left to bottom right)


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Cambridge scientists reverse ageing process in rat brain stem cells

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Wed, 08/14/2019 - 18:01

The results, published today in Nature, have far-reaching implications for how we understand the ageing process, and how we might develop much-needed treatments for age-related brain diseases.

As our bodies age, our muscles and joints can become stiff, making everyday movements more difficult. This study shows the same is true in our brains, and that age-related brain stiffening has a significant impact on the function of brain stem cells. 

A multi-disciplinary research team, based at the Wellcome-MRC Cambridge Stem Cell Institute at the University of Cambridge, studied young and old rat brains to understand the impact of age-related brain stiffening on the function of oligodendrocyte progenitor cells (OPCs). These cells are a type of brain stem cell important for maintaining normal brain function, and for the regeneration of myelin – the fatty sheath that surrounds our nerves, which is damaged in multiple sclerosis (MS). The effects of age on these cells contributes to MS, but their function also declines with age in healthy people.

To determine whether the loss of function in aged OPCs was reversible, the researchers transplanted older OPCs from aged rats into the soft, spongy brains of younger animals. Remarkably, the older brain cells were rejuvenated, and began to behave like the younger, more vigorous cells. 

To study this further, the researchers developed new materials in the lab with varying degrees of stiffness, and used these to grow and study the rat brain stem cells in a controlled environment. The materials were engineered to have a similar softness to either young or old brains.

To fully understand how brain softness and stiffness influences cell behavior, the researchers investigated Piezo1 – a protein found on the cell surface, which informs the cell whether the surrounding environment is soft or stiff.

Dr Kevin Chalut, who co-led the research, said: “We were fascinated to see that when we grew young, functioning rat brain stem cells on the stiff material, the cells became dysfunctional and lost their ability to regenerate, and in fact began to function like aged cells. What was especially interesting, however, was that when the old brain cells were grown on the soft material, they began to function like young cells – in other words, they were rejuvenated.”

“When we removed Piezo1 from the surface of aged brain stem cells, we were able to trick the cells into perceiving a soft surrounding environment, even when they were growing on the stiff material,” explained Professor Robin Franklin, who co-led the research with Dr Chalut. “What’s more, we were able to delete Piezo1 in the OPCs within the aged rat brains, which lead to the cells becoming rejuvenated and once again able to assume their normal regenerative function.”

Dr Susan Kohlhaas, Director of Research at the MS Society, who part funded the research, said: “MS is relentless, painful, and disabling, and treatments that can slow and prevent the accumulation of disability over time are desperately needed. The Cambridge team’s discoveries on how brain stem cells age and how this process might be reversed have important implications for future treatment, because it gives us a new target to address issues associated with aging and MS, including how to potentially regain lost function in the brain.”

This research was supported by the European Research Council, MS Society, Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, The Adelson Medical Research Foundation, Medical Research Council and Wellcome.

 

Niche stiffness underlies the ageing of central nervous system progenitor cells, M. Segel, B. Neumann, M. Hill, I. Weber, C. Viscomi, C. Zhao, A. Young, C. Agley, A. Thompson, G. Gonzalez, A. Sharma, S. Holmqvist, D. Rowitch, K. Franze, R. Franklin and K. Chalut is published in Nature.

New research reveals how increasing brain stiffness as we age causes brain stem cell dysfunction, and demonstrates new ways to reverse older stem cells to a younger, healthier state. 

...when the old brain cells were grown on the soft material, they began to function like young cells – in other words, they were rejuvenatedKevin ChalutMikey SegelAged rat brain stem cells grown on a soft surface (right) show more healthy, vigorous growth than similar aged brain stem cells grown on a stiff surface (left). The red marker shows brain stem cells, and the green marker indicates cell proliferation.


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