3 May 2012
The Guardian, 29.3.2012
“That’s your fear and aggression centre,” says Professor Steve Gentleman (Medicine), as he removes a piece of brain tissue. “That’s the main event – personality, executive function, reason.” Professor Gentleman was watched by Guardian feature writer Zoe Williams, who visited the Parkinson’s UK Tissue Bank at Imperial to learn about how brains donated by volunteers are used in neuroscience research. Specimens in the brain bank are used to study not just Parkinson’s disease, but Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis and other disorders. “Pathology isn’t just weird people who keep things in the basement,” says Professor Gentleman. A film depicting a dissection at the brain bank is being shown at the Wellcome Collection’s new exhibition exploring how we treat the brain as an object. It runs until 17 June.
Daily Mail, 31.3.2012
Scientists in the UK are leading efforts to eradicate malaria by genetically engineering the mosquitoes that spread the disease. At Imperial, Professor Andrea Crisanti (Life Sciences) is working on disrupting the sex ratio in the malaria-carrying Anopheles mosquito, with funding from the Gates Foundation. “Our genetic modification consists of putting in a gene that codes for the PPO1 enzyme,” says Crisanti. This enzyme destroys the X chromosome during the production of sex cells, leaving only the male-determining Y chromosome active. Since only the females transmit malaria, the researchers hope the intervention will lead to a predominance of male mosquitoes.
Painting by numbers?
The Observer, 1.4.2012
Can a computer create art? Dr Simon Colton (Computing), a researcher in computational creativity at Imperial, thinks so. He created a program called the Painting Fool to see if software could be taken seriously as a creative artist. Its work has been displayed in an exhibition in Paris, but Dr Colton says it isn’t a real artist yet. “People want to know artwork has been constructed with an intelligent thought process,” he says, “so perhaps once the software produces pieces that are culturally valuable, that get people talking, and are not necessarily anything that I’m keen on aesthetically or conceptually, that would be a good indication of its independence from me.”
Waste not, want not
The Sunday Telegraph, 1.4.2012
Leftover fat from plastic surgery is increasingly being saved from the incinerators by scientists who study the tissue for research on obesity, stem cell biology and other areas. “We don’t have any figures, but it’s a growth area and is driven by some very interesting developments,” says Professor Sian Harding (NHLI), one of the authors of a report on human tissue donation by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics. Many cosmetic patients are happy to consent, just as cancer patients are. “People who’ve had tumours removed are usually very happy to have cells grown out of those tumours that can then be tested for new drugs for cancer,” says Professor Harding.