Saving lives and improving health

Diagnosis, treatments and care are ever-evolving because of medical research – the kind that is happening right now in our labs.

The six-fold glutton caterpillar
Scientists have used the six-fold glutton caterpillar to monitor the effects of glucose on protein damage in the body

Understanding Alzheimer’s

The six-fold glutton caterpillar loves sugar so much that our scientists have used it to monitor the effects of glucose on protein damage in the body. Now, for the first time, they have established a link between high blood sugar levels and Alzheimer’s. This is vital to learning how the disease progresses and could lead to new treatments. This important work was funded by the Dunhill Medical Trust, alumnus Raoul Hughes and his wife Catherine, and the Hospital Saturday Fund.

Following Alumni Fund donations which helped the team buy a specialised microscope, Alzheimer’s Society awarded funding to Professor Jody Mason and Dr Rob Williams for a PhD student to investigate whether the toxic build-up of the protein beta-amyloid associated with the disease can be prevented. This is building on previous work that looked at the effect of a type of chemical called flavonoids – found in dark chocolate and red wine – which were found to lower beta-amyloid.

One person develops dementia every three minutes, and Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause. It’s vital that we continue to drive forward research for treatments and, ultimately, a cure.

Developing new drugs to fight cancer

One in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. Our scientists are striving to find ways to treat the disease – vital research supported by Prostate Cancer UK and the Movember Foundation, as well as donations from graduates through the Alumni Fund.

Researchers from Pharmacy & Pharmacology and Chemistry are studying a protein associated with cancerous cell growth. They have developed a simple colour-changing test to accurately measure levels of this protein, making it easier to then examine how efficient certain molecules are at suppressing this growth. Project lead Dr Matthew Lloyd says: “The test that we’ve developed at Bath makes this work possible, and the information will help us to move towards new anti-cancer drugs.”

Donations not only buy researchers the time and equipment they need, they can also accelerate the pace of research by creating postgraduate opportunities. Ben Sharpe is a shining example. He completed his PhD in prostate cancer research thanks to a scholarship from the Annett Trust. Now, he’s applying what he’s learned to continue the fight against cancer.

Smarter wound dressing

Dr Amber Young and Dr Toby Jenkins
Dr Amber Young and Dr Toby Jenkins

Every year in the UK, 4,000 children are treated with serious burns, mostly caused by tea and coffee. Most patients are under the age of three and their immature immune systems make them particularly vulnerable to infection. Current methods take up to two days to determine whether a wound is infected, but a burns dressing developed by Professor Toby Jenkins can change that. It glows if it detects bacteria, alerting doctors quickly to a potential infection.

Donations from the James Tudor Foundation, the Annett Trust and alumni were critical in getting the research off the ground and unlocking further funding of a £1 million grant from the Medical Research Council. Toby says: “We’re hugely grateful to our generous alumni and charitable trusts who have supported us over the years, and continue to do so.”

Toby and his team received international recognition after their Smartwound dressing was named as a winner in the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Emerging Technologies Competition 2018.

Joint effort

Nearly 30 per cent of the UK population is living with a musculoskeletal condition such as arthritis, back or joint pain. Our Centre for Orthopaedic Biomechanics is finding ways to minimise the impact of these debilitating conditions on people’s quality of life.

Thanks to support from the Enid Linder Foundation and the James Dyson Foundation, the Centre has recruited talented PhD students, working alongside orthopaedic surgeons, to develop new technologies for diagnoses and treatment. Following graduation, they’ve gone on to apply their expertise – acquired at Bath – in the NHS, research labs and the medical device industry.

Donations from the Alumni Fund have also helped the Centre to buy specialised equipment to underpin their research. It’s this generosity which has led to the design and commissioning of our unique spine simulator, that’s now providing new insights into the mechanisms which contribute to back pain.