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Finding the obesity ‘off switch’

Last week an international group of basic scientists and clinicians released results showing evidence of an epigenetic switch in mammals that controls obesity.  Dr Tony Coll at the MRC Metabolic Diseases Unit explains why this is just the beginning of an exciting exploration of the role played by epigenetic factors in complex human diseases.

Who am I not? Cell video abstracts. Cell January 28, 2016 (Vol. 164, Issue 3)

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What’s in a work space? Owen Brimijoin and his hearing research habitat

Dr Owen Brimijoin is a Senior Investigator Scientist at the Scottish Section of the MRC Institute of Hearing Research in Glasgow, where his research investigates the relationship between hearing and the dynamic three-dimensional world around us. He showed Jane Bunce around his shared office at the Royal Infirmary in Glasgow, where his desk is no stranger to Lego.

Owen Brimijoin

© MRC/Douglas Robertson

Development rack

Development rack

© MRC/Douglas Robertson

People’s ability to tell where sounds are coming from declines with hearing impairment, and understanding speech in noisy rooms becomes harder. One in six people in the UK have a level of hearing loss that warrants a hearing aid, but they often don’t perform as well as desired. We examine this in four soundproof rooms of varying sizes, with floating floors, double steel doors and the walls covered with foam to suppress sound reflections. We use loudspeaker systems in these to control the source of the sound precisely or play multiple sounds from different directions, to simulate environments like a noisy restaurant.

Once you’re at full capacity running experiments you can’t go into the booths because they are booked up, so all the programming and testing for the next experiment has to happen here at my desk. So this is a mock-up of the system that runs the big ring of loudspeakers in one of our soundproof booths. Read more

Working Life: Majidah Hamid-Adiamoh

Majidah Hamid-Adiamoh joined MRC Unit, The Gambia as a scientific officer in 2004 and has been working with the malaria research programme ever since. She talks about winning the L’Oréal-UNESCO ‘For Women in Science’ fellowship, her career so far, and her plans for the future.

I started at the Unit working on a clinical trial for a new malaria drug. Samples were collected from patients six times per day and I was responsible for performing two-assays on each sample from four different patients – that’s 48 assays every day! It was challenging but I enjoyed every bit of it.

Majidah Hamid-Adiamoh: For Women In Science Sub-Saharan Africa 2015 Fellow

(Image copyright: L’Oreal South Africa)

I am very proud of the quality of malaria research output from my department, thanks to the quality of its leaders and staff. The Unit has the right people, the right environment and the appropriate facilities to conceive an idea and be able to implement it.

Following that first project, I have continued with malaria research both in the field and in the lab. I have taken a lead role in a number of projects defining the genetic profiles, or ‘genotypes’, of different malaria ‘vectors’ – agents that carry and transmit malaria, such as mosquitos – and I am currently working on a project characterising malaria transmission in The Gambia. Read more