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At a loss: the daily challenges of a hearing aid user

Jean Straus

Jean Straus

Think that hearing aids solve all hearing problems? Think again. As the MRC and the EPSRC launch a package of funding worth £3.5m to improve hearing aid technology, Jean Straus takes us through the daily challenges of a life led with hearing aids.    

Last night I went to my local choir’s first rehearsal of the new season. I wore two high-tech hearing aids, which I have on long-term loan from a private healthcare provider. The left one addresses mild hearing loss, the right; mild to moderate.

I put these hearing aids on each morning before I put in my contact lenses or make coffee. With them I can hear birdsong, the crackling of paper, and conversations with one or two people when they’re facing me in a quiet room. Last night however, in the large vaulted hall where the choir rehearsal was held, I could follow most of the melody lines as the choirmaster, Joe, played them on the piano, but I couldn’t make out his instructions. Read more

Collaborating with compounds

Chris Watkins

Chris Watkins

In July we unveiled a new partnership with seven pharmaceutical companies to share deprioritised compounds for research in new disease areas. Here Chris Watkins, the MRC’s Director of Translational Research and Industry, explains how the collaboration came about and the role it plays in the MRC’s strategy for collaborating with industry.

One of the big challenges in medical research is understanding the biology of human disease. But there’s a problem with that. It’s not surprising that the best way of understanding human disease is to study it in people, using molecules where you have an idea of how they will work and which you know are safe to give to study participants.

But these molecules are mainly developed by industry, once they’re pretty confident that they might become treatments. So how do you gain the evidence about the disease mechanism in the first place? You need access to the molecules. That’s exactly what the current drug discovery landscape needs, and what the partnership we announced is aiming to do. Read more

Why mitochondrial donation is not about making ‘designer babies’

A cell with the nucleus and mitochondria labelled (Image credit: Wellcome Images)

A cell with the nucleus and mitochondria labelled (Image credit: Wellcome Images)

The UK Government is considering legalising a specialised form of IVF called mitochondrial donation, which aims to prevent potentially fatal mitochondrial disease. As Parliament prepares to debate the issue on Monday 1 September, Jane Bunce tries to clear up confusion over the science behind the technique ― and explains why it will not lead to creation of “designer babies”.

What is mitochondrial disease?

An estimated one in 6,500 children will develop a serious mitochondrial condition, which is passed down from mother to child. There is no cure and symptoms include seizures, strokes, blindness, deafness, heart and liver failure ― and in serious cases, death at a young age.

The diseases are due to faults in a child’s mitochondria, which are often described as the “battery packs” of our cells. These mitochondria are small structures in human cells that convert the food we eat into energy we need to stay alive. If these mitochondria don’t work correctly, cells don’t have enough energy and the tissues or organs they make up do not function properly. Read more