To celebrate the successes of MRC-funded research and the people behind the discoveries, today we’ve launched a timeline of MRC research and discoveries*. And in true MRC advent calendar-style, throughout December we’ll be highlighting a different discovery each day – let the countdown to Christmas begin!
*A new discovery will be revealed each day in this post. Click the image below to view the complete timeline.
1936: Nerve impulses are transmitted by chemicals
Professor Otto Loewi and Sir Henry Dale, Director of the MRC National Institute for Medical Research 1928 – 1932, showed that nerve impulses are transmitted by chemical signals and identified and isolated the first neurotransmitter; acetylcholine. When two nerve cells meet end-to-end, there is a gap between them called a synapse. Neurotransmitters, released from the end of one nerve, flow across this gap to the other nerve. This is how one nerve cell communicates with another, and is the basis of how nerve cells are connected in networks in the body. The pair won a Nobel prize for this work.
Conservators Rebecca Bennett and Jill Barnard tell us about their project, funded by PRISM, to conserve 150 items from the Crick Mill Hill Laboratory (previously the MRC National Institute for Medical Research, NIMR) in preparation for the move to the Francis Crick Institute. The objects will be used by the Crick for exhibition and may also be loaned to education groups with an interest in the history of biomedical research.
Polystyrene proteins: This early model of a ribosome designed by Robert Cox and built by NIMR engineer Frank Doré in 1968 was signed by some of the leading biomedical scientists of the time – including Francis Crick.
We are now 11 weeks into our ‘Tools of the Trade’ conservation project. So far we have treated 137 of 150 historical objects that tell the story of how research developed at NIMR over the course of 100 years. Read more
January 2015 marks 130 years since the birth of Marjory Stephenson, a researcher who pioneered the study of biochemistry in bacteria and was one of the first two women to be elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1945. Dr Jane Cope, former Director of the National Cancer Research Institute, shares some of her research into this relatively unknown scientist’s life.
Marjory Stephenson (Image copyright: Principal and Fellows of Newnham College Cambridge)
Newnham College Cambridge is famous for its long corridor with ample space for portraits of distinguished alumnae. As an undergraduate in the 1970s I regularly passed this picture of a kindly looking woman whose eyes seemed to follow me. I thought of her as a benign presence watching over my busy student life. I looked at the name on the portrait ― Marjory Stephenson ― but it meant nothing to me.
After three years I was offered a PhD studentship in the Microbiology Unit of the Biochemistry Department in Cambridge, which was headed by Professor Ernest Gale. On arrival at his office I was amazed to see a copy of the same portrait on the wall.
I learned that she had founded the unit and had been Gale’s teacher and mentor. Her name cropped up again when I joined the Society for General Microbiology, which has a biennial memorial lecture in Marjory’s name. Later, I started to think about finding out more about her. Read more