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Research Groups - Blizard Institute

Centre of the Cell

Graphic detailing cell structure

Centre of the Cell is a science education centre based inside the Blizard Institute. It is the first science education centre in the world to be located within working biomedical research laboratories.

Centre of the Cell is located inside the distinctive orange ‘Pod’ suspended above the laboratories of the Blizard Institute, so visitors can see research scientists at work as they enter the centre. Once inside, visitors learn about the amazing world of cells, the human body and the latest medical research.

The project has won a number of major awards including the Museums & Heritage Excellence Award for the Best Educational Initiative in the UK and the EngageU Award for the Best Innovations in University Outreach and Public Engagement in Europe.

Centre of the Cell is dedicated to inspiring curiosity and learning by connecting science to everyday life. It seeks to have a positive influence on the career, educational and personal health choices of children and young people.

Centre of the Cell’s aims are to:

  • Inspire the next generation of scientists and healthcare professionals
  • Stimulate interest, excitement and dialogue about biomedical research
  • Raise aspirations, especially in our local community
  • Promote learning within the family and community
  • Improve lives of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds
  • Widen participation in further and higher education
  • Improve health and wellbeing in our local communities
  • Create a local, national and global centre of excellence in Public Engagement

You can find out more about the project and book a visit here: www.centreofthecell.org

Teddy Bear Hospital

Teddy Bear Hospital is an innovative and international public health project whose main aim is to help young children between the ages of 3-7 years to reduce their fears of dentists, doctors and hospital environments in a fun, friendly and relaxed atmosphere. We also aim to give medical insights to children improving their understanding of our bodies and safe, healthy living.

These aims fit in with Key Stage One National Curriculum aims; that pupils should be taught to understand life processes and living things.

How are these aims achieved? By holding workshops in schools around Tower Hamlets. We teach them about germs and show them medical and dental equipment, and how to brush their teeth properly, and they bring in their ‘sick’ teddies for us to ‘heal’.

Every year we hold our Safety Day where kids visit our medical school and interact with emergency services staff, visit 'Centre of the Cell' and do loads of fun activities. Teddy Bear Hospital provides such an amazing and fun experience; not only for the kids, but probably more for the medics and dentists involved, and it gives us much-needed exposure to children, holding us in good stead for our future careers. 

This year we have also started up clinics in the Royal London Hospital, aiming to alleviate fears of some medical procedures as well as break the monotony of hospital life for the children there.

If you have any questions please contact us on:

 Info@teddybearhospital.org

Centre for Public Engagement

This year, as part of the 125th anniversary celebrations of the opening of the People's Palace, Queen Mary, University of London will be launching a Centre for Public Engagement to enable an inspirational public dialogue with the College's ideas and research.

The new Centre will support our staff and students and their work with external partners – businesses, charities, community organisations, government, and the wider public – ensuring that this work achieves a positive social and economic impact. The Centre will launch this autumn.

What will the Centre do?

At Queen Mary, we undertake a wide range of public engagement activities. We work with

  • local schools and young people, helping to inspire the next generation of learners
  • government, civil servants and politicians to inform policy development
  • cultural organisations, businesses and charities on community-based projects

The Centre for Public Engagement will bring together these existing public engagement activities, and support and promote new initiatives. It will also help to train and mentor the next generation of knowledge communicators and spread best practice in engagement activity and its evaluation.

The new Centre will aim to

  • set new regional, national and international standards for the way universities engage with the public
  • embed public engagement at all levels of the College
  • develop a patient engagement programme that builds on our close links with the Barts and The London NHS Trust
  • forge new links with local schools, cultural organisations and community groups
  • create training programmes for staff and students to develop their public engagement skills
  • recognise staff and students for their public engagement work
  • evaluate and measure the impact of our public engagement work

More about the Centre for Public Engagement

 

Guthrie-card270Blood collected from newborn babies by a heel prick immediately after birth has been used routinely in most developed countries for decades to screen for diseases such as cystic fibrosis and sickle cell disorders.

The blood is collected onto a piece of paper called a Guthrie card, and these are often stored for years after the initial screening has taken place.

Now researchers at the Blizard Institute at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, part of Queen Mary, University of London, have shown that the genetic information stored on these cards provides a retrospective view of the epigenome at birth. The epigenome is a record of the chemical changes that influence gene expression and that may be involved in the development of diseases and conditions in later life.

DNA methylation, an epigenetic chemical modification of DNA, is known to affect gene activity and it plays a role in normal development, aging, and also in diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. "But are these epigenetic marks involved in causing the disease, or a result of the disease itself?" asked Dr Vardhman Rakyan, a senior lecturer at the Centre for Diabetes at the Blizard Institute and co-senior author of the study, which is published online in Genome Research1.

Dr Rakyan explained that it was impossible to know this when samples had been obtained after onset of the disease. Guthrie cards might offer a snapshot of the epigenome before disease develops, enabling researchers to search for differences between epigenomes of healthy people and those who develop a disease, as well as comparing the epigenetic information before a person became ill with the epigenome after a disease had developed.

Dr Rakyan and an international group of colleagues looked at DNA methylation contained within the blood spots on the Guthrie cards. They found that this archived DNA yielded high quality methylation data compared to fresh samples. Then they compared the DNA methylation profiles of newborns to those in the same healthy children at the age of three, looking for epigenetic variations detected in the Guthrie card sample that were stable into the early years of life.

"We found similar epigenetic differences between different people both at birth and when they were three years old," said Dr Rakyan. He added that these differences, already present at birth, were unlikely to be due solely to inherent genetic differences between the individuals, but also due to environment or random events that occurred while the baby was in the womb. Furthermore, Guthrie card samples could be analysed for both genetic and epigenetic differences together to view a more complete picture of the genome at birth.

He concluded: "Guthrie card methylomics is a potentially powerful new application for archived blood spots, which could provide a wealth of information about epigenetics and disease, and could give clues about health later in life."

Professor David Leslie, professor of diabetes and autoimmunity at the Blizard Institute and co-senior author of the study, added that because national health authorities routinely made Guthrie cards available, and so long as proper consent was obtained from parents and children, "we are talking about an invaluable, and non-renewable, resource for millions of individuals."

1. Guthrie card methylomics identifies temporally stable epialleles that are present at birth in humans” by Huriya Beyan, Thomas A Down, Sreeram V Ramagopalan, Kristina Uvebrant, Anita Nilsson, Michelle L Holland, Carolina Gemma, Gavin Giovannoni, Bernhard O Boehm, George C Ebers, Åke Lernmark, Corrado M Cilio, R David Leslie & Vardhman K Rakyan. Genome Research (www.genome.org)

Welcome to e-learning at the Blizard

 

Congratulations to Alison Thomson and Harriet Smith, winners of the Inspire Award. Nominees for the award are those who have inspired others by finding creative and engaging ways to communicate their research; such as to raise young people’s aspirations or enthuse new and different audiences

Alison and Harriet were recognised under the Public Engagement Category (projects that involve groups and individuals outside of higher education with research and learning) for their project Digesting Science

Digesting Science is a set of educational activities that teach children aged 6-12 years old with a parent with Multiple Sclerosis about the science behind the chronic disease. The activities were co-designed with Barts MS researchers, clinicians and nurses, families with MS, designers and a drama teacher. 

The Barts MS team have been running Digesting Science events in and around London since 2013, communicating their research through practical activities involving plasticine, food modelling and games to their patients and their families

 

Well done!

We seek to understand how imprinted genes modulate the transfer of nutrients between mother and fetus during pregnancy, and how modulations to imprinted gene dosage alter the development of endocrine pathways to alter metabolic set points for the lifetime of the individual.

Research

Charalambous, M., Ferrón S. R., da Rocha, S. T., Murray, A. J., Hernandez, A., Ferguson-Smith, A. C. (2012). Imprinted gene dosage is critical for the transition to independent life. Cell Metab 15(2): 209-212.

Ferrón S. R, Charalambous M., Radford E., McEwen K., Wildner H., Hind E., Morante-Redolat J.M., Laborda J., Guillemot F., Bauer S. R., Fariñas I., Ferguson-Smith A. C. Postnatal loss of Dlk1 imprinting in stem cells and niche astrocytes regulates neurogenesis (2011). Nature 475:381-5.

Group Members

Dr Mark Howard (PD)
Dr Claire Dent (PD)
Ms Féaron Cassidy (PhD)

Funders

We are interested in epigenetic mechanisms in normal cells and in early stages of cancer development. There is a strong association between cancer and an abnormal epigenome but most data is correlative. Out ambition is to understand the contribution of epigenetic mechanisms to cancer initiation. We are interested in both solid tumours and haematological malignancies, collaborate with cancer specialists and have access to primary materials at the BCI tissue banks.

Research

Gabriella Ficz,Timothy A Hore, Fatima Santos, Heather J Lee, Wendy Dean, Julia Arand, Felix Krueger, David Oxley, Yu-Lee Paul, Jörn Walter, Simon J Cook, Simon Andrews, Miguel R Branco, Wolf Reik (2013) ³FGF Signaling Inhibition in ESCs Drives Rapid Genome-wide Demethylation to the Epigenetic Ground State of Pluripotency² Cell Stem Cell 13(3):351-9

Gabriella Ficz, Miguel R. Branco, Stefanie Seisenberger, Fátima Santos, Felix Krueger, Timothy A. Hore, C. Joana Marques, Simon Andrews & Wolf Reik (2011) ³Dynamic regulation of 5-hydroxymethylcytosine in mouse ES cells and during differentiation². Nature 19;473(7347):398-402.

Group Members

Dr. Emily Saunderson (Postdoc)
Dr. Michael Rushton (Postdoc)
Lily Hoa (Research Assistant)
Hemalvi Patani (PhD Student)
Ateeq Hayat (PhD Student)
Katharine Ailsa Hodby (PhD Student)

Funders

It has been known for a long time that chromatin is organised in a non-random manner in the nucleus, however only recently has it become possible to assay the fine structure of chromatin in an unbiased genome-wide manner using the Hi-C technique and its derivatives. Hi-C is a sequencing-based method to assess the 3D structure of the chromatin. It takes a snapshot of the chromatin architecture by crosslinking DNA with proteins, which hold together distant DNA regions, and after digesting the genome with a restriction enzyme, interacting DNA regions are ligated together and sequenced by paired-end sequencing. This allows for identification of both structural and functional chromatin interactions and further analysis of these can reveal how the 3D folding of the genome influences gene expression. We are investigating the following questions: How can we exploit chromatin structure information for understanding the effect of GWAS loci? How chromatin interactions change during development? What are the important regulatory interactions in diseases such as leukaemia?

Research

Mifsud B.*, Martincorena I., Darbo E. Sugar R., Schoenfelder S., Fraser P., Luscombe NM. GOTHiC, a probabilistic model to resolve complex biases and to identify real interactions in Hi-C data. PlOS ONE 2017 in press

Schoenfelder S.*, Sugar R.*, Dimond A.*, Javierre B-M.*, Armstrong H.*, Mifsud B., Dimitrova E., Tavares-Cadete F., Furlan-Magaril M., Jurkowski W., Segonds-Pichon A., Wingett S., Tabbada K., Andrews S., Herman B., LeProust E., Osborne C.S., Koseki H., Fraser P., Luscombe N.M., Elderkin S. Polycomb repressive complex PRC1 spatially constrains the mouse embryonic stem cell genome. Nature Genetics. 2015 Oct;47(10):1179-86

>Mifsud B.*, Tavares-Cadete F.*, Young A. N.*, Sugar R., Schoenfelder S., Ferreira L., Wingett S. , Andrews S., Grey W., Ewels P.A., Herman B., Happe S., Higgs A., LeProust E., Follows G.A., Fraser P., Luscombe N.M., Osborne C.S. Mapping long-range promoter contacts in human cells with high-resolution capture Hi-C. Nature Genetics. 2015 Jun;47(6):598-606

Schoenfelder S.*, Furlan-Magaril M.*, Mifsud B.*, Tavares-Cadete F.*, Sugar R., Javierre B-M., Nagano T., Katsman Y., Sakthidevi M., Wingett S. W., Dimitrova E., Dimond A., Edelman L. B., Elderkin S., Tabbada K., Darbo E., Andrews S., Herman B., Higgs A., LeProust E., Osborne C.S., Mitchell J.A., Luscombe N.M., Fraser P. The pluripotent regulatory circuitry connecting promoters to their long-range interacting elements. Genome Research. 2015 Apr;25(4):582-97

Funders

Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) has a long history of public engagement, having started life as the People's Palace, built in 1887 to provide culture, entertainment and education to the people of east London. QMUL have continued this tradition to the present day, building involvement into institutional strategy and supporting a wide range of activities aimed at public engagement.

The Blizard Institute is committed to working with and improving the lives of our local population via a wide range of Public Engagement projects, including our flagship project the Centre of The Cell, a science education centre located within the working biomedical research laboratories of the Blizard Institute and has received over 100,000 visitors since it opened in 2010.

The QMUL global health network is a forum for medical and academic staff and students from Queen Mary, University of London and Barts Health NHS Trust to share ideas and experience in global health.

Arising out of initiatives of staff and students themselves, the network enables participants from different disciplines to come together to learn more about one another's work and to find ways to enhance existing work and collaborate on new projects. The network facilitates the search for expertise across the university and the trust, and spreads knowledge of the latest research and developments.

The network includes staff and student-led projects across the world and among migrant communities in East London. It draws on the enthusiasm and commitment of doctors and other medical professionals, researchers, lecturers, and students who wish to contribute to reducing global health inequalities and improving health worldwide.

The network also highlights the impressive range of overseas collaborations with universities, hospitals, medical schools, and community groups in global health, involving clinicians, researchers, and students.

Inauguration event: Unni Karunakara, International President of Medecins sans Frontieres

18.00, Wednesday 19 June 2013

Milton Lecture Theatre
Garrod Building
Barts & The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Turner Street, E1 2AD

We are pleased to invite any staff or students with an interest in global health or volunteering overseas to the launch event, hosted by Prof Allyson Pollock.

Register here

or contact Dr Tim Crocker-Buque

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Graphic detailing cell structure

Centre of the Cell is a science education centre based inside the Blizard Institute. It is the first science education centre in the world to be located within working biomedical research laboratories.

Centre of the Cell is located inside the distinctive orange ‘Pod’ suspended above the laboratories of the Blizard Institute, so visitors can see research scientists at work as they enter the centre. Once inside, visitors learn about the amazing world of cells, the human body and the latest medical research.

The project has won a number of major awards including the Museums & Heritage Excellence Award for the Best Educational Initiative in the UK and the EngageU Award for the Best Innovations in University Outreach and Public Engagement in Europe.

Centre of the Cell is dedicated to inspiring curiosity and learning by connecting science to everyday life. It seeks to have a positive influence on the career, educational and personal health choices of children and young people.

Centre of the Cell’s aims are to:

  • Inspire the next generation of scientists and healthcare professionals
  • Stimulate interest, excitement and dialogue about biomedical research
  • Raise aspirations, especially in our local community
  • Promote learning within the family and community
  • Improve lives of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds
  • Widen participation in further and higher education
  • Improve health and wellbeing in our local communities
  • Create a local, national and global centre of excellence in Public Engagement

You can find out more about the project and book a visit here: www.centreofthecell.org

Teddy Bear Hospital is an innovative and international public health project whose main aim is to help young children between the ages of 3-7 years to reduce their fears of dentists, doctors and hospital environments in a fun, friendly and relaxed atmosphere. We also aim to give medical insights to children improving their understanding of our bodies and safe, healthy living.

These aims fit in with Key Stage One National Curriculum aims; that pupils should be taught to understand life processes and living things.

How are these aims achieved? By holding workshops in schools around Tower Hamlets. We teach them about germs and show them medical and dental equipment, and how to brush their teeth properly, and they bring in their ‘sick’ teddies for us to ‘heal’.

Every year we hold our Safety Day where kids visit our medical school and interact with emergency services staff, visit 'Centre of the Cell' and do loads of fun activities. Teddy Bear Hospital provides such an amazing and fun experience; not only for the kids, but probably more for the medics and dentists involved, and it gives us much-needed exposure to children, holding us in good stead for our future careers. 

This year we have also started up clinics in the Royal London Hospital, aiming to alleviate fears of some medical procedures as well as break the monotony of hospital life for the children there.

If you have any questions please contact us on:

 Info@teddybearhospital.org

This year, as part of the 125th anniversary celebrations of the opening of the People's Palace, Queen Mary, University of London will be launching a Centre for Public Engagement to enable an inspirational public dialogue with the College's ideas and research.

The new Centre will support our staff and students and their work with external partners – businesses, charities, community organisations, government, and the wider public – ensuring that this work achieves a positive social and economic impact. The Centre will launch this autumn.

What will the Centre do?

At Queen Mary, we undertake a wide range of public engagement activities. We work with

  • local schools and young people, helping to inspire the next generation of learners
  • government, civil servants and politicians to inform policy development
  • cultural organisations, businesses and charities on community-based projects

The Centre for Public Engagement will bring together these existing public engagement activities, and support and promote new initiatives. It will also help to train and mentor the next generation of knowledge communicators and spread best practice in engagement activity and its evaluation.

The new Centre will aim to

  • set new regional, national and international standards for the way universities engage with the public
  • embed public engagement at all levels of the College
  • develop a patient engagement programme that builds on our close links with the Barts and The London NHS Trust
  • forge new links with local schools, cultural organisations and community groups
  • create training programmes for staff and students to develop their public engagement skills
  • recognise staff and students for their public engagement work
  • evaluate and measure the impact of our public engagement work

More about the Centre for Public Engagement

 

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