The metabolic benefits of exercise: is irisin the magic bullet?

By Ralitsa Madsen, Institute of Metabolic Science, Cambridge, UK

RalitsaM2Iris, the Greek Goddess messenger between humans on Earth and the Gods on Mount Olympus, has made an entry into human biology by providing inspiration for the name of a skeletal muscle-derived hormone. Irisin belongs to the class of myokines, which are molecules released by skeletal muscle in response to exercise and act as messengers to other tissues, including liver, fat and the brain. Given the beneficial effects of exercise, particularly in the context of obesity and Type 2 Diabetes, major efforts have been invested into discovering myokines of potential therapeutic value. Irisin seems to have it all, with multiple animal studies confirming its metabolic benefits such as lowering of blood glucose and lipid levels. Continue reading

Microbiome manipulation – full steam ahead?

Tilly Potter, Department of Twin Research, King’s College London

TP - pic1I recently began my PhD during which I will be carrying out investigations into the human microbiome – that is, all of the microbes we harbour on and in our bodies and their genetic material. The reasons why I was attracted to this area are likely similar to those of other scientists who have entered this field; microbiome research is still in its relative infancy yet appears to hold enormous potential regarding understanding differences between health and disease, with the number of diseases or adverse health states examined continuing to increase with time. This makes it an incredibly diverse and exciting area to work within! Continue reading

The demand for skills development in the molecular biosciences

Derry MercerBy Dr Derry K Mercer, Principal Scientist at Novabiotics Ltd & member of the Biochemical Society Policy Advisory Panel

The UK Government recently published a Green Paper ‘Building our Industrial Strategy’ in which the urgent need for developing skills in further/higher education and the workforce was outlined. The document noted that while the UK higher education system was strong, our achievements in basic and technical skills was relatively poor and has led to the lower levels of productivity compared with other advanced economies.

The skills issues were outlined as follows:

  • lack of basic skills;
  • shortage of high-skilled technicians below graduate level;
  • skills shortages in STEM sectors;
  • the need for informed career choices;
  • lack of lifelong learning opportunities.

For anyone working in the molecular biosciences, whether in academia or industry, most of these concerns can hardly have come as a surprise and represents a huge problem for a growing sector that currently generates turnover of over £56 billion per annum. Indeed, the skills and productivity gaps were pointed out in an earlier UK government documentFixing the foundations: Creating a more prosperous nation’ in 2015. Continue reading

The Very Best Things About PhD Life

By Gareth Raynes, Aberystwyth University

3While every PhD experience is unique, there are big areas of overlap between experiences of PhD students regardless of discipline; I’ve spent several months speaking to a number of PhD students from across the UK, all in different fields and at different stages of their projects. Despite this wide range of backgrounds and circumstances, several aspects jump out as being ever-present markers of a PhD project; the unifying factors that connect together to make PhD life what it is.
So what are these common factors? And why do they make PhD life so great? Continue reading