Guest blog post from Talbot Health School – on 8 March, International Women’s Day, Professor Frances Ashcroft spoke at Talbot Heath School as part of our activities for Celebrating Women in Biochemistry 2013.
Professor Frances Ashcroft, named European Laureate at the L’oreal-Unesco Women in Science awards, returned to her former school Talbot Heath on Friday 8th March to speak about her cutting edge research work into ion channels, insulin and improved diabetes treatment.
Though we are all familiar with the idea that machines are powered by electricity, her talk brought to light this in fact is also true for our own bodies. We learnt of how electrical signals in our cells, that are essential to every thought conceived and every action carried out, are all orchestrated by some amazing proteins that sit at the forefront of current scientific research: ion channels.
Having started off with a clear, basic explanation of the structure and role of ion channels, Professor Ashcroft moved into the specifics of her own research. Having discovered a tiny pore in the membrane of beta cells to be the missing link connecting glucose to insulin secretion, she and her team went on to determine how a mutation in the channel gene, led to a rare genetic form of diabetes that developed within the first few months of life. Of great significance were their finding drugs that could be used to close the channel.
Not only was our knowledge enriched by this talk, Professor Ashcroft also offered invaluable and inspiring advice to any aspiring scientists. She shared with us how, as a pupil at Talbot Heath, she spent countless lunches in the science labs dissecting specimens and learning about the workings of the body. She also told us of how her work has helped many, by allowing 90 percent of people with neonatal diabetes, to switch from injections to medication. She emphasized that to reach such a point of success took many years of determination, diligence and team work. We were left with the very important message that success in science depends on two, vital things: perseverance and curiosity.