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Wellcome Trust Research Round-Up: 14.09.15

14 Sep, 2015

Our fortnightly round-up of research news from the Wellcome Trust community…

ADHD from adolescence to adulthood

4 views of the human brain Credit: Heidi Cartwright. Wellcome Images - CC-BY-NC-ND

4 views of the human brain Credit: Heidi Cartwright. Wellcome Images – CC-BY-NC-ND

Wellcome Trust- supported researchers have found differences in brain structure and memory in young adults with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which suggests that teenagers may not ‘grow out of’ ADHD.

ADHD is a disorder characterised by short attention span, restlessness and impulsiveness. Doctors usually, diagnose ADHD in childhood or adolescence, but until now, most research into the maturing of adolescents with ADHD has focused on interview-based assessments. This approach leaves questions of brain structure and function unanswered.

In a new study, Published in the journal European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, researchers compared the brain structure and memory function of a control group with those of a cohort of young adults who had been previously diagnosed with ADHD as teenagers. Results showed that the latter had both reduced brain volume and poorer memory function, regardless of whether or not they met diagnostic checklist criteria for ADHD. Furthermore, in the part of the brain that is key for storing and processing memory, known as the caudate nucleus, there was reduced grey matter in adolescents with ADHD.

Graham Murray from the Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge, who led the study, said: “in the controls, when the tests got harder, the caudate nucleus went up a gear in its activity, and this is likely to have helped solve the memory problems. But in the group with adolescent ADHD, this region of the brain is smaller and doesn’t seem to be able to respond to increasing memory demands, with the result that memory performance suffers.”

Can bacteria help protect our environment? 

Bacteria that can oxidise methane, one of the greenhouse gasses, could be used in biotech applications to protect our environment, according to a new Wellcome Trust-funded study.

Published in Nature, the study explains how these bacteria, called methanotrophs, can use large quantities of copper for methane oxidation. The researchers identified a new family of copper storage proteins called Csp, which store metal in a way never seen before.

To oxidise methane, methanotrophs use methane monooxygenase, an enzyme requiring copper or sometimes iron to exploit this otherwise toxic recourse for the carbon and energy they need Understanding how methanotrophs use copper could point the way to other potential applications of these organisms, such as helping reduce the amount of methane being released into the atmosphere.

Lead author Chris Dennison, Professor of Biological Chemistry at Newcastle University explained: “Methane is such a useful and plentiful commodity but we need more cost effective methods to unlock its potential. Using bacteria could be the best option so a better knowledge of how these bacteria operate is required.

“As copper is so important for the oxidation of methane, all potential applications based on this reactivity requires knowing how methanotrophs acquire and store copper. The discovery of the Csps adds a new dimension to our understanding of this complex process.”

HIV self-testing success

HIV-self testing (HIVST) in Malawi is safe, accurate and acceptable, and could be widely used in urban sub-Saharan Africa, according to research published in PLOS Medicine.

Illustration of HIV Credit: Medical Art Service, Munich/ Wellcome Images CC-BY-NC-ND

Illustration of HIV
Credit: Medical Art Service, Munich/ Wellcome Images CC-BY-NC-ND

Researchers from the London School of Tropical Medicine and the Malawi-Liverpool Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Programme studied HIV self-testing in Blantyre, Malawi. Trialling this method as an alternative to home-based HIV testing and counselling, HIVST requires much less intensive training, instead focusing on individuals learning to test and interpret their results.

The study sampled 16,600 adults in 14 neighbourhoods across two years. Overall, 75% of residents in the study took a self-test. The majority of these were women and adolescents, but uptake in men was also higher than expected.

HIVST received positive feedback from participants, with 94.6% reporting they were ‘”highly satisfied”.

While the authors acknowledge some limitations in the study design, the findings suggest that HIV self-testing could be scaled up to complement existing approaches to control the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Senior author Professor Liz Corbett, Wellcome Trust Senior Fellow and Clinical Epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: “Continued high uptake in the second year suggests that scaling up HIV self-testing could have a sustained impact on the coverage of HIV testing and care in Africa, especially for men and adolescents.”

In other news…

A new study published in Immunity has found that a type of white blood cell known as cytotoxic T cells can destroy tumour cells and virally-infected cells. The researchers, funded by the Wellcome Trust, used advanced imaging techniques to record the process on film.

Wellcome Trust-funded researchers from the University of Oxford have developed a new powerful statistical tool that enables accurate prediction of ‘missing’ genetic data. The tool, called IMPUTE, has changed the field of human genetics.

deltas imagesThe Wellcome Trust and the Department for International Development (DFID) have recently funded seven leading African researchers to establish cutting-edge research and training programmes across the African continent.

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Along with almost 200 organisations from across the life sciences, the Wellcome Trust has signed a letter published in the Financial Times to urge the Government to protect the UK science budget.

The Wellcome Trust has outlined its initial position on genome editing, in a joint statement with other medical research funders in the UK. We believe continued research is important to learn more about the technique’s potential for clinical application in the future. You can find out more about genome editing in our Q&A. 

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