CMVM Postgraduate Research Round-Up #2
Find out more about some of our biggest scientific research breakthroughs of 2020 so far.
Genetic code could predict Covid-19 severity in patients
A UK-wide initiative will sequence the whole genomes – the genetic code – of patients to identify the specific genes that cause a predisposition to the disease.
The project is led by Dr Kenneth Baillie from the University of Edinburgh, and is a collaboration between Genomics England, the NHS, and the GenOMICC (Genetics of Susceptibility and Mortality in Critical Care) consortium – a global collaboration to study genetics in critical illness.
This new partnership will allow whole genome sequencing to take place across the NHS involving up to 20,000 people currently or previously in an intensive care unit with coronavirus, and 15,000 individuals who have mild symptoms.
GenOMICC – which was launched by Dr Baillie in 2016 - is already active in more 170 intensive care units across the UK and has signed up more than one thousand patients for the study. The team aim to recruit every Covid-19 patient on a ventilator in the UK. The group have now been funded to sequence the entire genomes of patients with Covid-19 in collaboration with Genomics England and Illumina.
Obesity hampers Covid-19 recovery prospects, study finds
Being obese reduces the chance of survival in severe cases of Covid-19, a study has found.
Reduced lung function and inflamed tissue under the skin and around internal organs could be linked to the increased risk, researchers say.
Both factors can trigger a life-threatening over-reaction of the body’s immune response that causes harm to patients, the study suggests.
The findings – by the Universities of Edinburgh and Liverpool, and Imperial College London – are based on an analysis of data obtained from some 17,000 Covid-19 patients in the UK.
Hard data cannot convey the human story of individuals and their loved ones who have suffered, changed or sadly passed due to Covid-19. Yet with every contribution to this important study, patients and their carers, with the assistance of dedicated researchers, have struck a blow in the fight to curb this pandemic.
University to support NHS by testing Covid-19 samples
Scientists, laboratory space and equipment from the University of Edinburgh are being used to support NHS Lothian’s testing efforts to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.
A pool of 25 scientists from across the University – selected from more than 750 volunteers – will support NHS Lothian staff deliver up to 1000 additional tests per day.
Testing will take place in the laboratories of the University’s Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine (IGMM) at the Western General Hospital and the facility is operationally ready today (Wednesday 22 April).
Army of scientists search for Covid-19 treatments
Up to 150 researchers from the Centre for Inflammation Research are being re-deployed to work on a project that aims to test existing and experimental drugs to find a treatment for Covid-19.
The team believe new therapies could be discovered and implemented before a vaccine becomes widely available by repurposing medicines for other conditions that are already in clinical use or are currently being tested.
The new project – STOPCOVID – will focus on the inflammatory pathways that lead directly to lung injury, which is associated with the most severe aspects of Covid-19.
Inflammation is important in fighting infection but in the case of Covid-19 excessive inflammation is causing the lungs to fail, leading to death.
Researchers will test drugs to see if they can block this and other damaging types of inflammation in the early stages of the disease to change the course of infection and prevent the need for a ventilator.