Standing on the shoulders of… Dorothy Hodgkin

On the way to work last Wednesday, a story on BBC Radio 4 – ‘Today programme’ suddenly grabbed my attention: “February will mark the 100th anniversary of women having the right to vote!”

Curiosity sparked, I turned up the radio: “BBC Radio 4 are holding an online vote for the most influential British women of the past century. Each day in the run up to the anniversary we’ll be shortlisting and celebrating a candidate for the award”.

Last Wednesday’s nominee was Dorothy Hodgkin, the only British woman to ever win a Nobel Prize in the sciences. Dorothy won her award in 1964 for developing a technique that enables the complex structure of proteins to be deciphered – this is known as protein crystallography. Dorothy used this technique to work out the structure of insulin, vitamin B12 and penicillin.

Funnily enough, I had recently been discussing this technique with my colleague Jessica. I told her the news story when I got to work and we decided we’d share with you how, thanks to Dorothy’s brilliant work, protein crystallography is currently helping researchers funded by the MND Association to find out more about MND.Read More »

X-rays for MND research

Dr Gareth Wright, based at the University of Liverpool, is a postdoctoral researcher funded by the MND Association. His research is all about using physics and x-rays to further our understanding of MND. Here he gives us a taste of why X-rays  are important.

The background to X-rays

We have a long history of X-ray science in Liverpool. In 1896 Sir Oliver Lodge used X-rays to image a lead pellet embedded in the hand of a 12 year old boy. This was one of the first medical uses of X-rays and allowed the bullet to be successfully removed. Charles Barkla made an observation in 1904 considered to be the birth of X-ray science; X-rays behave like visible light and are part of the electromagnetic spectrum. They have wavelength around 0.1 nm (0.000000001 metres!) which makes them perfect to resolve individual atoms in a molecule (eg water).

Gareth Wright- soleil
The synchrotron in Soleil, France

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TDP-43: A protein that lingers on..

MND Association-funded researchers from the University of Liverpool have published results in the prestigious open access journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. Under the leadership of Prof Samar Hasnain, the researchers identified that some TDP-43 mutant proteins hang around in the cell longer and become more stable, possibly leading to neurodegeneration in MND.

Although TDP-43 genetic mistakes are a rare cause of inherited MND (5-10% of total MND cases), scientists are especially interested in the TDP-43 protein because in the vast majority of cases of MND (irrespective of whether it was caused by an inherited genetic mistake), the TDP-43 protein forms pathological clumps inside motor neurons. Read More »