Rank #1: Lighting the brain after birth
Every year a minority of births goes wrong and the baby is deprived of oxygen, which can lead to long-term brain damage and conditions such as cerebral palsy. Early treatment can reduce the likelihood of permanent disability or even death, so a team at University College London have now developed a new portable device which uses harmless infra-red to detect signs of brain injury in newborn babies, minutes after birth. It is called Cyril and consultant neurologist Subhabrata Mitra and Dr Ilias Tachtsidis, Reader in Biomedical Engineering, demonstrate it to Claudia.
Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are a well-known problem, with one insidious thriving place being medical implants, where they form impenetrable biofilms. But there could be a solution from scientists at Nottingham University. Kim Hardie, a molecular microbiologist, is part of a team that has developed special slippery coatings for biomedical devices, such as catheters, that stop bacteria attaching and sticking in the first place. It is hoped these super biomaterials will help in the fight against super bugs, which has huge implications for infection rates in hospitals globally.
It is estimated that one in nine people experience some form of breathlessness, which is most common in conditions such as heart failure, lung disease, panic disorder and Parkinson’s. But there are also significant numbers of people who suffer from breathlessness which cannot be explained. A team at Oxford University hypothesise this might be driven by networks in the brain. So using brain scans and computational modelling, Breathe Oxford has examined breathlessness in athletes, healthy people and those with chronic lung disease, seeking clues as to why some individuals become disabled by their breathlessness, while others with the same lung function live normal healthy lives.
Claudia discusses this relationship between breathlessness and brain perception with lead researcher and anaesthetist Professor Kyle Pattinson and research scientist Sarah Finnegan. They also, using a ‘Steppatron’, demonstrate what it is like to live with a chronic lung condition.
Mirror-touch synaesthesia is a rare type of synaesthesia where people can actually feel something that they can see being done to someone else. For example they might seem to feel a brush on their hand whilst watching someone else having their hand stroked. Dr Natalie Bowling from the University of Sussex researches this condition. It is estimated that 30% of the population could experience some form of synaesthesia and Claudia also meets Kaitlyn Hova, a violinist with visual-auditory synaesthesia. She demonstrates her violin, which lights up with different colours according to how she sees the notes.
(Photo caption: Members of the MetaboLight team working together to develop novel light technologies to assess brain injury severity in newborns within hours after birth - credit: MetaboLight)
Producer: Helena Selby
Jul 03 2019
Rank #2: The shrew behind mysterious brain inflammation
A new smartphone app is helping families and medical staff to understand the discomfort experienced every day by people living with inflammatory bowel disease. Patients with conditions like Crohns disease often need to get to a toilet quickly - so the charity Crohns and Colitis UK developed the app In My Shoes. Our reporter has tried it out along with staff from Southampton General hospital.
We tend to think of students as being healthy - but a few years ago there were outbreaks of bacterial meningitis in colleges and universities across the UK. It’s spread by close physical contact including kissing and students are now encouraged to have a vaccine. But now a team of British researchers is developing an extra layer of protection - nose drops laced with friendly bacteria.
Presenter: Claudia Hammond
Producer: Paula McGrath
(Photo: Bicolored White-toothed Shrew. Credit: CreativeNature nl/Getty Images)
Jan 08 2020
Rank #3: The importance of play in childhood
The new Play Well exhibition at the Wellcome Collection in London looks at the significance of play in childhood and across society as a way of learning, expressing emotions and building empathy. Two schoolgirls give Claudia their verdict on the exhibition.
Children from the Indian cities of Delhi and Mumbai reveal what they like to play – and how it’s changed over the years.
We hear from researchers about how much children’s letters to Father Christmas in the UK reveal about the history of play and how differently mothers and fathers play with their children.
And how to solve the thorny issue of getting children off their computers and out to play – we hear evidence on how a balance can be achieved and some of the best ways to play to stimulate a child’s imagination and resilience.
Health Check was presented by Claudia Hammond
Producer: Geraldine Fitzgerald
(Photo credit: hadynyah / Getty Images)
Dec 25 2019