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Award Year:
2017
Recipients:
University College London

Results

Global Health 50/50: Towards accountability for gender equality in global health 04 Dec 2017

We propose to establish Global Health 50/50, a new initiative seeking to advance action and accountability for gender-equality in global health. Gender is a key driver of power to exercise the right to health, including exposure to risks of poor health, health seeking behaviours, and access to quality health care. Gender inequalities continue to define and drive career pathways and opportunities for people working in global health organizations. While some progress has been made, major gaps and challenges remain. We seek to raise awareness of persistent inequality and identify pathways to change. We will establish a network of experts in gender and global health, working with an advisory body drawn from the realms of politics, development, management, advocacy, human rights, social justice. Global Health 50/50 will publish an annual report on the state of gender-related policies and practices of 150 major organizations working in the field of global health.

Amount: £29,764
Funder: The Wellcome Trust
Recipient: University College London

Public health data science to investigate and improve migrant health. 25 May 2017

Migration is a defining political challenge of our time and a global health priority. Internationally there is a lack of epidemiological data on new migrants including the prevalence of high morbidity conditions and estimates of risk factors for disease. The overarching aim of this research is to generate evidence that will improve the health of migrants moving from low and middle-income to high-income countries. Key goals: Million migrant study: Create an electronic cohort that will establish the first national rates of age-specific morbidity and risk factors for disease in migrants. Migrant eCohort: Investigate the migrant exposome and how this changes over time since migration, using digital technologies (smart phones and apps) for data collection. Personalised public health intervention: Develop and test the feasibility of a tailored health advice website to improve migrant health. Outcomes: These studies will transform how we conduct digital cohorts in mobile populations and have wide application for efficient study design. The detailed epidemiological and health service data produced will provide the first national evidence of the health effects of rapid epidemiological transition as a result of UK migration, and a platform from which to carry out digitally enabled personalised public health interventions.

Amount: £1,164,786
Funder: The Wellcome Trust
Recipient: University College London

Effective public policy for improving sexual health of migrants/refugees 30 Sep 2017

Summary: Identifying and implementing appropriate and effective public policy responses for improving the sexual health of migrants and refugees Global challenges are complex, interwoven "wicked problems" whose solutions require systemic thinking, cross-disciplinary collaboration, and engagement with a range of stakeholder opinions and positions. In this proposal we will address the interlinked problems of inequalities, migration/refugees and global health. Using the tracer example of sexual health (sexually transmitted infections including HIV) we will explore rigorous evidence for interventions to address upstream determinants driving poor health outcomes for refugees/migrants from West Asia/Middle East North Africa (WA/MENA). Results from systematic reviews, realist reviews and mathematical modelling will be synthesised to identify effective interventions which can be translated into policy (in a range of sectors). These policy options will be assessed and refined to enhance their ‘palatability’ – i.e. their legitimacy, feasibility and acceptability with a range of key stakeholders in countries in the WA/MENA region as well as in pan-EU and national level (UK) health institutions.

Amount: £673,516
Funder: The Wellcome Trust
Recipient: University College London

Using modern causal inference methods and general population data to investigate the role of inflammation in the aetiology of eating disorders 08 Nov 2017

Eating disorders are severe psychiatric conditions with typical onset in adolescence and a complex aetiology. Epidemiological studies have shown that inflammation is potentially implicated in the aetiology of several psychiatric conditions. However, although the hypothesis is plausible, robust epidemiological evidence that inflammation is involved in the pathogenesis of eating disorders is largely missing. In this fellowship I will address this knowledge gap and test my hypothesis that inflammation – quantified in terms of exposure to infection, elevated markers of inflammation, and autoimmunity – constitutes an important risk factor in the pathogenesis of eating disorders via four complementary objectives; I will test whether: Prenatal and childhood infections are associated with onset of EDs; Serum markers of inflammation in childhood are associated with ED behaviours in adolescence; The association between inflammation and EDs is likely to be causal using Mendelian randomisation; Genetic risk for autoimmunity is associated with EDs. These studies will integrate the use of biological measurements and large general population samples with novel causal inference approaches for observational epidemiology. Understanding whether inflammation is causally relevant to the aetiology of eating disorders will advance our knowledge of these conditions, and may provide opportunities for new therapeutic and preventative interventions.

Amount: £250,000
Funder: The Wellcome Trust
Recipient: University College London

Enhancing emotion-regulation in adolescence: A developmental window of opportunity 08 Nov 2017

Adolescence is an emotionally challenging developmental stage. Adolescents frequently experience negative affect and rapid fluctuations in affective states. Difficulty in regulating these emotions is associated with a range of psychopathology. Successful emotion-regulation relies on executive control, the ability to attend and respond to goal-relevant information, while inhibiting responses to distractors. Executive control and its neural substrates in the frontoparietal network develop rapidly during adolescence. Adolescence then may constitute a period of developmental sensitivity to improve emotion-regulation by training executive control over emotional information. Combining population-based experience sampling (Study A), longitudinal functional and structural neuroimaging (Study B) and training studies (Studies C & D), this project will investigate: the association between executive control over emotional information and affective experience in daily life and how it develops across the lifespan (Study A); the biopsychosocial predictors of variation in adolescent emotion-regulation (Study B); adolescence as a sensitive period for training emotion-regulation; and whether training emotion-regulation has preventative potential in adolescents at-risk for depression. The studies will integrate information across behavioural and neural levels of explanation to advance a fuller understanding of adolescence as a potential sensitive period for emotion-regulation and how this developmental sensitivity can be harnessed to improve emotion-regulation through executive control training.

Amount: £250,000
Funder: The Wellcome Trust
Recipient: University College London

Computer-based analysis of early fibrosing lung disease 06 Dec 2017

Fibrosing lung disease (FLD) is an idiopathic condition, affecting older patients (median age=65 years) and smokers, accounting for 0.9% of all UK deaths in 2012. Unfortunately, despite newly available treatment options, FLD is typically diagnosed at an advanced stage with patients already markedly functionally impaired. Patient decline is often rapid. A constraint with diagnosing disease at an early stage is that subtle minor CT abnormalities that may evolve into rapidly progressive disease, are hard to identify and yet to be characterised visually. Large population studies may identify those subtle CT features portending progressive disease. Such large-scale analysis of CT imaging would be best suited to advanced computer analytic tools. We therefore aim to develop sophisticated computer tools to evaluate CTs in 20,000 heavy-smoker patients undergoing repeated chest imaging, as part of a lung cancer screening study, to identify early and potentially progressive FLD on CT. GOALS 1.Characterise baseline CT patterns indicative of early FLD and progressive FLD. 2. Predict the trajectory of a patient’s fibrosis progression using computer quantitation of change in an individuals CT features. 3. Generate population-wide quantitative CT metrics (age, gender and race specific) as a reference range applicable to other worldwide lung cancer screening studies.

Amount: £1,034,494
Funder: The Wellcome Trust
Recipient: University College London

Investigating the role of RNA interference in retinal development and as an agent of degeneration 31 Jan 2017

Genetic diseases affecting the retina, are the leading cause of blindness in the developed world. Despite the wide knowledge of the genetic factors which result in retinal dystrophies, (more than 200 genes have been identified as playing a role) such conditions remain untreatable. In monogenic retinal dystrophies the age of onset of photoreceptor cell death and rate of sight loss varies, yet the pathogenic gene mutation is present throughout life. Why some cells die at a given point in time and others do not, is unknown. This project aims to investigate the role of endogenous micro RNAs (miRNA) in retinal development and the relationship between miRNA dysregulation and retinal dystrophy. Specific miRNAs will be inactivated using the CRISPR/Cas9 system and the effects on photoreceptor differentiation and optic cup lamination determined. Furthermore, retinal organoid cultures derived from Type I Usher (a syndromic retinopathy) patient induced-pluripotent stem cells (iPSC; derived by reprogramming skin fibroblasts), will be used to establish whether miRNA dysregulation is indicative of an early disease state and whether CRISPR/Cas9-based gene correction can return dysregulated miRNA levels to normal. Finally, the effects of delivering certain miRNAs to a mouse model of retinal dystrophy on early disease phenotype will be established.

Amount: £24,581
Funder: The Wellcome Trust
Recipient: University College London

Local control of ventral subicular circuitry and its alteration by social isolation 31 Jan 2017

The overall aim of this project is to use viral tracing, electrophysiology and optogenetics to investigate the local circuitry of the ventral subiculum (vS), and how this circuit is altered by social isolation stress – a common route to affective disorders such as depression and anxiety. I will first investigate the anatomical distribution of neurons in vS that project to the prefrontal cortex or the NAc. These have been shown to be distinct parallel populations with unique circuit functions, but very little is known about their detailed local circuit organisation. Next I will use optogenetics, electrophysiology and viral tracing to determine the functional connectivity of the local circuit that defines the differential activity of these projections. Despite strong hypotheses that local control is key in this circuit, how this is acheived mechanistically remains unknown. Finally, I will determine how this detailed projection-specific circuitry is altered by social isolation - a manipulation that drammatically alters vS circuitry - and aim to provide more specific targets for in vivo manipulations aimed at reversing isolation-induced behavioural deficits. Overall, these experiments will provide for the first time mechanistic insight into the function and organisation of vS circuitry, from individual synaptic connections, to circuit function.

Amount: £30,524
Funder: The Wellcome Trust
Recipient: University College London

Investigation of the regulatory hot-spots identified for type 2 diabetes 05 Sep 2017

The complex causal chain between a gene and its effect on susceptibility cannot be unravelled until the casual changes have been localised in the DNA sequence. By exploiting high-resolution population-specific genetic maps, we have recently identified 111 additional disease-susceptibility locations, 93 of which are cosmopolitan (in Europeans and African-Americans) and 18 are European specific. We also refined previously identified T2D signals and showed that many of these are also risk loci in African-Americans. The novelty of our results is two-fold: 1) We obtain a precise location for the implicated functional variant(s) and 2) We were able to identify that the majority of the disease locations appear to confer risk of T2D by acting as expression quantitative trail loci (eQTL) that regulate adipose expression levels of a large number of cis-regulated genes. Our aim is to further characterise in detail all the 111 novel and previously found loci by effectively integrating all our causal location estimates together with cell-specific regulatory annotation and chromatin modifications. In addition, we will investigate all our disease and co-localised eQTL locations for tissue specificity (so far we have only used adipose) by performing gene expression analyses in other tissues relevant to T2D.

Amount: £99,945
Funder: The Wellcome Trust
Recipient: University College London

Sexy glia: developmental plasticity during glia-derived neurogenesis 11 Jul 2017

The overall goal of this proposal is to elucidate the cellular and molecular mechanisms that regulate natural glia-to-neuron cell-fate switches. Stably differentiated cells can sometimes display a remarkable degree of plasticity and switch fates to another differentiated cell type, in a process termed transdifferentiation. In the vertebrate nervous system, radial glia act as neural progenitors during embryogenesis. Suprisingly, stably differentiated glia can also act as neural progenitors during adult neurogenesis. We have recently discovered two cases in which stably differentiated glial cells undergo a glia-to-neuron cell-fate switch during sexual maturation in the nervous system of C. elegans, allowing us to study these events at the single-cell level in a genetically tractable system. We will combine classic genetic approaches with state-of-the-art molecular and next-generation sequencing approaches to characterise the molecular and epigenetic changes that occur during natural glia-to-neuron transdifferentiation. We will elucidate the role of cell division in this process, identify novel molecular regulators and determine the reprogramming abilities of the factors we identify. Unleashing the neurogenic potential of glia offers tremendous therapeutic possibilities.

Amount: £1,453,931
Funder: The Wellcome Trust
Recipient: University College London

Identifying Integrative and Conjugative Elements using DLIGHT 27 Apr 2017

Integrative and conjugative elements (ICEs) are mobile genetic elements present in both gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria. They mostly reside in the host chromosome and under certain conditions, will excise and transfer to a new host via the conjugation machinery. ICEs have been found to provide the host with a wide range of phenotypes, including antibiotic and heavy metal resistance and the ability to colonise a eukaryotic host, promote virulence and biofilm formation. The ability of ICE to spread to different species of bacteria through horizontal gene transfer is a major factor in bacterial evolution. Bioinformatics approaches have been increasingly used to identify possible ICEs through sequence similarity. In this project, we aim to find out the effectiveness of using an algorithm, DLIGHT (Distance Likelihood based Inference of Genes Horizontally Transferred) that was originally used to detect lateral gene transfer, to identify integrative and conjugative elements. We will achieve this by assessing DLIGHT's ability to recover already documented ICEs. We will also use DLIGHT to test certain sequences which we suspect to contain ICEs. The predictions of new ICEs will then be vetted through manual analysis and collaboration with experimentalists.

Amount: £0
Funder: The Wellcome Trust
Recipient: University College London

Investigating the sleep modulating effect of oxytocin in zebrafish models of autism. 27 Apr 2017

In this project I will test the hypothesis that oxytocin expression and development of oxytocin-expressing neurons are altered in zebrafish with mutations in the ASD risk genes cntnap2 and chd8. I hope to find evidence for the sleep modulating effects of oxytocin, and posit whether deficiencies in oxytocin signalling pathways may contribute to sleep disorders in autism mutants. I will examine oxytocin mRNA levels across the day/night cycle for both wild-type and mutant fish established in the Rihel lab. I will then analyse the pattern of oxytocin expression in the brains of mutant embryos and their wild-type siblings. From the findings in related studies with cntnap2 mutant mice and the Rihel lab zebrafish models of autism (see references [3] and [6]), I expect to see an alteration in the amount of oxytocin mRNA for day/night between the wild-type and mutant embryos, and a change in the number of neurons expressing oxytocin. If such changes are found, they could explain the sleep phenotype observed in cntnap2 autism mutants, and elucidate a link between neuronal circuit dysfunction and behavioural perturbation in this animal model.

Amount: £0
Funder: The Wellcome Trust
Recipient: University College London

Microtubule organisation and role of LL5-beta in lymphoid stromal fibroblasts 27 Apr 2017

The lymph node is a meeting point for lymphocytes with antigen-presenting cells, and rapidly expands during immune responses. Lymph node structure is highly compartmentalised, and the complex internal architecture is maintained during lymph node expansion. Therefore, mechanisms must exist to balance lymph node integrity with the need to remodel very rapidly. Fibroblastic reticular cells (FRCs) are the most abundant lymphoid stromal cell population, and span the full volume of the tissue. They provide structural support and are highly contractile. FRCs ensheathes bundles of extracellular matrix, termed the conduit, which filters draining lymph. The Acton lab works to understand how lymph nodes are remodeled during expansion and has shown that interaction between FRCs and dendritic cells change FRC behaviour. This project asks how the microtubule networks within FRCs are reorganised as the FRC network expands. Phosphoproteomic screening has revealed that LL5-beta, a protein targetting microtubules to adhesion sites is regulated by interactions between FRCs and dendritic cells. This may provide a mechanism by which FRCs uncouple from underlying matrix, and target secretion of proteases or new matrix to the expanding network. This project will investigate whether LL5-beta coordinates organization of microtubules in FRCs and whether dendritic cell contact changes LL5-beta activity.

Amount: £0
Funder: The Wellcome Trust
Recipient: University College London

Timestamping Integrative Approach to Understand Secondary Envelopment of Human Cytomegalovirus 28 Nov 2017

The mechanisms facilitating the assembly of Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) in the cytoplasm of infected cells, a complex process termed ‘secondary envelopment’, are poorly understood. Our goal is to identify in-situ the identity, position, and interactions of all the essential proteins involved in this critical stage of the viral ‘lifecycle’. Despite decades of research, it has been difficult to dissect the complexity of secondary envelopment, as bulk assays only show ensemble averages of populations of viral particles. To study these intermediates that are formed when cytoplasmic capsids acquire tegument proteins and their envelope membrane, we will develop a novel approach that separates these intermediates in time and space. We will provide their spatio-temporal models by integrating complementary cutting-edge techniques and expertise within this collaboration, including flow-virometry, correlative (fluorescence and electron cryo) microscopy, crosslinking and ion-mobility mass spectrometry-based proteomics, and computational modelling. Specifically, we aim to: -Identify key players in tegument assembly on capsids/membranes. -Elucidate the order and spatial organisation of tegument assembly. -Validate the interactions in vivo and analyse capsid tegumentation in vitro. -Integrate the information into a spatiotemporal model. This will significantly improve our understanding of herpesvirus assembly in general, a crucial step towards identifying new therapeutic targets.

Amount: £705,137
Funder: The Wellcome Trust
Recipient: University College London

Lost&Found: engaging with narratives of ageing 30 Nov 2017

no abstract available.

Amount: £123,300
Funder: The Wellcome Trust
Recipient: University College London

UCL Unit for Stigma Research: Advancing theory and practice in the stigma field 04 Dec 2017

Our new UCL Unit for Stigma Research (UCLUS) will be a hub for innovative high quality research and theory production in the field of stigma research. UCLUS brings together research across diverse fields, including intellectual disability, mental health and dementia, and explores cross-cutting themes and opportunities for research. We are seeking funding to support UCLUS activities and explore areas for new research on stigma resistance and disclosure decision making, two novel areas in which we are piloting work. A better understanding of what makes some members of highly stigmatised groups more vulnerable/resistant to stigma, and how they manage disclosure offers the potential for innovative contributions to broader theorising on responses to adversity. It can also inform the development of interventions that enhance wellbeing via capacity to resist stigma among members of highly stigmatised groups. Funding will allow us to (a) explore this area further, (b) develop a research agenda, (c) build capacity for high quality research, and (d) extend existing and form new partnerships to take this work forward through the public launch of UCLUS, a seminar series, development of the research unit's social media presence, a UCLUS led session at the 2018 IASSID European Congress, and international collaborative visits.

Amount: £29,633
Funder: The Wellcome Trust
Recipient: University College London

MRF2 National Alliance for Museums, Health and Wellbeing 30 Sep 2017

This project seeks to take forward work begun by the National Alliance for Museums, Health and Wellbeing. Since its establishment in July 2015 the Alliance has engaged with an of audience of 96,000, recruited 400 members, led an All Party Parliamentary Roundtable on Museums and Wellbeing, delivered the first National Museums and Wellbeing Conference and Week, and developed a database of over 600 museum-wellbeing projects. The proposal draws together the shared expertise of a number of allied organisations with interests in wellbeing. By working in partnership we will: share expertise and best practice across our diverse audiences; provide training to help develop the regional workforce; create online virtual training resources for building resilience in museums; provide leadership and advocacy at the highest levels of health and social care policy making; and develop an umbrella organisation across arts and culture to ensure future sustainability and legacy. The Alliance is a consortium led by UCL Museums, National Museums Liverpool, British Museum, Thackray Medical Museum, UK Medical Collections Group, Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums, Manchester Museums and Galleries, University of Leicester Research Centre for Museums and Galleries, Museums Association and National Alliance for Arts, Health & Wellbeing.

Amount: £15,000
Funder: The Wellcome Trust
Recipient: University College London

A cell culture model to find drugs that may be useful to treat dementia. 15 May 2017

I am an undergraduate Neuroscience Msci student studying at the University of Bristol. I am undergoing an industrial trainee year, with Alzheimer’s Research UK University College London drug discovery institute (AR-UK UCL DDI), as part of my course. The AR-UK UCL DDI is a newly established unit in UCL, with core funding from Alzheimer’s Research UK. Its goal is to discover new approaches and therapies for dementia, a core symptom of a number of important diseases ("neurodegenerative diseases" of the brain such as Alzheimer’s disease). With the increasing aging population these neurodegenerative diseases are becoming a huge individual, societal and economic problem. The AR-UK UCL DDI currently has 12 scientists and will increase to about 24, and is equipped to enable the scientific experiments and studies to be performed.My industrial trainee year with the AR-UK UCL DDI will allow me to experience neuroscience in the research setting with an opportunity to use techniques commonly used in the field. The placement will provide a very practical learning in a professional environment, challenging me both personally and academically. It will also expose me to the process of working towards developing new therapies. I will be able to develop my interpersonal skills alongside vital experience working in lab with experienced colleagues. I will take the confidence and skills built during the placement into my final year and in my future studies and career as I hope to do a PhD after my undergraduate course.Project details: Neurons are key cells of the brain. Synapses are the key points that neurons communicate to each other, and are thought to be the basis of learning and memory. In neurodegeneration the neurons and the synapses decrease in number and ability to function, leading to progressive memory loss, dementia and eventually, death. Therefore ways of protecting the neurons and synapses, and maintaining their function, could be useful therapeutic approaches. The project will involve growing neurons in a cell culture dish; it is possible to do this by obtaining the neurons from mouse brains. The neurons are able to form synapses in the culture dish, which mimic the synapses that would be naturally formed in the mouse brain. I will use these cultured neurons to develop ways of measuring the number of synapses. It will be possible to measure the number of synapses by using fluorescently tagged antibodies that bind specifically to neuronal proteins that localise to synapses, and then use microscopy to count the number of those synapses. Once I have set up this system, I will be able to add various small molecules (compounds) and drugs and identify any that are able to increase the number of the synapses. Such small molecules or drugs could be the starting point for developing new therapies for dementia.

Amount: £7,000
Funder: The Wellcome Trust
Recipient: University College London

LRG1 and dysfunctional vessel growth 05 Apr 2017

Neovascularisation plays a key role in the pathogenesis of diseases such as cancer and diabetic retinopathy. Neovessels are frequently disorganised, poorly perfused and leaky resulting in hypoxia, oedema and ineffective delivery of therapeutics. Until recently, most therapeutic strategies have focused on the inhibition or ablation of these vessels but recent evidence suggests that re-directing abnormal vessel growth towards normality is clinically beneficial. Vascular normalisation has gained traction as a therapeutic concept, but its application to human disease is severely hampered by our limited understanding of the factors that subvert normal angiogenesis. A fundamental conundrum is that many of the molecular drivers of normal vascular development are also responsible for pathogenic angiogenesis, indicating that in disease there are additional factors corrupting this process. We recently discovered a secreted pro-angiogenic factor, leucine-rich alpha-2-glycoprotein-1 (LRG1), that is up-regulated in pathogenic settings and disrupts vessel growth, and we have shown that inhibition of LRG1 results in vessel normalisation. In this study, we will investigate the mechanisms that drive pathological angiogenesis, and test the hypothesis that LRG1 subverts endothelial-mural cell interactions by interfering with or redirecting key signalling pathways. The work will increase our understanding of pathological angiogenesis and pave the way towards new therapies.

Amount: £857,450
Funder: The Wellcome Trust
Recipient: University College London