2021’s news highlights from the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health

Whether it’s the continued impact of the Covid-19 pandemic or our world-leading science, our stories have been top news across the country and the world. Here’s some of the most popular and interesting news releases from the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health in 2021. Enjoy!

Whole genomic sequencing improves rare disease diagnosis : A world-first scientific study , published in the New England Journal of Medicine, has shown that whole genome sequencing (WGS) can uncover new diagnoses for people across the broadest range of rare diseases investigated to date and could deliver enormous benefits across the NHS. The pilot study of rare undiagnosed diseases involved analysing the genes of 4,660 people from 2,183 families - all of whom were early participants in the 100,000 Genomes Project.

Early trial of multivariant COVID-19 vaccine booster begins in Manchester: A phase one trial of a multivariant COVID-19 Vaccine has been launched by US pharmaceutical company Gritstone in collaboration with The University of Manchester and Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust. Initially involving participants aged 60+, its creators say the drug - called GRT-R910 - can boost the immune response of first-generation COVID-19 vaccines to a wide array of variants of Sars-Cov-2, which cause COVID-19.

Sex drug can strongly suppress abnormal heart rhythms, finds study: The drug Viagra, used to treat sexual impotence, can strongly suppress abnormal heart rhythms known as arrythmias in sheep according to University of Manchester scientists. The British Heart Foundation funded study, published in Circulation Researchthe leading journal in its field - could have important implications on the management of the condition on humans.

August: Lung drug hope for heart failure patients: An early phase trial of a drug currently used to treat lung fibrosis has shown it may also help patients who suffer from a common form of heart failure. Trialled by University of Manchester and Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust doctors and scientists, in conjunction with Liverpool Clinical Trials Centre, pirfenidone could offer a much-needed viable treatment for heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF).

May: One in nine adults struggled with mental health during pandemic, find researchers: One in nine adults consistently had very poor or deteriorating mental health during the first six months of the Covid-19 pandemic according to new research. Those living in the most deprived neighbourhoods along with ethnic minority groups were the most affected say the team based at The University of Manchester, King’s College London, Cambridge, Swansea and City University.

April: Hospitalised shift workers up to 3 times more likely to be Covid-19 positive: Scientists have found an association between shift work and COVID-19 positivity in hospitalised patients. Using data from UK Biobank - the world’s largest biomedical database - shift work increased the likelihood of testing positive for COVID-19 in hospitalised patients 2-3 fold, depending on the nature of shift work. The effect persisted even after controlling for known COVID-19 risk factors.

April: New drug is gamechanger in psoriasis treatment: A novel drug almost entirely cleared moderate to severe psoriasis in over 60% of the patients who took part in two phase three clinical trials of a new drug. The University of Manchester and Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust led studies on Bimekizumab , both published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine today, were funded by UCB Pharma; the company that developed the treatment which could be available in as little as 12 months.

March: Evidence supports Covid hearing loss link, say scientists: Hearing loss and other auditory problems are associated with Covid-19 according to a systematic review of research evidence led by University of Manchester and NIHR Manchester Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) scientists. Professor Kevin Munro and PhD researcher Ibrahim Almufarrij found 56 studies that identified an association between COVID-19 and auditory and vestibular problems.

March Nanotechnology could enable test for early Alzheimer’s Disease: University of Manchester scientists have discovered previously unseen blood biomarkers which could one day be used to test for Alzheimer’s disease, years before its symptoms appear. The ground-breaking study, published in ACS Nano, used cutting-edge nanotechnology uniquely developed and patented by the Nanomedicine Lab in Manchester, to extract blood signals of neurodegeneration in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease.

February: Simple urine test can detect womb cancer: A simple non-invasive test can accurately detect womb cancer according to a proof of concept study by University of Manchester and Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (MFT) scientists. The non-invasive test, which detects the cancer by looking at a urine or vaginal sample with a microscope, could have a major benefit for patients if adopted across the NHS.

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