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Finding answers to the world's health and food issues right here in Norwich

PUBLISHED: 14:23 30 January 2020 | UPDATED: 14:35 30 January 2020

Iwan Roberts is taking part in the SCORES project to find out more about the link between heading the ball and dementia   Picture: Ian Burt

Iwan Roberts is taking part in the SCORES project to find out more about the link between heading the ball and dementia Picture: Ian Burt

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Scientists at Norwich Research Park are investigating a diverse range of issues to discover solutions that could change people's lives around the world.

Fungal rust disease lesions on wheat   Picture: Norwich Research ParkFungal rust disease lesions on wheat Picture: Norwich Research Park

To find the answers to some of the most challenging issues facing the human race, it is critical that a collaborative approach is taken - whether that's different institutions working together or where the general public is engaged.

Here are three examples of the world-leading research being done right here in Norfolk, at Norwich Research Park:

Testing device for Sepsis

Barberry bushes can be used by wheat rust strains as incubation sites  Picture: Norwich Research ParkBarberry bushes can be used by wheat rust strains as incubation sites Picture: Norwich Research Park

Scientists have developed a rapid and reliable test for sepsis in premature babies that scours for harmful bugs in their nappies.

Sepsis affects 25,000 infants every year in the UK with premature babies accounting for a disproportionate amount of cases. The condition is the immune system's violent overreaction to an infection that sees it attack its own organs.

The test, developed jointly by clinicians at the Norfolk & Norwich University Hospital and researchers at the Quadram Institute and Earlham Institute, works by analysing bacteria in a newborn's stool and takes just four hours to tell if they are at risk of infection. This is more than 10 times faster than current methods that involve sending samples off to a lab.

Currently, nine in 10 premature babies are treated with drugs as a precautionary measure, but many do not need them; overusing them can allow bacteria to become immune to their powers.

A new rapid and reliable test to detect sepsis in premature babies has been developed and can be carried out on a portable device, known as MinION, which is no bigger than a smartphone    Picture: Norwich Research ParkA new rapid and reliable test to detect sepsis in premature babies has been developed and can be carried out on a portable device, known as MinION, which is no bigger than a smartphone Picture: Norwich Research Park

The new method is carried out on a portable device, known as MinION, which is no bigger than a smartphone. The scientists who conducted the study say it could also halt the spread of antibiotic resistant superbugs in neonatal units.

Heading off dementia

Former Norwich City and Wales striker Iwan Roberts, is one of the first to sign up to a new project to test former professional football players for early signs of dementia.

Researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA) are crowd-funding the project, which will build on research done by the University of Glasgow that established that retired male players are around five times more likely to suffer from Alzheimer's Disease than the average person.

The team knows that there is much higher risk of dementia in former professional footballers and think this is related to repetitive heading of the ball. They will be working with former professional players to investigate and track their brain health over time, using cutting-edge technology to test for early signs of dementia in men and women, identifiable long before any memory problems or other noticeable symptoms become apparent.

What they don't know, however, is if this extends to amateur level football - and they want your help to find out.

Former players in the Eastern region are being encouraged to volunteer to be a part in the SCORES project (Screening Cognitive Outcomes after Repetitive head impact Exposure in Sport).

The research team is looking for active non-footballers, who are aged over 50. A small group of participants will be seen in the lab, but the majority of the testing will be done online at home.

If you would like to take part, please visit www.scoresproject.org or email scoresproject@uea.ac.uk

Wheat crops threatened by rusts

Researchers at the John Innes Centre are conducting an important study to better understand how 'rust' - a pathogen which can devastate wheat crops - spreads across the country. And they need members of the public to get involved.

The Barberry Rust Explorer (BarbRE) project is a UK-wide citizen science project that aims to map the locations of barberry bushes across the country - all you need is a smart phone.

Wheat can be infected by fungal rusts which damage the crop and lower the harvest. Two of these types of rust can infect the country's common barberry bushes, using them to complete sexual reproduction and make new strains, which then transfer to the wheat crops.

The BarbRE project will help experts to understand the current threat barberry poses as an incubation site for emerging wheat rust strains. And for this to happen, the locations of these bushes near cereal crops need to be determined and then monitored to enable scientists to come up with a way of preventing it.

If you would like to participate in the study send an email to diane.saunders@jic.ac.uk

For more information on the world-leading research being done at Norwich Research Park visit the website.

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