MORE than 500 visitors learned about ground-breaking medical research taking place in Oxfordshire at a series of events held by the NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) this month.
From a vaccine for Ebola to bionic eyes to new ways to treat cancer, the seven events featured just some of the pioneering work being undertaken by the BRC.
The BRC was one of five centres founded with funding from the NHS National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) in 2007.
It is a partnership between Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust and the University of Oxford to take laboratory research into a clinical setting at NHS hospitals.
Open Weeks kicked off on Friday March 6 with a Vaccines and Infectious Diseases public engagement day at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.
Visitors to the six-hour event – organised and funded by the university’s Jenner Institute – enjoyed hands-on activities including DNA origami and taking throat swabs from a dummy patient.
Speakers covered topics such as tuberculosis, meningococcal infections and malaria while Prof Peter Piot, co-discoverer of the Ebola virus, spoke about his work in Africa in the 1970s, the first outbreak that led to its discovery.
Prof Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said infectious diseases still pose a major threat to public health and that vaccination research is critical in combating emerging infections.
On Tuesday March 10 visitors were given a guided tour of the University of Oxford’s Acute Vascular Imaging Centre (AVIC) at the John Radcliffe Hospital.
Senior Research Radiographer Juliet Semple explained that emergency heart attack and stroke cases who are eligible for study are taken to a 3 Tesla MRI scanner during or after treatment.
The scan allows researchers to study the impact of treatments in real time on the body.
That evening, at the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre, visitors learned about research into heart health including diabetes and undiagnosed heart valve disease in older people.
This included a demonstration of a portable cardiac (ECHO) ultrasound machine – being used in Oxfordshire GP surgeries – to show normal heart valve structure and function.
Talks and exhibitions on innovation in healthcare research were held at a drop-in event on Wednesday March 11 at Oxford Martin School, Broad Street, in the city centre (pictured).
The six-hour event featured talks and exhibitions about BRC-supported research such as trials of a “bionic eye” microchip implanted underneath the retina to partially restore vision for those who have lost their sight.
Didcot’s Gwynne Reddick was on hand to speak to visitors about how a “3D lung” imaging technique at the Churchill Hospital gives him a clearer picture of how his lungs are affected by his chronic obstructive pulmonary disease compared to standard assessment tools.
Other exhibits included how patients are using tablet computers to provide researchers with information about pregnancy and living with heart failure.
On Thursday March 12 visitors to the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre learned about cancer, blood and genomic medicine with three talks, from 6pm to 8pm.
Consultant haematologist Professor Paresh Vyas explained how the first trials of new drugs to eliminate leukaemic stem cells in adult acute myeloid leukaemia, led by Oxford, will start this summer.
More than 100 people, including pupils from three Oxford primary schools, enjoyed a tour of the Oxford University Centre for Functional MRI of the Brain (FMRIB) on Monday March 16.
They visited the control room of its Ultra High Field MRI scanner to see a live brain scan which allows researchers to see the brain in finer detail than is possible on standard hospital scanners.
Research into epilepsy, Parkinson’s Disease and stroke were among topics at an event on tackling brain diseases at the University of Oxford’s Mathematical Institute, Radcliffe Observatory Quarter on Wednesday March 18 from 5.30pm to 8pm.
More than 250 visitors were able to listen to three, 10-minute talks on the benefits of physical activity on the ageing brain, research into epilepsy, how strokes and acute illness affect thinking and memory and the latest breakthroughs in Parkinson’s Disease.
They were also able to browse stands and speak to researchers from organisations including the BRC’s Oxford Dementia and Ageing Research, the NIHR Clinical Research Network, brain injury charity Headway Oxfordshire and Healthwatch Oxfordshire.
Activities included cognitive assessments using iPads and a quiz on famous people with epilepsy and treatments for the condition since medieval times.