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From the smallest cells to a biggest physics discoveries, join Mattia, Becky and Michael as they showcase their research with you. Mattia will introduce us all to the concept of genetic variants and how they impact metabolism, before Becky explores microsporidia - the parasites that live life as dormant spores. Michael will conclude the evening by exploring what it means to be human!
The role of a rare genetic variant on metabolism
Mattia Frontini (Associate Professor of Cell Biology)
Blood group antigens are the archetypal example of human genetic variation. In this presentation I will discuss how individuals lacking the Vel blood group present with a series of metabolic phenotypes. Absence of SMIM1 leads to an increase in body weight, high blood lipids, increased liver enzymes and lower total thyroid hormone levels. These changes in the metabolic state are due to a reduction in resting energy expenditure and impose a burden on the cardiovascular system akin to being a heavy smoker.
Secrets of a parasite: the fascinating world of microsporidia
Becky Conners (Postdoctoral Researcher)
Microsporidia are fascinating parasites of animals including humans; causing disease and sometimes death. These tiny parasites are found all around us in the environment as dormant spores. When these spores are eaten by an animal, the parasite fires a long, thin tube out from its spore body which pierces a host cell like a harpoon. The contents of the spore are squeezed through this long tube into the host cell where the parasite can then multiply. We are researching how these parasites infect host cells, with the long-term aim of improving current drug treatments.
The surprising physics of creating a human
From how sperm swim to the egg to how a baby takes their first breath at birth and even the mechanics of how infants breastfeed, there is a lot of fascinating physics at the heart of many aspects of creating and raising a new human. Exploring conception, pregnancy and babyhood through the lens of physics is not only providing new insights and opening up potential treatments but also deepening our understanding – and awe – at what is such a critical moment in life.
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