Advances in tendinopathy

Previously I have touched on my summer research project on tendinopathy but today I thought I would share a bit of what I have done with you all, enjoy!

The driving force behind my research was due to the fact that soft tissue disorders represent the third most common musculoskeletal condition in the UK with 18 cases per 1000. These primarily affect tendons, accounting for 30% of all rheumatological consultations with a general practitioner. Causes are multifactorial but with an ever increasing number of professional athletes and also an ageing population whose tendons decrease in elasticity; there is an annual estimated cost to the NHS of £250 million. Though molecular pathophysiology of tendinopathy remains incompletely understood key inflammatory mediators such as proinflammatory cytokines are found to play a vital role.

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This little fella is tenascin-C

The extracellular matrix molecule tenascin-C is highly expressed during embryonic development, in pathological situations such as chronic inflammation, cancer. By this report it is found to be at significantly higher levels during diseased tendon tissue repair as compared to healthy tendons to carry out its role as an inflammatory mediator and induce inflammation in attempts to repair the diseased tendon. Tenascin-C prolongs inflammation at site of trauma and leads to further tendon damage. These results provide useful insight into the complex cross-regulation of inflammation and tissue remodelling mediated by tenascin-C.

Some background information

Tendons are a band of flexible fibrous connective tissue which connects muscle to bone. They are present in joints and largely inelastic to conserve energy whilst transmitting the contractile movement of muscle to move bone. Despite the frequent mention of tendinopathy, tendons are in fact extremely tough it is found that collagen fibrillogenesis begins as an assembly of collagen molecules in a series of extracellular compartments, progressing through post-depositional maturation leading to thicker and longer fibrils and ending in their coalescence in the final stages of fibre production.

 

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Figure 1Various tendons on the body which are affected by tendinopathy especially the Achilles tendon and rotator cuff

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My mind-changing Science Summer School experience

Summer School Accomodation

From Monday 24th to Friday 28th July 2017 I had attended a residential Sciences Summer School which made me even more set on a future career in STEM (which I didn’t think was possible, haha) and especially medicine. Moreover, I made an abundance of fellow nerd friends who didn’t make me feel as lonely. There were a total of 58 fifth year pupils from all different backgrounds, Scottish, English, Welsh and 1 lone Northern Irish guy but somehow we all connected in a way which prior to the summer school, I believe to be impossible in the span of only a week.

Sunday

To give myself enough time to travel to the college, I had packed up my bags a day before and arrived to explore the city. Like the tourist I was, I stocked up on a plethora of various fridge magnets depicting medieval buildings and misleadingly sunny postcards which did not accurately depict the British weather. We (10 other people who also travelled down on Sunday) met and were instantly friends. I tried my hand at the out of tune piano and out problems just melted away for a while under the diminishing sunlight.

Monday

After everyone else arrived and the different procedural introductions we got stuck in problem solving. (Note: the icebreaker we had to go through did not in fact break-the-ice for it was a bingo involving facts of students. An absurd example being to find someone with blue socks which I was only one of a precious few.) The director of studies did not treat us like kids, as a brilliant mathematician he questioned our intuition. After explaining Claude Shannon’s Information theory, he asked an array of mind-bending questions, but even the simplest one caused commotion amongst budding mathematicians:

I have a bottle and a cap, together costing £1.10. The bottle costs exactly £1 more than the cap so my questions to you is: How much does the cap cost?”

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My month as an immunologist

logoAs mentioned in one of my previous posts [click here] this summer I am undertaking a biomedical research project in collaboration with the Nuffield foundation on the topic of: “The role of Tenascin C in tendinopathy”. My main goal for tackling on this ‘challenge’ (I guess) was to engage in some real life science and to better myself in preparation for university. Though I am fortunate to attend a school which go out of their way to provide specialised scientific equipment, I had never experienced university style labs in (as the researchers I worked with called it) the big bad world. I realised that I took for granted the seemingly simple apparatuses such as autoclaves and centrifuges as some undergraduates haven’t even seen one in real life until university, never mind using them. I was overjoyed to leave the world of school bucket chemistry behind which solely consisted of school technicians tirelessly making up solutions only for us to haphazardly throw them all together to see the really tell-tale signs such as a colour change. No, I savoured every moment of making my own discoveries, never again shall I robotically repeat the same boring experiments to end up with a result I already knew.

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Morphine and its cousins

 

Quinine

The term ‘alkaloids’ may be unfamiliar to most of us but if I start naming some examples which fall into this group of ‘nitrogenous bases secondary metabolites’, you will know what I mean. nicotine2 Some of the big names include morphine, quinine, strychnine, nicotine etc. basically a continuous list of –ine’s. The thing to note is that though the alkaloids were attributed to pharmacologically active bases derived from plants however, animals (including us!), insects and microbes also produce them.

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Exciting enzymes?

So…I haven’t written a sole biology blog post in such a long time so I thought I would share some of the knowledge covered in class, more specifically on exciting enzymes.


Enzymes are biological catalysts made by living organisms which speed up chemical reactions. Each cell in our bodies is like a factory, constantly using up raw materials to turn them into useful products and also resulting in waste products. These reactions are usually slow if unaided by either heat or enzymes. This can be annoying in everyday life, for example, delayed respiration rates which rely heavily on enzymes. The food we eat in turn become the energy we use (vastly simplified). Continue reading

Plastic Surgery…in the war

This week I have received some exciting news. No, I didn’t win the lottery, if that’s what you’re thinking. Or discovered a cure for cancer. I received a letter from a certain university which more or less confirmed my research placement for the summer of 2k17. However it’s is on the condition that I am accepted through the Nuffield summer placement. Without exaggeration, I opened the acceptance email and I gave myself a high five (sad, I know).
The short email was formal of course but I would like to summarise it to a brief ‘you go girl!’. This was I had waited for, my chance to discover a side of medical research, which is fundamental to medical discoveries. I will be undertaking a 4-6 week journey through the world of research based around infection, immune system and inflammation, so I decided it was appropriate to write this post surrounding this matter. So without further ado, let’s get started.

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Stem, Stem and STEM

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Stem cells, and nope I don’t mean the acronym for science, technology, engineering and math which this blog is focused on. (hint hint – self-promotion, there are also many other interesting posts which Susan and I have written). I mean the unspecialised cells which have the ability to cure currently untreatable diseases. In plants, these cells are known as meristems, usually found in the root and shoot tips. In our bodies there are two types of stem cells. Continue reading

5 Myths regarding Evolution 

One good subject to write a blog post on is something you’re passionate about. Something you want to exclaim to the world. For me, one of them has to be evolution. Hank Green, a science educator (probably more well-known as half of vlogbrothers) made an excellent and hilarious video on some facts that simply cannot be disproven. Check that out here – Facts are Facts..OK?

I had a substitute teacher for Religious Education class the other day and I was reading The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins. Through coincidence the teacher happens to despise Dawkins (probably because he’s an advocate for atheism), and he saw the book on my friend’s desk.

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Proteins

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The human genome is estimated to contain between 20,000 and 25,ooo protein coding genes, however the number of proteins present within the human body is far greater that this. Within humans and other organisms a variety of proteins must therefore be expresses from the same gene. This is a result of alternative RNA splicing and post translational modification.

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