In seven days it would have been my late wife’s sixty-eighth birthday.
C gave her body for medical research and we had a private cremation a year or so later.
In her memory and also in that of my son, who died of pancreatic cancer in 2010, I helped to fund in a very small way some research into the disease at my mine and my late wife’s university of Liverpool.
I wrote about the research in There’s More To Liverpool Than Football And The Beatles!
In some ways, the successful outcome of the research, gave me an enormous lift and now when I think of my son, I sometimes think, that others will hopefully not have to go through, what he and his family did!
Serious research can do that!
So I got to thinking, that perhaps when a friend or relative dies, we should start a fund and give the money to an appropriate charity, that funds research into whatever was the cause of their death.
My funding of Liverpool University’s Pancreatic Cancer research that came about because I asked Alumni Relations at the University to suggest a suitable research project for my donation.
The Devil must have blessed the donation and the research produced a positive result.
But not everyone can be so lucky.
So why not, when someone close to you dies, collect an appropriate amount of money and ask the major charity or perhaps as I did, your old University to find a project to help fund?
I would think that it could be best to go to a central charity like Cancer Research UK or the British Heart Foundation, as they might now something that was very suitable, based in a University of research institution convenient to where you live!
I feel that selecting a well-run and well-respected central charity is that they know the ropes and that the world is littered with charitable failures, set up by individuals with the best of intentions.
There is no other title for a post about this article on the BBC, which is entitled Antibiotic resistance: ‘Snot wars’ study yields new class of drugs.
The research has been done at the University of Tübingen, which is one of Germany’s classical universities. Wikipedia says this.
Tübingen is one of five classical “university towns” in Germany; the other four being Marburg, Göttingen, Freiburg and Heidelberg.
It certainly sounds to me that ideas for this research, possibly started after a good academic dinner with lots of food and alcohol, if classical German universities are anything like our’s.
After all the idea has been literally up researchers noses for years.
These last two paragraphs of the BBC report describes how the antibiotic-like action was possibly created in the human body.
Prof Kim Lewis and Dr Philip Strandwitz, from the antimicrobial discovery centre at Northeastern University in the US, commented: “It may seem surprising that a member of the human microbiota – the community of bacteria that inhabits the body – produces an antibiotic.
“However, the microbiota is composed of more than a thousand species, many of which compete for space and nutrients, and the selective pressure to eliminate bacterial neighbours is high.”
So why hasn’t this new class of antibiotics been found before?
Could it be that medical research is too much about Loadsamoney and Big Pharma, rather than about ideas, seriously out-of-the-box thinking and dilligent research?
Brains are a lot easier to throw at a problem, than money. Except that good brains are much more difficult to find than good money.
This morning, this story on the BBC web site entitled ‘Major Win’ In Pancreatic Cancer Fight is one of the top stories. This is said.
A new combination of chemotherapy drugs should become the main therapy for pancreatic cancer, say UK researchers.
The disease is so hard to treat that survival rates have barely changed for decades.
But data, presented at the world’s biggest cancer conference, showed long-term survival could be increased from 16% to 29%.
The findings have been described as a “major win”, “incredibly exciting” and as offering new hope to patients.
I must admit that I feel a touch of pride, as the study was led by Professor John Neoptolemos at Liverpool University, which was where my late wife and I met when we were both students at the University.
But I also feel a touch of relief for others, who might get this awful cancer in the future, as now they may stand a better chance of survival, than did our youngest son; George, who survived just a few months after diagnosis.
I also raised a small sum of money for the research by visiting all 92 English and Welsh football clubs in alphabetical order by public transport. The main funding for the resarch included Cancer Research UK and I think some EU money!
The BBC story also says this.
The trial on 732 patients – in hospitals in the UK, Sweden, France and Germany – compared the standard chemotherapy drug gemcitabine against a combination of gemcitabine and capecitabine.
I’ve looked up the two drugs mentioned and both are on the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines, which are the most important drugs needed in a basic health system.
An article in The Guardian is also illuminating. This is said.
The ESPAC trials, which began publishing findings in 2004, showed that chemotherapy with gemcitabine brings five-year survival up to 15-17%, doubling the rate of survival with surgery alone. The latest research, presented at theAmerican Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in Chicago, showed the two-drug combination nearly doubles the survival rate again to 29%.
It showed, said Neoptolemos, that chemotherapy does work in pancreatic cancer, even though most attention in cancer research is now focused onimmunotherapy, and precision or targeted medicine.
But the trial would not have happened without funding from the charity CancerResearch UK (CRUK), because both drugs are old and off-patent, meaning they can be made by any generic drug manufacturer and are consequently cheap. Drug companies would not foot the bill for such a trial because the profits to be made are small.
“This is an academic-led presentation,” said Neoptolemos. “This shows the enormous value of CRUK. Without them, none of this would have happened. There is a lot of pressure [on doctors] to do drug company trials because you get £2,000 to £3,000 a patient. For something like this, you don’t get anything. It has been quite tough to do.”
So this is not some elite drug for the rich, famous and powerful, but one that might even be applied everywhere.
I must admit, that I’ve shed the odd tear this morning!
I’m now convinced that the cause of my bad springs and substantial absences from school as a child, and periods of bad health since, is due to a periodic vitamin D deficiency.
I suffer from several of the same symptoms as my father, who was most likely the parent from whom I inherited coeliac disease.
As a child, I didn’t go out in the son much, as I think I found it a bit painful and I burned. My father was the same in those days and was very much a man for his garage or shed. He only ventured out to smoke his pipe.
The problems dropped, when I went to Liverpool University and met my future wife. But then she would drag me out into the sun for a walk, with great regularity.
When I was diagnosed as a coeliac, I thought this would be the end of it all. And it did get a bit better, with the bonus that I could now sunbathe without burning. I also stopped being bitten by mossies.
Since the death of my wife, my stroke and moving to London, the bad springs and a lot of the other symptoms have returned.
But no-one could say the weather in London and it seems much of North and Central Europe has been very sunny over the last few years.
I even took a holiday in Croatia for some sun, but in My Home Run From Dubrobnik, I saw probably a day and a half of sun at most!
I’m now on vitamin D3 tablets and they appear to help.
But I think, what I need is a good scientific book on vitamin D, how it is absorbed by the body and what it actually does.
So much of what I get told seems to only have vague science behind it!
If I could find a top class University, where they were doing serious research into vitamin D, I’d go halfway round the world to talk to them.
I am not a Eurosceptic although like may, I am a bit sceptical about some of the things that the EU does with our money.
An article on the Rail Engineer entitled The Freight Train Of The Future caught my eye.
Susrail is an EU project which aims to create more environmentally freight trains. This is an overview from the article.
SUSTRAIL aims to increase rail freight performance through a whole system approach which involves a number of work packages. The current system was benchmarked (WP1) and duty requirements established (WP2).
Then two parallel but linked packages considered the freight train of the future (WP3) and sustainable track (WP4), after which a business case (WP5) was developed and the new vehicle and track systems were tested (WP6). Thirty-one organisations in twelve countries shared the work for which the project coordinator was Consorzio Train, an Italian consortium of rail research institutions. UK participants were Network Rail (technical coordinator), Tata Steel and the Universities of Newcastle, Leeds, Sheffield and Huddersfield.
Initial benchmarking involved Network Rail and the Universities of Leeds and Newcastle. This analysed three selected freight routes in Bulgaria, Spain and Britain (Southampton and Felixstowe to Warrington).
It is a fascinating article and well worth a read.
But at least the EU is doing something to make freight trains more efficient and less noisy.
It did raise a chuckle, as I read how they were looking at the dynamics of freight wagons. As I remember from the 1960s, the superb dynamics of the InterCity 125 benefited from research done by British Rail, to solve the problem of the large number of freight train derailments of the time.
A few days ago, someone asked me about the overhead wires of a railway and the pantographs, that pick up the 25,000 Volts AC current.
I can’t remember what their question was, but I said it is a difficult problem, as a train like a Virgin Class 390 Pendelino might be travelling at 125 mph in bad weather, so maintaining contact with a constant pressure between the pantograph and the overhead wire isn’t easy.
I was reading something else and found this article on the Rail Engineer web site. Research has been going on at the City University to develop a sensor that monitors the forces at the pantograph head. As you can imagine it is a particularly harsh environment and the engineers have bean using a technology called a Fibre Bragg Grating (FBG) developed in the 1990s, based on the work by the Nobel Prize-winning scientists William Lawrence Bragg and his father; William Henry Bragg.
I won’t paraphrase the article, but it is a must read. Where it will all lead to I don’t know, but I will repeat this last paragraph.
In the long term, the FBG sensor system offers the ability to detect contact forces from the entire service fleet if combined with GPS and suitable telemetry. This offers the potential of continuous real-time monitoring of the entire overhead line network. Then the Braggs’ work on X-ray diffraction of crystals a hundred years ago could well have made overhead line dewirements also a thing of the past.
Just imagine what it would mean to the operators of our increasingly electrified rail network, if delays caused by trains bringing down the overhead wires were to be reduced.
I’ve met people at Cambridge University for whom William Lawrence Bragg was their tutor and they have described him as a quiet man, who was superb in getting brilliant work out of the students, he tutored.
This tale illustrates why we must do more and more research and often that the solution to a difficult problem is unexpected, but brilliant.
Hampstead is a very posh part of London, but walk down Haverstock Hill and you see some of the worst buildings in London.
The church is having the cheek to object to the hospital building a new research centre.
A better solution would be to demolish both the Royal Free Hospital and St. Stephen’s church and use the enlarged site to build something that fitted better into the area. Like a prison or a factory making garden gnomes.
Seriously though, the hospital was built in 1974 and it can’t be many years until, it will need either severe refurbishment or replacing.
This would surely give a chance to improve the whole area.
The church is the sort of building, that gives the heritage industry a bad name. Wikipedia says this about its restoration.
A lease on it was awarded to the St Stephen’s Restoration and Preservation Trust in 1999 and, after this body raised over £4 million from English Heritage, the Heritage Lottery Fund, local businesses and individual donors, it has restored it to a usable condition in three phases.
I’m sure all of those who play the lottery loved that their money went towards restoring an eyesore like this. I don’t play the lottery as it is a tax on the poor. I do object though that English Heritage put money in, as that could be part of my taxes. If individuals want to waste their own money on a building that would serve best as good hardcore, that is their own affair.
I found this research on the Exeter University web site, after seeing a report in today’s Sunday Times.
This is the headline of an article in the Sunday Times reporting on a study from the City University.
I’m 1.71 tall and my waist is about 80 centimetres. Although I have no proof, I think I’m the same size, as when I left Liverpool University in 1968.
So I think I qualify.
But then so did C and our youngest son and both are not here now!
Two personal stories would appear to support the research.
One of my father’s heroes as he saw him box, was the incomparable Ted “Kid” Lewis. The Aldgate Sphinx was probably a similar size naturally to both my father and myself, although towards the end of his boxing career, he fought and won at light-heavyweight. But he lived until he was 75.
I also used to live in Newmarket and knew several retired jockeys well past sixty. Many were still trim and seemed to be pursuing a very active live. Someone should research the health and life of jockeys!
For these reasons, I intend to stay this size for the rest of my life. Especially, as it’s so much cheaper, as I don’t have to keep buying new clothes.
We went to see if we could find any signs of wolves, but first we went to see a presentation about wolf research.
It was fascinating to see how wolves are migrating south through Sweden and the research that is being done to make sure the population is healthy and able to live easily with the human population.
I asked the researcher, if he had any views on our badger problem. He would not have any common ground with Brian May on the cull.
On the other hand, the wolf research will hopefully lead to the understanding of how wild animals and people can live together in harmony.