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Briefings Archive

the state of UK fish stocks

To coincide with the publication of the annual UK & EU fish quotas, and the long awaited UK Marine Bill, this background briefing was run to allow some of the UK’s top marine experts to dispel some of the common myths surrounding fish stocks and quotas, and address some of the real issues, including the real state of fish stocks and how quotas are created and utilised. read more

publication of WHO/UNICEF Global Report on Child Accidental Injuries

This briefing was run in collaboration with the World Health Organisation to launch a report which represents the first global assessment of accidental injuries affecting children; a significant number of children are killed each year by such injuries, and non-fatal injuries can have far-reaching consequences, often leaving children with lifelong disabilities. The report presents a comprehensive analysis of the situation worldwide, ranks the leading causes of deaths, evaluates which prevention measures work and which don’t and outlines recommendations that will save lives and prevent unnecessary suffering. Experts involved in the report presented their findings in these areas, and discussed how the UK compares to other countries and how it is performing on preventing these accidents. read more

energy from waste – a wasted opportunity?

A new report from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers claims that the potential of waste as a resource for energy production is being ignored by government, and that it should instead be a key component in energy production. Rather than just being incinerators, Energy from Waste (EfW) plants treat refuse by a number of processes to recover energy in the form of heating, electricity and transport fuels. Experts camte to the SMC to talk about how EfW works, the need to change the public and government mindset about waste, and how it can be used as a resource to help the UK meet its renewable energy commitments. read more

Foresight report: Sustainable Energy Management and the Built Environment (SEMBE)

This major report from the Government’s Foresight think tank comprehensively examines energy systems in the UK’s buildings and building practices over the next 50 years. The report makes recommendations for changes to existing buildings and behaviour, including whether buildings should undergo annual energy efficiency tests and what incentives could be offered to homeowners and businesses to lower their carbon emissions and energy use. read more

what is holding back early stage clinical trials for stem cell therapies?

Stem cell research has made huge advances along the road to delivering real regenerative medicine therapies in the clinic. A few approaches using adult stem cells are in trials, including for some forms of blindness, but why have we seen so few therapies make the jump from the lab to early stage clinical trials? Why is public investment in UK stem cell research and the UK’s position as one of the world leaders in the field not being translated into NHS treatments? Ahead of a meeting organised by the UK National Stem Cell Network, scientists briefed the media at the SMC on the hurdles that are slowing and stopping progress towards more clinical trials, particularly using human embryonic stem cells. read more

engineering better health

Personalised medicine is on its way, driven both by science and social attitudes about consumer choice. But how will this actually be delivered? What does it mean for medical technology and healthcare? To coincide with a conference run by the Royal Academy of Engineering on ‘Engineering Better Health’, the Science Media Centre brought together some of the leading experts in this area to talk about their work and the exciting advances it promises. read more

successful first tissue-engineered airway transplant

The SMC hosted The Lancet for this briefing, to announce the successful results of the transplantation of the first tissue-engineered airway, which has massively improved the quality of life of the female recipient. The airway was created using the patient’s own stem cells, to ensure that there was no probability of immune rejection. read more

combating insufficient anti-malarial stocks with new technologies and a new drug

Malaria is still a major global health problem, killing up to one million people every year, most of them young children. The World Health Organization recommends artemisinin combination therapies (ACTs), as the most effective treatments available today. Artemisinin is extracted from a plant and production is expensive, lead times are long and supplies are unreliable. Furthermore, demand is expected to significantly outstrip supply over the next few years. A report being launched today at the All Party Parliamentary Group for Malaria discusses using molecular plant breeding, GM microbes and a new synthetic drug in order to prevent this global problem. Leading scientists in the field came to the SMC to discuss these issues and the feasibility of new treatments. read more

publication of taskforce on presumed consent

The UK Organ Donation Taskforce has been asked by government to look at whether a move to an ‘opt out’ system would save lives by making more organs available for transplant. The Taskforce’s work involved taking evidence form a wide range of stakeholders, 6 sub committees working on different aspects, a systematic review of all published literature, a comprehensive series of deliberative public events and one to one interviews with 17 different faiths. This report is the most comprehensive investigation into presumed consent ever carried out and the findings were launched at the Science Media Centre. read more

launch of new report on nanotechnology

The influential Royal Commission on Nanotechnology has just published a report entitled Novel Materials in the Environment: The case of nanotechnology. The report was prompted by concerns about potential releases to the environment from the industrial application of novel materials, with a particular emphasis on nanomaterials. This briefing was held to launch the report and to set out some of the issues and concerns that it raises. read more

expert encounter: who’s afraid of xenotransplantation?

Recently, Lord Robert Winston announced that he was being forced to move his xenotransplantation work (involving transplanting cells and tissues from animals to humans to overcome the shortage of human transplant material) to California because of the strict regulation of animal research in the UK. This created further controversy when the former head of the HFEA raised concerns about the safety of this field of research. In this briefing, Lord Winston and his main collaborator discussed their work on breeding transgenic pigs to produce cells and tissues for potential transplantation. read more

expert encounter: myths and realities about biofuels

Biofuels has become one of the most hotly debated issues of our time, with opponents arguing that the rise in the production of biofuels has diverted land away from growing crops for food, leading to recent rises in food prices. Bruce Dale, one of the world’s leading biofuels experts, argues that this is a red herring, and that other issues are more important, including low crop yields in the third world and the agricultural policies pursued by developed world countries. read more

closing cold cases with advanced DNA technology

Low-copy number DNA is a relatively new technique used to take genetic fingerprints from crime scenes. The technology has been used to provide evidence in more than 1,000 criminal cases where the investigation had run cold, even those that were 30 years old. This evidence has been used to convict more than 100 people, despite sometimes prompting controversy. In this briefing, experts discuss questions including the accuracy of these techniques and what limitations they stil have. read more

Motor Neurone Disease – hope for the future? Launch of new clinical trials

Motor Neurone Disease (MND) is a rapidly progressive, fatal disease that can affect any adult at any time. There are around 5000 people living with MND in the UK at any one time; and half of those affected will die within 14 months of diagnosis. The cause of over 95% of cases is still unknown, and there is currently no cure or effective treatment. In a significant first step, the MND Association have launched clinical trials with lithium, which could provide a promising new treatment avenue. read more

variant CJD and blood transfusions

The Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood Tissues and Organs (SaBTO) is an independent advisory body set up last year by the Government to provide advice on the most appropriate way to ensure the safety of blood, tissues, cells and organs for transfusion or transplantation. One of their concerns is reducing the risk of transmitting vCJD through blood transfusions (which is in itself rare). At this background briefing, members of SaBTO gave their views on the level of risk and what measures SaBTO are taking o reduce it. read more

drought-resistant GM

Opponents of GM crops frequently claim that they offer no benefit except to the profit of multinational companies. However, new field trials suggest that drought-resistant crops are one example of GM technology which could have real and tangible benefits in areas such as food crises in Africa. Dr David Dennis, of Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, and Performance Plants, Inc., who is leading the research, came to the SMC to talk about his work and the novel techniques being used. read more

report on a new way of measuring animal suffering

Several years ago, in response to recommendations from a House of Lords Select Committee, the Home Office commissioned a group of scientists from academia and industry to pilot new ways of measuring the level of suffering felt by animals in the course of research. The aim was to explore whether there are ways of gathering this information which would provide more accurate information to the public about the real level of suffering. This week the key scientists involved in the pilot published their final report which makes recommendations that the Home Office should radically change the way that scientists report and publish their data on laboratory animal suffering. read more

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