Department of Life Sciences

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Research by staff in our Department of Life Sciences has prompted a Government review of long-term psychiatric prescribing.

Research by Dr James Davies and Dr Todd Rae into the prevalence and costs of unnecessary long-term psychiatric prescribing in the UK was presented by Dr Davies at the Houses of Parliament in 2017.

As a result of this and other activities of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Prescribed Drug Dependence, a group which Dr. Davies helped set up, the Government agreed to undertake the first national review into the nature, scale and policy solutions for prescribed drug dependence.

Professor Jolanta Opacka-Juffry, Professor of Neuroscience in the Department of Life Sciences, has been at the forefront of research into 'legal highs'.

Her research into the drug Benzofury, in particular, attracted widespread media commentary and contributed to changes in UK drugs policy, including the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016.

Dr Lewis Halsey, Dr Louise Soanes and Dr Jonathan Skinner from the Department of Life Sciences are undertaking an EU-funded project to protect sea turtles at risk of extinction.

The project works with Anguilla National Trust (ANT) and Anguilla's Department of Fisheries and Marine Resource. They are monitoring nesting populations, identifying the impact of illegal hunting, and working with local organisations and policymakers to protect the species. The work of the project has been featured in a number of media outlets, including the BBC.

Professor Garry Marvin is working on a £2 million research project to help East African communities better understand and benefit from marine cultural heritage.

Working together with local people, researchers on the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)-funded project will document and raise awareness of East African marine cultural heritage, assess any risks to these sites, and explore ways in which local communities can engage with heritage for educational, social, and economic development.

Dr Robert Busch, Senior Lecturer in Molecular Immunology in the Department of Life Sciences, is working on a two-year project co-funded by the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society, identifying how vitamin D protects against the disease.

If taken in sufficient amounts, vitamin D protects against MS, but its specific role is unclear. Dr Busch’s group will be examining how the influences the production, and fate, of tissue antigens that have been implicated in genetic risk of MS.

Research into the development of an innovative probiotic health product

Dr Adele Costabile has secured funding for £50,000 for a research project with Optibiotix for the development of an innovative health product development called Lactobacillus plantarum ECGC, a next-generation probiotic that aids elements of cardiovascular and physiological wellbeing.

Mongooses who are cared for at an early age have lifelong fitness benefits.  

Dr Harry Marshall, Lecturer in Zoology from the Centre for Research in Ecology, Evolution and Behaviour, and colleagues have completed a study finding that young banded mongooses who receive care in their first three months will benefit their lifelong fitness in adulthood. To read the article click here 

Dr Lia Betti and Dr Todd Rae have received funding to study the shape of the birth canal in different species of primates, to evaluate what factors can explain the tight fit between the foetus and the birth canal observed in humans and some other primates.  

The project tries to look at the evolution of the human birth canal, which can cause childbirth complications, from a long-term evolutionary perspectiveThe research has had funding from the Sasakawa Foundation and the Primate Research Institute of the University of Kyoto.