Institute Chairman Shaughn O’Brien Bows Out

Wade Conference Centre
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Spring Wade Lecture Announced

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A Reflection of 2019 – 2021

Wade Conference Centre
John Muir Former Chairman

Outgoing Chairman’s Comments,

One of the primary objects of the North Staffordshire Medical Institute is to facilitate medical research locally.  At the time when I became Chairman of this Institute in 2019 the future had appeared sunny.

Thanks largely to a very generous donation by the Wade Charitable Trust, an extensive renovation to the building (outside and inside) was under way.  An excellent A.V. system had already been installed and the building had been renamed “The Wade Conference Centre”. (Anyone who has not visited the place since the refurbishment would be well advised to take a look!)

Meanwhile, our bye-laws, sub-committee structure and membership had been streamlined. The fund-raising strategy had been reformulated to start to grow our reserves, with a view to increasing the number and size of research grants which we are able to give. An  initial, fund-raising workshop had been held, and promised well.

Our investments need to contribute to funds and we had appointed new Investment managers (Smith and Williamson)

The Wade lecture in Autumn 2019 (Given by Prof. Turi King) dealt with the discovery of the remains of King Richard 111, and the subsequent investigations. It was well attended, first-class and highly praised.

In the Autumn of that year a custom-made film “Six Decades of Progress” was produced, illustrating the history and functions of the Institute, and was shown at the re-opening of our refurbished building.

The bad news is that, with the outbreak of Covid and the subsequent lockdown, social distancing regulations made for problems. Income from room bookings vanished, while the 2020 Wade Lecture had to be cancelled. Virtual meetings needed to be set-up and, initially these were not always entirely successful.

A further complication occurred when we lost our Broadband for a full three months as the result of damage during demolition work at the Royal Infirmary site. Yet another setback was later provided by the unexpected discovery of water ingress into the roof of the building. This further expense has now been dealt with.

But since then things have improved. Our treasurer was successful in attracting Government and Local authority grants to help with the loss of income.

The value of our investments has also bounced back, while the research committee benefitted by £79,000 from the return of previous, underspent grants.

This money, on top of our normal allocation, has allowed us (in addition to offering the usual number of individual research grants – of up to £20,000) to establish a North Staffordshire Fellowship. The new venture makes available a maximum grant of £60,000, to run for a one-year period, covering salary and project costs. It is intended to help candidates who wish to transfer from post-graduate to academic careers in their early years.

The Wade Lecture (originally planned for Autumn 2020) has been rescheduled for 24th March. The speaker is Graham MacGregor CBE (Cardio-Vascular professor at the Wolfson Institute of Preventative Medicine) and the title is “The Silent Killers, Salt and Sugar”

There have also been changes to the Staff of the Conference centre. Jacqui Robinson, who has run the office for more years than she would probably like to remember, has retired. Without her dedication there must be doubts whether the place could have survived.

We have now appointed a Chief Operating Officer, Mrs Jeanette Forrester, who is supported by Mrs Jane Hopkinson. Mr Tony Hill, our faithful factotum, continues to look after the building.

It is often claimed that “May you live in interesting times” is an English translation of a traditional Chinese curse, which may initially, be assumed to be a blessing. The Institute has certainly come through an interesting three years, but I believe that – thanks to the work of its officers and committees – it is well placed to face the future.

I wish my successor, Murray Brunt, a successful term of office, and in a less turbulent period.

John Muir

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Spring Wade Lecture Announced

Wade Conference Centre

We are hoping that 2022 will bring with it some form of normality and to celebrate it we are pleased to announce that we will be holding not just One but two Wade Lectures this year.

Our 51st Wade Lecture is set to be a fascinating one being given by Professor Graham Alexander MacGregor CBE


Graham MacGregor is a professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine Queen Mary University of London. Chairman of: “Consensus Action on Salt and Health” (CASH), “World Action on Salt and Health” (WASH)
& “Action on Sugar” & “Blood Pressure U.K.”

Professor MacGregor has campaigned over many years, and with worthwhile effect, to reduce the amounts of sugar and salt in processed foods.

Action on Salt
“Reducing dietary sodium would save thousands of lives every year”.
Graham MacGregor

Action on Sugar
“The socially deprived and children are being targeted heavily by very clever people and it’s a disgrace. Fast-food outlets are in socially deprived areas and every-one is selling fat, sugar and death.” Graham MacGregor
Put the date in your diary. It should be an interesting and informative evening!

The event will be held on 24th March at 6.15pm. Tickets can be reserved by clicking the link picture below:

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Institute Chairman Shaughn O’Brien Bows Out

Wade Conference Centre

After three long years as chairman, Professor Shaughn O’Brien is leaving the North Staffordshire Medical Institute. The obstetrician and gynaecologist takes a moment to reflect on his time at the helm.

“It’s a lovely building for meeting and conferences,” he says. “It’s a good focus for research, a good focus for postgraduate education, it’s a good focus for the community and it’s a good focus for people people putting on meetings an conferences of a high standard.”

During two separate tenures as chairman, Prof. O’Brien has seen the Institute through some challenging times. His first, from 2002 to 2005, included the biggest shake-up in the charity’s history when the hospital trust’s Clinical Education Centre, part of Keele University’s Medical School, was built at the University Hospital of the North Midlands.

The Institute, which had been the area’s main teaching centre for postgraduate medicine, was suddenly left with less purpose and little funding.

“The medical library was moved and all the funding went with it,” says Prof. O’Brien. “In the process of that we had to really set up the Institute as a conference centre. One of the key things we achieved was to make sure we took ownership of the land rather than leasing it from the NHS – and more importantly for conferences, the whole of the parking facilities.

“We also made a lot of changes to the structure of our grants, making them pump-priming for new researchers.”

Appointed vice chairman of the Royal College of Gynaecologists (RCOG) in 2004, Prof. O’Brien stepped back from the Institute to concentrate on the role and his own research. He found himself taking the reins again in 2015, admitting: “It seemed like a good idea at the time.”

The chairman went on to face another period of change with his trademark creativity and vision. His legacy at the Institute includes their support for the annual Firelighter Awards, organised by Keele University’s Dr Adam Farmer, which give NHS staff the chance to pitch for medical research grants in a Dragon’s Den-style competition.

He also arranged Institute funding for the ASPIRE programme at Keele University, designed to help medical students engage with academic research. The scheme is led by Professor Divya Chari and Dr Samantha Hider.

Prof. O’Brien is now behind plans to rebrand the Institute as part of a major refurbishment project. The facility will even be given a new name – as yet being kept under wraps.

He says: “We’ve had a significant donation to allow us to redevelop the Institute as North Staffordshire’s  high-profile, named conference centre. It should highlight our ability to hold conferences which are not only medical, while retaining the loyalty we’ve built up with our existing customers.”

While he hopes to remain involved with the building work, the father-of-two already knows how he will fill his semi-retirement. It will begin with his valedictory meeting at the RCOG in September.

As well as his continuing research and private practice, he plans to devote the extra hours to his artistic side.

He says: “I’ve already begun to go to sculpture school in London, I’ve got some pieces in the Medical Art Society’s Annual Exhibition at the Royal Society of Medicine in July. I also want to get back to playing the clarinet and saxophone some more.”

Prof. O’Brien has been replaced as chairman by Mr John Muir, the UK’s longest-serving NHS consultant.

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North Staffs Researchers Boost Glaucoma Treatment Safety

Wade Conference Centre

North Staffs scientists have used a £10,000 charity grant to help make eye surgery safer for thousands of glaucoma patients.

The research team, based at Keele University’s Institute for Science and Technology in Medicine, were awarded the funding by charity the North Staffordshire Medical Institute.

They have used it to try and improve outcomes of the trabeculectomy surgical procedure, commonly used to treat the eye disease glaucoma.

The condition – which is Britain’s second biggest cause of sight loss – occurs when the optic nerve and retina are damaged, caused by a build-up of fluid that increases pressure inside the eye.

Trabulectomy

A trabeculectomy involves making a small hole in the wall of the eye so that fluid can drain away, relieving the excess pressure.

However up to 30 per cent of the operations fail due to the body’s natural healing processes, which cause the hole to heal up and close again.

The researchers, led by tissue engineer Professor Ying Yang, have been looking for better ways to stop the eye from forming scar tissue and closing the new drainage channels.

She said: “The surgical procedure is the creation of an opening to allow the draining of fluid, but the body is automatically programmed to react if there’s a wound to try and close it.

“If it closes, this kind of surgery will fail. But your body doesn’t realise there is a benefit to this wound.”

Eye Cells

To address the problem, Prof. Yang’s research team have used conjunctival cells to create a mimic of human eye tissue under lab conditions.

They have tested the tissue with various drug doses to find the most reliable way of preventing inflammation and wound healing, without damaging the surrounding cells.

She added: “It’s difficult to work with a human eye and if you use an animal eye they’re not very representative. So we’re able to generate material in the lab that you can use to test whatever you wish – generate artificial wounds, add different growth factors and cytokines or test drug treatments.

“This will help us to predict what will happen in the patient’s eye after glaucoma surgery.”

The team has also been testing a new medical device to treat glaucoma called the XEN gel stent, which involves injecting a tiny gelatin tube into the eye to keep the drainage channel open.

They hope to use the results of their research to attract funding for a larger study.

Prof. Yang said: “The value of the Institute’s grant is that it’s kind of like a seed. We’re not just relying on this funding – through this we’re able to generate the proof of concept to attract more clinicians to participate in our research.”

Research Funding

The original grant was allocated in 2014 as part of the NSMI’s annual awards, which are funded by a combination of public donations, bequests and the income from room hire at the charity’s base on Hartshill Road, Stoke.

Once Britain’s first postgraduate centre, the iconic building is now used as a conference facility.

While the annual funding for 2018 has now all been allocated, researchers will soon be able to apply for the Institute and UHNM’s Firelighter Awards of up to £10,000.

For more information, visit www.nsmedicalinstitute.co.uk, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

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NSMI Staff Celebrate Defibrillator Fundraising Success

Wade Conference Centre

North Staffordshire Medical Institute is set to save lives after raising an incredible £1,999 to buy and install its own public defibrillator.

The emergency equipment has been mounted on the outside wall of the charity’s headquarters on Hartshill Road, Stoke, ready to be used if a member of the public has a cardiac arrest.

Sudden cardiac arrest is one of Britain’s biggest killers, causing the deaths of around 100,000 people every year.

But a victim’s chance of survival soars from just six per cent to 75 per cent if they are treated with a defibrillator within five minutes.

Shaughn O’Brien, chairman of the Institute, said: “I think this is the only defibrillator in the area and it has the potential to be of so much benefit.

“The community has raised the money for this equipment and we are very grateful to them for the success of this appeal.”

The Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) works by delivering a series of electric shocks through a casualty’s chest to help their heart rhythm return to normal.

It first automatically analyses their heart rate to make sure it can only be used when it is needed.

The state-of-the-art machine is one of 1,100 around the country supplied by Stone-based charity AED Donate.

A similar device mounted outside the Signal Radio offices on Stoke Road has been used on average once a month since it was installed.

Josh Cope, Community Fundraiser for AED Donate, said: “The idea that we want to push is that the community itself can be the fourth emergency service.

“We recently spoke to staff members at an air ambulance and they said that to get their helicopter just to take off takes three minutes. In that time you could have someone doing CPR and giving the first shock of a defib.”

Eventually, thegroup aims to make sure no-one in the UK is ever more than two minutes’ brisk walk away from a defibrillator.

Josh added: “We always aim to put a defib in high footfall areas. Believe it or not we’ve actually had a few installed at funeral parlours.

“We’ve got more than a thousand from Wales down to London and they’re all over the place, from high streets to the middle of nowhere.”

The AED has been mounted in vandal-proof, heat-regulated cabinet that opens with a security code available from the West Midlands Ambulance Service.

It is designed to be easy to use by members of the public, even without training, under guidance from 999 operators.

The device was installed after a year-long campaign to raise the funds, led by Institute manager Jacqui Robinson.

It was supported by councillor Sean Pender, Hartshill and Harpfields’ Occasions, the local Residents’ Association and the Rotary Club, as well as residents of the area.

The NSMI itself contributed the final £337.41 to the fundraising total.

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North Staffs Scientists Seek Cure for ‘Silent Killer’ Heart Defect Affecting 620,000 Brits

Wade Conference Centre

North Staffordshire researchers have been awarded £20,000 to help cure a heart defect that causes thousands of sudden deaths each year.

The experts hope to understand and control arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC) – a condition that affects around 620,000 people in the UK and causes up to five per cent of young adult deaths.

Sufferers often fail to notice any symptoms, which can mean they do not know they have the genetic disease until it is too late.

While ARVC cannot be prevented, group leader Dr Vinoj George believes it could be controlled in the early stages through genetic engineering to stop it becoming lethal.

His pioneering study will receive the funds from local charity the North Staffordshire Medical Institute.

Dr George said: “This disease manifests with different severity. In some patients even a little bit of stress can trigger it, often resulting in sudden cardiac death.

“There are other people who live perfectly well with it and it can be controlled by drugs or devices that can be put in to maintain heart rate.”

He explained that ARVC is caused by a genetic mutation affecting the cell protein that ‘glues’ the heart muscles together. This leads to the death of cardiac cells, stopping the heart from pumping properly and causing an irregular heartbeat.

The same problem gene can manifest with different severities.

Genetic Engineering

Dr George’s team, based at Keele University’s Institute for Science and Technology in Medicine (ISTM), will create the ARVC mutation in human stem cells in the laboratory, before converting them into cardiac muscle cells.

They will then use optogenetic technology – which uses light to change the behaviour of mutated cells – to look for the genetic triggers that make the disease more severe.

He said: “We’re taking stem cells, we’re creating the protein mutation in the cell and then we’re making the cell behave like it would in the heart. Then what we’re doing is trying to use genetics to control how the disease can be reproduced and modified at the cellular level.

“Once we identify the genes that are responsible, then it will help us to find drugs or strategies to control that mechanism.”

Patients are usually diagnosed with ARVC on the basis of their symptoms, but the underlying genetic cause can only be confirmed by a test in a specialist clinic. This is often reserved for severe cases and the relatives of known sufferers, who have a 50 per cent chance of passing the disease on to their children.

Dr George’s study will use genetic data provided by St George’s Hospital in London, which treats a range of ARVC patients with various mutations and severities.

He added: “We hope to translate our work to benefit clinicians at the Royal Stoke Hospital in devising treatment strategies to control ARVC severities, potentially at a younger age.”

NSMI Funding

The grant was allocated as part of the NSMI’s annual awards, which are funded by a combination of public donations, bequests and the income from conferences and room hire facilities at the charity’s base on Hartshill Road, Stoke.

Once Britain’s first postgraduate centre, the iconic building is now used as a conference facility.

While the annual funding has now all been allocated, researchers will soon be able to apply for the Institute and UHNM’s Firelighter Awards of up to £10,000.

For more information, visit www.nsmedicalinstitute.co.uk, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter. Anyone interested in making a bequest is asked to email manager Jacqui Robinson at jacqui@nsmedicalinstitute.co.uk.

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NSMI-funded scientists seek genetic treatments to fight frailty in older people

Wade Conference Centre

North Staffs researchers have won a £19,985 grant to investigate whether gene therapy can stop older people becoming frail.

The group, led by Dr Adam Sharples, hopes to pave the way for new treatments that will reduce falls and weakness in the elderly by switching off the genes that cause muscle wasting.

They will study tissue samples donated by hip and knee replacement patients to find which genes cause unused muscles to break down – with the help of the funding from local charity the North Staffordshire Medical Institute.

Dr Sharples said they expect to find these genes are ‘marked’ by special chemical ‘tags’ that tell them to be active or inactive, known as epigenetic modifications.

The discovery could eventually allow doctors to give patients medication that will replace the effects of exercise.

He said: “It’s very difficult to persuade an older person who’s never exercised in their life to take up a fitness regime. If we identify genes that we already know there are drugs for we can give them to people who don’t want to or can’t exercise due to frailty.”

Discovery

The team, based at Keele University’s Institute of Science and Technology in Medicine, has previously found muscles can remember periods of growth, so they can grow larger later in life.

They will investigate whether the opposite applies after wasting – meaning muscles may break down more quickly if an injury is repeated.

If so, the muscle memory could potentially be ‘switched off’ in older people hurt in a fall, slowing down the wasting process that makes them more likely to fall again.

He added: “Can we intervene if a patient has had a fall and lost muscle to prevent that from happening again and make people less frail? The cost of frailty to the NHS is on the increase, especially with an aging population.

“The thing it impacts on is quality of life, so people can’t do simple tasks like walking upstairs or opening a can of beans. So our aim is not necessarily to extend life but to improve quality of life as people get older.”

Using the latest genome wide techniques, the team will study more than 850,000 sites on the DNA of patients with muscle wasting after an operation. They will then compare them to a control group of normal muscle samples.

Dr Sharples said: “What we’re going to do is take a chunk of muscle about the size of a broad bean, usually from the quadricep, and look at the difference between someone who’s had a trauma or an injury and had to have an operation and someone who hasn’t.

“Normally those people have some kind of muscle wasting in a very short period, even in two or three weeks where the limb is suspended.”

Grant

The grant was allocated as part of the NSMI’s annual awards, which are funded by a combination of public donations, bequests and the income from room hire at the charity’s base on Hartshill Road, Stoke.

Once Britain’s first postgraduate centre, the iconic building is now used as a conference facility.

While the annual funding has now all been allocated, researchers will soon be able to apply for the Institute and UHNM’s Firelighter Awards of up to £10,000.

For more information, visit www.nsmedicalinstitute.co.uk, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

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NSMI Charity’s £58,000 cash boost for local medical research

Wade Conference Centre

Charity the North Staffordshire Medical Institute has announced a £58,000 cash injection for three “outstanding” local research projects.

The money will support new studies based at Keele University and the University Hospital of the North Midlands (UHNM), designed to improve treatments for cancer, heart disease and muscle wasting in the elderly.

A panel of experts led by Institute chairman Professor Shaughn O’Brien allocated the funds after reviewing applications for their annual grants.

Prof. O’Brien said: “We were very impressed by the research proposals we received on a wide range of topics, all of which could have been funded.

“The reasons for our choices were the outstanding quality of the applications, the importance of the disease areas and the strong track records of the departments involved in delivering research.”

The professor, a leading obstetrician and gynaecologist, oversaw the award process alongside colleagues from a range of medical disciplines.

They included gastroenterologist Dr Adam Farmer, clinical biochemist Professor Richard Strange and Professor of Biomedical Imaging Melissa Mather.

He added: “We are confident these projects will be of great value to the community of Staffordshire and to medicine as a whole.”

Award recipients

The panel awarded £18,450 towards a study into treatment-resistant cancers, led by Dr Alan Richardson at Keele’s Institute of Science and Technology in Medicine (ISTM). His team aim to restore the sensitivity of cancer cells to chemotherapy drug paclitaxel.

A second group based at the ISTM, led by Dr Vinoj George, were awarded £20,000 to investigate heart condition Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy (ARVC). They hope to identify those at most risk from the disease, which can cause sudden death.

Cell and tissue engineer Dr Adam Sharples and his colleagues, also from the ISTM, were given £19,985 to research muscle wasting in the elderly.

The awards were funded by a combination of public donations, bequests and the income from room hire at the Institute’s base on Hartshill Road, Stoke. Once Britain’s first postgraduate centre, the iconic building is now used as a conference facility.

While the annual grants have now all been allocated, researchers will soon be able to apply for the Institute and UHNM’s Firelighter Awards of up to £10,000.

For more information, visit www.nsmedicalinstitute.co.uk, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

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