Babraham researchers take science to the Southbank's Festival of Science & Arts
Scientists from the Babraham Institute are presenting their research at the Royal Society’s annual Summer Science Exhibition, which opens today (25th June 2010) in London at the Royal Festival Hall. Babraham’s exhibit - “Calcium signalling; getting to the heart of the matter” - explains how the heart works, what happens when biochemical signalling goes wrong leading to serious medical conditions like irregular heart beats and ultimately heart failure. Calcium ions play a critical role in regulating the activity of heart cells; this key chemical signal drives muscle contraction and is needed for every heart beat. The research bridges the gap between clinical diagnoses of heart problems and understanding what has gone wrong at the level of individual cells.
Dr Martin Bootman, a Group Leader at Babraham and formerly a Royal Society University Research Fellow explained, “We believe that understanding how heart cells handle calcium may lead us to novel targets for new medicines. Over the past years we have developed an expertise in observing the fine detail of calcium signalling in heart cells. We can tell where, when and why calcium signals occur and in particular we can see when they occur in the wrong place at the wrong time and the unwanted effect this has on cells.”
“Understanding how calcium regulates the heart may provide clues for the development of novel preventative drugs for cardiovascular disease, the cause of around 100,000 deaths annually in the UK,” said Professor Sir Michael Berridge FRS, Emeritus Fellow at The Babraham Institute.
The Babraham Institute is internationally renowned for its cell signalling research. Calcium ions are important chemical messengers for many other cell processes including fertilisation and neural activity. Problems with calcium levels in the body underlie numerous health problems including high blood pressure, heart failure, cancer and bipolar disorders. Babraham scientists are studying how calcium levels affect cardiovascular cells and how it can negatively impact on heart rhythm and the genes controlling heart size, leading to pathological conditions like hypertrophy - thickening of the chambers of the heart.
The Babraham team will be on hand at the exhibition, which runs until 4 July, to talk to visitors about their research and the innovative techniques currently used to see where molecules are found in cells. Dr Claire Cockcroft, Babraham’s Head of External Relations who organised the exhibit said, “The Royal Society’s Summer Science Exhibition gives us a unique opportunity to meet a much wider audience to talk about science and explain the relevance of our work in discovering how and why diseases arise. For younger visitors we have an exciting ‘hands-on’ display, interactive ‘touch-screens’ as well as the chance to find out about a day in the life of real scientists, which we hope may inspire a new generation of scientists.”
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Notes to Editors:
The Babraham Institute is an institute of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) located near Cambridge, undertaking international quality research to support the biomedical aspects of the BBSRC’s mission. The Institute’s research is focused on understanding the biological events that underlie the normal functions of cells and the implication of failure or abnormalities in these processes. The latest technologies are being used to study the basis of conditions such as neurodegenerative disorders, birth defects, cancer and diseases of the immune and cardiovascular systems. With a strategic focus on ‘healthy ageing’, novel approaches for tackling chronic diseases and public health concerns like obesity and inflammatory disorders are being discovered. (www.babraham.ac.uk)
The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is the UK funding agency for research in the life sciences. Sponsored by Government, BBSRC annually invests around £450 million in a wide range of research that makes a significant contribution to the quality of life for UK citizens and supports a number of important industrial stakeholders including the agriculture, food, chemical and pharmaceutical sectors. BBSRC carries out its mission by funding internationally competitive research, providing training in the biosciences, fostering opportunities for knowledge transfer and innovation and promoting interaction with the public and other stakeholders on issues of scientific interest in universities, centres and institutes. The Babraham Institute, Institute for Animal Health, Institute of Food Research, John Innes Centre and Rothamsted Research are Institutes of BBSRC. The Institutes conduct long-term, mission-oriented research using specialist facilities. They have strong interactions with industry, Government departments and other end-users of their research. BBSRC contributes around £3M a year to the national LINK scheme, which promotes academic/industrial collaboration in pre-competitive research. Projects are typically funded 50:50 by industry and government support. BBSRC supports projects in LINK programmes and 'stand alone' projects that do not fit into existing programmes but otherwise meet LINK criteria.
About the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition
The Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition showcases cutting edge research in science and engineering from across the UK. It is held annually at the Royal Society, the UK’s national academy of science. This year the exhibition is being held at Southbank as part of The Festival of Science + Arts to mark the Royal Society’s 350th Anniversary.The event is FREE and open to the public. This year, 27 interactive exhibits will be on show presenting the best of UK science, engineering and technology. During the five days of the event, more than 10,000 people are expected to take up the opportunity to explore the exhibition. The Royal Society is an independent academy promoting the natural and applied sciences. Founded in 1660, the Society has three roles, as the UK academy of science, as a learned Society, and as a funding agency.