Author Archives: Judith Sleeman

BCSB Science Writing Prize Winner 2018: Alex Binks

We are delighted to announce that the winner of the 2018 BSCB Science Writing Prize is Alex Binks, a PhD student at the University of Glasgow.

You can Alex’s winning essay about the use of AAV in the fight against childhood blindness, and a little more about him here.

The Science Writing Prize is open to all PhD student and Postdoc members of the BSCB and aims to encourage budding science communicators. If you would like to enter next year, details of the competition are here. The deadline is usually in February and will be announced towards the end of this year.

BSCB Image Competition Winners 2018 Announced

The results of the 2018 image competition were announced at our fantastic “Dynamic Cell III” meeting, held last week in Manchester in partnership with the Biochemical Society.

You can see the winning images and read about the winners here.

Many thanks to everyone who entered and please consider sending in your best images for next year’s competition.

BSCB Image Competition and Writing Prize: Deadline 14th February.

The deadline for our two annual competitions will be 14th February 2018. We have an image competition, open to all members, and a Science Writing Prize open to PhD student and post-doc members only. Both have cash prizes, together with the opportunity to have your images or writing feature here on the BSCB website and in our glossy Newsletter. On the subject of which, the brand new Newsletters will be on their way to members very soon, filled with articles, interviews and book and meeting reviews. Keep an eye out for them!

All the rules and how to enter can be found here for the Image Competition and here for the Writing Prize.

Please send us your entries!

Winner of the BSCB Hooke Medal, 2018 announced

We are delighted to announce that the winner of this year’s Hooke Medal is Andrew McAinsh, from the University of Warwick. He will be presented with his medal and give a medal lecture at the annual BSCB meeting, Dynamic Cell III, in Manchester, 19-21st March 2018.

Andrew McAinsh’s lab is focused on understanding how chromosomes are correctly separated into the two new daughter cells following cell division. Chromosomes contain the genetic information and mistakes in this process are associated with the progression of cancer, developmental Syndromes (i.e. Down’s) and miscarriage.

In particular, they have explored the workings of a nano-scale molecular machine called the kinetochore. Kinetochores assemble on each chromosome and grip molecular cables (called microtubules) within the cell. Professor McAinsh’s lab are working to understand how kinetochores instruct these cables to grow and shrink, maintain their grip, and thereby power chromosome movement

Do you want to be more involved with the BSCB?

There are a couple of excellent opportunities for you to influence the society.

For more details or to make a nomination, please contact the BSCB secretary, Dr Vas Ponnambalam.

  • We are looking for content for our next glossy Newsletter.

The newsletter contains a range of articles, news, opinion pieces and reviews. If you would like to contribute an article, please get in touch with our newsletter editor, Dr Ann Wheeler.


Dynamic Cell III: the main BSCB meeting for 2018. Registration now open!

For the 2018 Spring meeting, the BSCB is teaming up with the Biochemical Society to bring you “Dynamic Cell III”. This is the long-awaited sequel to “Dynamic Cell”, held in Edinburgh in the Spring of 2009 and “Dynamic Cell II”, held as an Autumn meeting in Cambridge in 2014.

Dynamic Cell III will take place at the Manchester Conference Centre from 19th to 21st March 2018.

Registration is now open here.

The early bird rate (and why would you want to pay more?) is available until 19th January 2018, with further discounts available for BSCB members. Don’t forget that the BSCB also offer travel grants for students to attend our main meeting.

So, what are you waiting for?

BSCB Science Writing Prize 2016

Heart Disease: Fishing for a cure

Girisaran Gangnatharan, Institut de Génomique Fonctionnelle, Montpellier, France.

It is not just a little fish

“Why?” You ask me.

Because the tiny zebrafish may be the answer to the problem of heart disease in our society. Or, to be specific, this fish might be able to teach us how to repair your heart if you have a heart attack.

Before I explain how that is possible, we need to understand what happens during a heart attack.

Let’s take as our example Mr. Sam.

Mr. Sam is in his late 40s. He works in a bank and exercises twice a week to keep himself healthy. One fine day, Mr. Sam is working in his office and feels a small pain in his chest. He clutches his chest and falls to the floor.

Mr. Sam is having a massive heart attack.

As he lies on the floor, let’s jump into our hypothetical nano-submarine and zoom into his heart.

You witness first-hand the destruction as it unfolds: thousands upon thousands of his heart-muscle cells are dying almost instantly. These heart-muscle cells are required for the pumping action of his heart. Unfortunately, these heart-muscle cells cannot be replaced, and his heart is unable to pump blood efficiently to the rest of his body. Eventually, his heart will fail, and unless Mr. Sam has a heart transplant, he will die prematurely.

Would it surprise you if I told you that you could be the next Mr. Sam?

In fact, heart disease is so rampant, one out of every three people reading this article will most likely die of a heart attack.

Unless a creative solution to the problem of heart disease is found.

So what is the nature of the problem?

The problem is that Mr. Sam, you, and I cannot replace our heart-muscle cells if they are damaged. One promising solution, then, would be to find a way to stimulate our hearts to replace damaged cells.

This is where the zebrafish comes in.

“What on earth is a fish going to tell me about my own abilities to heal my heart?” You might ask.

If you cut off a small portion of this fish’s heart it will heal spontaneously. It will fully regenerate and replace the lost heart muscle.

Now some of you must be thinking, “well, this is great!” It is –  if you are a zebrafish.

So the obvious question is: why can’t we heal our damaged hearts using the same mechanism that a zebrafish uses to heal its injured heart?

Why not?

Now I admit: you and I, we look nothing like fish. But did you know that zebrafish and humans share 70% of our genes? And, most importantly, did you know that the mechanism the zebrafish employs to heal its damaged heart also exists in mammals?

For example, if you were to remove a portion of the heart of a baby mouse, it would regenerate its heart in the same fashion as the zebrafish. However, as mice get older, they lose this ability to regenerate.

What this means is that the process by which a creature heals a damaged and injured heart is not specific to zebrafish; it is not specific to baby mice. It is not a genetic program specific to only a few animals. It is actually written in our own DNA.

But these genes were switched off in humans at some time during our evolution.

Our goal as scientists is to switch this genetic program back on. The zebrafish can tell us which human genes need to be turned on to repair the human heart.

Thanks to the zebrafish, cardiovascular disease could become a thing of the past in the coming decades: we would look at it the way we look at small pox today. Imagine a world where you would not have to go through the pain of losing a loved one to heart disease.

Who knows, this fish might actually save your life in the future.

It’s not just a fish…. It is hope!


About the Author:  

Girisaran is a Final Year Graduate Student in Chris Jopling’s Lab at the Institut de Génomique Fonctionnelle, Montpellier, France. For his thesis, he has been studying the zebrafish. Unlike ours, if a zebrafish’s heart is damaged it will repair itself.  If we could understand this process in the zebrafish, we could reverse engineer that into human therapies.

Outside the lab, you can find Girisaran singing with his acoustic guitar or swimming laps in Montpellier’s Olympic sized swimming pool.