Credit: Paulina B via Unsplash

World Changers: September

By Fraser McFarlane

The Glasgow Guardian takes a monthly dive into the world changing researching being carried out on campus.

Researchers across the University of Glasgow campus have been hard at work throughout the summer months developing new solutions to pressing problems and addressing challenges through innovation.
The University of Glasgow has announced involvement in collaboration with the Universities of Edinburgh and Strathclyde to create a Scottish Student Mental Health Research Network (ScotSMART). The hub will bring together research from each of these universities as well as counselling services to increase support for students’ mental health on themes such as identity, loneliness and social relationships. The Royal Society of Edinburgh granted the project an Arts and Humanities Network Award.

A medical trial involving scientists from UofG has made the discovery that a drug which is already commonly used to treat type 2 diabetes can also be effective in lowering the mortality risk of patients with heart failure. The medication, dapagliflozin, was found to reduce cardiovascular death or prevent worsening heart failure with 18% more success than a placebo. The Phase III DELIVER trial was a collaboration between the University of Glasgow and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School and was funded by the UK-based pharmaceutical company, AstraZeneca. Another related study used data from this trial along with information from the 2019 PHASE III DAPA-HF trial, led by UofG, which again studied the effectiveness of prescribing dapagliflozin, but to people with a different type of heart failure. This study involved over 11,000 patients and revealed that using dapagliflozin reduces the risk of cardiovascular death by between 10% and 14%. The drug also decreased the cumulative number of hospital admissions by almost a quarter.

This was just one study published by UofG researchers this month relating to cardiovascular disease. It was also established this month that autoimmune disorders such as: rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, systemic sclerosis, lupus erythematosus and type I diabetes, which affect around 10% of people in high income countries can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease by up to 3.6 times. Prof John McMurray, Professor of Cardiology at the University of Glasgow’s School of Cardiovascular and Metabolic Heath, said: “Some of these problems are potentially preventable using readily available treatments such as statins. The scale of this enormous new study and the breadth of findings across the full spectrum of autoimmune diseases suggest the contribution of these conditions to the burden or cardiovascular diseases in the community may be considerable and the value of a preventive approach substantial.” There has also been positive news in this field. Coming from a large study involving 94,000 participants over the course of 6 years researchers at UofG further supported that duration and intensity of exercise can decrease the risk of heart disease.

Amidst an energy crisis researchers at the University researchers have sought an intuitive new design to a heat pump in order to cut energy prices and emissions. Heat pumps are an alternative to conventional gas boilers but emit significantly less carbon. Those who worked on the project are hopeful that their work could help families through rising energy bills in the context of the cost of living crisis as well as contribute towards net-zero emissions targets. The leader of the research, Professor of Thermal Energy at the University of Glasgow, Zhibin Yu, said: “We’re at a critical juncture in our global move towards net-zero, where we need to start scaling up our low-carbon infrastructure quickly and effectively. That urgency is being particularly keenly felt at the moment, where energy prices are rising and many households are facing rapidly escalating bills.

Looking to the year ahead, UofG has recently signed a landmark agreement between the University and industry partners to improve Scotland’s health. The agreement aims to: deliver NHS transformation by testing new patient pathways / digital technologies to enable earlier diagnosis and treatment,enable large scale clinical trials and studies in Scotland, collect evidence to assess the effectiveness of these new clinical management pathways, and scale up successful pathways to spread across NHS Scotland. Professor Iain McInnes, University of Glasgow Vice Principal and Head of the College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences, said: “We are delighted to be signing this important MOU, which represents a strengthening of the vital triple helix partnership between research, industry and the NHS.Using the world-changing research carried out at the University of Glasgow, we will work together with AstraZeneca and the NHS in Scotland with the aim to deliver more high calibre trials and ultimately improve patient care.”

And finally for September’s edition of World Changers is the news that four researchers from the University of Glasgow have been awarded UKRI (UK Research and Innovation) Future Leaders Fellowship Awards. Dr Stephen Carter (College of MVLS), Dr Colin Steele (College of MVLS), Dr Sam Bayliss (College of Science and Engineering) and Dr Cetta Mainwaring (College of Social Sciences) collectively received £5.8 million of funding from UKRI. These highly sought after funding grants were awarded for work on a number of wide-ranging research areas including immigration detention, colorectal cancer, quantum sensing and bunyaviruses; representing the breadth of the University’s world changing research.


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