Syncope–a transient loss of consciousness–occurs in 42% of people by the age of 70. Professor Richard Sutton, Emeritus Professor of Clinical Cardiology, discusses this common medical problem, and how he has pioneered a “true but still insufficiently small interest” in it.
I have been Emeritus Professor of Clinical Cardiology at Imperial since 2011. Prior to that, I had trained in Cardiology at St George’s Hospital, the University of North Carolina, and the National Heart Hospital in London, becoming Consultant Cardiologist at Westminster Hospital in 1976. There I focused on cardiac pacing as a subspecialty. From a clinical perspective, cardiac pacing eradicated syncope (transient loss of consciousness) in patients with conduction tissue disease of the heart. So, I sought to extend the role of pacing into related syncope conditions.
My primary interest therefore became the symptom of syncope. I began this in the late 1970s, and formed a close relationship with Worthing Hospital which carried a heavy load of older patients, many of whom presented syncope. I founded an outreach clinic at Worthing which led to the receipt of many challenging patients with syncope in whom there was no obvious cause.
The Great Exhibition Road Festival is a free annual celebration of science and the arts each summer in South Kensington. The event showcases a diverse range of activities for people of all ages. One of those activities, led by researchers from the Margaret Turner Warwick Centre and volunteers from the charity Action for Pulmonary Fibrosis, included an interactive activity that gave the public the opportunity to walk in the shoes of someone living with pulmonary fibrosis. Find out first-hand from Elisabeth Pyman, what happened on the day and hear from pulomary fibrosis patient, Andy, what it’s like to live with the condition.
The June weekend of the Great Exhibition Road Festival was one of quintessential British summertime weather. This celebration of science was hosted by Imperial College London in collaboration with the local community and provided a wide range of topics for people of all ages to explore. Under intermittent spells of rain, crowds of a multitudinous diversity explored the “awe and wonder” of science, the theme of this year’s festival. To welcome the public, artists and scientists populated the streets and buildings surrounding Imperial’s South Kensington campus like a sudden desert bloom.
Meanwhile, another transformation was taking place in a stand tucked away at the end of the road in the Creative Science zone. Researchers from the Margaret Turner Warwick Centre and volunteers from the charity Action for Pulmonary Fibrosis were on a mission to spread awareness about a rare lung condition known as pulmonary fibrosis. This condition is associated with a build-up of scar tissue that leads to a steady decline in lung function, with many patients becoming terminal only five years after diagnosis. Currently, there are 32,500 UK residents living with a diagnosis, but the actual number of people affected is estimated at around 100,000.
The HIV landscape has completely transformed since the start of the pandemic. A HIV diagnosis in the 1980s was considered fatal, as people usually progressed to AIDS due to the lack of available treatments. 42 years later, we have an array of different drug options and as a result, people diagnosed with HIV today can now expect to have near-normal life expectancies. Here, Dr Akif Khawaja from the National Heart & Lung Institute (NHLI), highlights the impact of HIV treatment over the last 42 years and how it influences cardiovascular research today.
HIV Treatment: from AZT to U=U
At the start of the pandemic, there were no available treatments. Patients would progress to AIDS and were only offered palliative care. It wasn’t until 1987 that the first antiretroviral drug, zidovudine (AZT), was licenced for the treatment of HIV. A major challenge with HIV treatment soon became apparent, as the virus can rapidly mutate and change its genetic code to become resistant to the drug supressing its replication. This challenge was quickly seen by clinicians as their patients would start to rebound from antiretroviral monotherapy (one drug regimens) as HIV became drug resistant and was able to replicate again. The introduction of combination antiretroviral therapy in 1996 has been monumental to HIV management. A change in treatment guidelines meant that patients who would have previously been given one drug, were now given three drug combinations, each targeting different parts of the HIV life cycle. This approach meant that patients could suppress HIV replication and achieve a sustained undetectable viral load, meaning that the level of virus in their blood is so low, it can no longer be detected by diagnostic tests.
Kelly Gleason introduces a guide, Navigating Digital Health, co-produced with 20 local diverse public partners (aged between 18-78, ethnicity: White, Black & Asian, 60% women and 40% men) to help the public navigate data and artificial intelligence and wider resources. Kelly is Imperial CRUK Lead Nurse and leads the Public Involvement for the CRUK Convergence Centre and the NIHR Imperial BRC Surgery and Cancer Theme. The guide and supporting resources are part-funded by the NIHR Imperial BRC.
What the public need to know about the guide:
- It’s made for the public by the public (with a large and diverse group of public contributors) and supported by experts in the field.
- This is a gentle introduction to data science and AI to allow anyone to begin to learn about this field.
- It can be used by patients or family members to understand more about these issues generally or to contribute to public involvement programmes in research.
- It can help people make informed decisions about accessing new technologies to support their health.
- The guide is supported by various forms of media, including the written word, podcasts and animated videos (see links at the end of this blog). (more…)
Helen Johnson, Communications and Marketing Manager at the National Heart and Lung Institute (NHLI) discusses her recent project ‘Making Waves’, which set out to update the Department’s imagery across their buildings to better reflect the diversity of NHLI’s community and inspire the next generation.
“Sometimes our stories make us stronger”
This is what one of our contributors said to me during her interview, and I couldn’t have summed up ‘Making Waves’ any better. This project set out to showcase the people behind the great science and teaching that the NHLI is known for.
We don’t always think about it on a daily basis but when you actually look at who is celebrated in the imagery on our walls, it tends to be people who no longer work for the Department, and they tend to also share characteristics in terms of their age and race. But, then again, it is just a portrait of that person, so we don’t necessarily know their whole story by just looking at an image. Everyone has their own story.
The founding premise of ‘Making Waves’ was that anyone should be able to look at these new portraits and see themselves. So that everyone can know they are welcome at NHLI and in science – that they belong. I was tasked with this vision by my Head of Department, Professor Edwin Chilvers, who was keen we brought our imagery more up to date to represent who NHLI is today. The leaky pipeline in science for those holding protected characteristics has been much reported, and is easy to see when you look for instance at the number of Black Professors across not just NHLI, but across the whole of Imperial. One set of portraits will not solve this, but hopefully by showing a greater variety of successful people and their journeys, others will be inspired to continue their own scientific paths.
Dr Felicity Fitzgerald (who volunteered clinically during the West African Ebola outbreak) has been selected as the winner of the 2023 Simon Newell Award for her work in Zimbabwe to improve recognition and outcomes of newborns with suspected sepsis. Dr Fitzgerald spoke to the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) about her research and tips for aspiring researchers.
The Simon Newell Award Recognises an outstanding young medically qualified researcher in British paediatrics. Each year, with support from GOSH Charity and Sparks, RCPCH offer the prestigious award of £2,000 to one early independent researcher in paediatrics.
Dr David Salman from the School of Public Health discusses how digital interventions could help people return to fitness following a period of illness.
I am a GP, researcher, and work at the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust sport and exercise medicine clinic. Part of my work is to help people become more physically active – important because it is one of the few interventions that can improve health in many different ways. If we had a similar drug or intervention that reduced the risk of heart disease, diabetes, dementia, depression, risk of falls, and several cancers, then everyone would probably be on it. The problem is that almost one-third of people in the UK are not physically active enough for good health. This is partly because barriers to being physically active exist across individual and cultural factors, such as illness, pain or different conceptions of what physical activity or exercise mean; infrastructure aspects such as safety, facilities and lighting, through to national and global policy. Therefore, this wonder medicine is not equally available to all.
Rory Cellan-Jones is an author and former BBC Technology Correspondent who, in 2019, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. Rory discusses his visit to the ‘Living Lab’ at the UK DRI Care Research & Technology Centre – a unique mock apartment where scientists can monitor the behaviour of patients in a domestic environment.
My week started with quite a stressful day. For nearly five hours I was under the microscope, my every move watched by scientists. They made me walk up and down, rise from a chair without using my arms, open and close my hand rapidly. I spent half an hour staring at a computer screen trying to work out which shape fitted where on a grid, one of a number of cognition tests. They even made me make two cups of tea and four slices of toast.
It was tiring but it was all in the cause of science – and potentially faster drug trials. This all took place in Imperial College’s Living Lab, a room fitted out like a small flat on the ninth floor of a tower block in West London. The lab is equipped with video cameras and a series of sensors which provide data on its occupants’ activities.
It’s been over four years since the UK legalised the medical use of cannabis. Despite this, attitudes towards its use remains a hot topic for patients and health professionals alike. Dr Simon Erridge from the Department of Surgery and Cancer separates fact from fiction about the prescribing of medical cannabis for health conditions such as chronic pain and anxiety.
Since 2018, medical cannabis has been available legally on prescription for patients here in the UK. However, many people are not aware of this and our research in 2021 suggested that almost 50% of UK adults are unaware that medical cannabis is legal in the UK. Many more may be unsure as to what medical cannabis is, when it can be prescribed, and what the medical evidence says about its effects. Despite this, there is a lot of promise held about the potential of medical cannabis and its use in healthcare in the future.