University of Nottingham
  • Nottingham, England, United Kingdom
Recent publications
Tilapia is a freshwater fish group with a sustainable prospect but suffers off-notes appearing during cooking processes. To promote pleasant odorants by thermal cooking processes, tilapia fillets were cooked in different ways (roasting, microwave-heating, boiling and steaming). Their aroma profiles were analysed with special focus on off-notes and umami-enhancing odorants by principal component analysis, and correlated with the heating time, colour, moisture and water activity by partial least squares regression analysis. Results showed that the “green” and “earthy” off-notes were highly correlated with the boiling process (excess of water, short heating time), while most of the umami-enhancing odorants had a high association with the roasting process (low water content, long heating time, better Maillard reaction). This study indicated that roasting is the most adapted cooking process promoting Maillard-derived aromas, umami-enhancing aromas and meanwhile, reducing off-notes. This research helps in understanding the off-note generation in tilapia and promoting desirable umami-enhancing odorants.
Objective Family members of stroke survivors are often not supported for their caring role, with many reporting adjustment difficulties. This paper describes the development and content of a group-based intervention for informal carers of stroke survivors. Method The intervention is based on the theoretical foundation of the biopsychosocial model with the aim to understand and address the physical, psychological and social factors of caring for stroke survivors. Findings from a comprehensive literature review and a qualitative study with carers and stroke professionals were synthesized to guide the intervention development. The Template for Intervention Description and Replication (TIDieR) checklist was used as a framework to describe the intervention. Results The intervention integrates cognitive-behavioural approaches via the identification of the biopsychosocial (physical, emotional, social) factors that can have an impact on the well-being of carers. It includes education on stroke-specific topics and advice on coping strategies. It consists of six structured two-hour group sessions facilitated in a community setting. It provides information and support on adjusting to the caring role in the first year post-stroke. Intervention materials were designed for addressing carers’ specific needs using psychological techniques, such as problem-solving, goal setting and relaxation exercises. Conclusion We have underlined the importance for describing and reporting the process of intervention development for complex interventions in the context of stroke rehabilitation. An intervention addressing the needs of informal stroke carers (Biopsychosocial Intervention for Stroke Carers; BISC) has been developed and described. BISC was further evaluated in a single-centre feasibility randomized controlled trial.
Background: Healthcare workers (HCWs) have been reported to be experiencing a deterioration in their mental health due to COVID-19. In addition, ethnic minority populations in the United Kingdom are disproportionately affected by COVID-19. It is imperative that HCWs are appropriately supported and protected from mental harm during the pandemic. Our research aims to add to the evidence base by providing greater insight into the lived experience of HCWs from diverse ethnic backgrounds during the pandemic that had an impact on their mental health. Methods: We undertook a qualitative work package as part of the United Kingdom Research study into Ethnicity And COVID-19 outcomes among Healthcare workers (UK-REACH). As part of the qualitative research, we carried out 16 focus groups with a total of 61 HCWs between December 2020 and July 2021. The aim of the study was to explore topics such as their experiences, fears and concerns, while working during the pandemic. The purposive sample included ancillary healthcare workers, doctors, nurses, midwives and allied health professionals from diverse ethnic backgrounds to ensure inclusion of underrepresented and disproportionately impacted individuals. We conducted discussions using Microsoft Teams. Recordings were transcribed and thematically analysed. Results: Several factors were identified which impacted on the mental health of HCWs during this period including anxiety (due to inconsistent protocols and policy); fear (of infection); trauma (due to increased exposure to severe illness and death); guilt (of potentially infecting loved ones); and stress (due to longer working hours and increased workload). Conclusion: COVID-19 has affected the mental health of HCWs. We identified a number of factors which may be contributing to a deterioration in mental health for participants from diverse ethnic backgrounds. Healthcare organisations should consider developing strategies to counter the negative impact of these factors, including recommendations made by HCWs themselves.
The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) has brought breakthroughs in many areas of medicine. In ophthalmology, AI has delivered robust results in the screening and detection of diabetic retinopathy, age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, and retinopathy of prematurity. Cataract management is another field that can benefit from greater AI application. Cataract is the leading cause of reversible visual impairment with a rising global clinical burden. Improved diagnosis, monitoring, and surgical management are necessary to address this challenge. In addition, patients in large developing countries often suffer from limited access to tertiary care, a problem further exacerbated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. AI on the other hand, can help transform cataract management by improving automation, efficacy and overcoming geographical barriers. First, AI can be applied as a telediagnostic platform to screen and diagnose patients with cataract using slit-lamp and fundus photographs. This utilizes a deep-learning, convolutional neural network (CNN) to detect and classify referable cataracts appropriately. Second, some of the latest intraocular lens formulas have used AI to enhance prediction accuracy, achieving superior postoperative refractive results compared to traditional formulas. Third, AI can be used to augment cataract surgical skill training by identifying different phases of cataract surgery on video and to optimize operating theater workflows by accurately predicting the duration of surgical procedures. Fourth, some AI CNN models are able to effectively predict the progression of posterior capsule opacification and eventual need for YAG laser capsulotomy. These advances in AI could transform cataract management and enable delivery of efficient ophthalmic services. The key challenges include ethical management of data, ensuring data security and privacy, demonstrating clinically acceptable performance, improving the generalizability of AI models across heterogeneous populations, and improving the trust of end-users.
Endothelial dysfunction in diabetes is generally attributed to oxidative stress, but this view is challenged by observations showing antioxidants do not eliminate diabetic vasculopathy. As an alternative to oxidative stress-induced dysfunction, we interrogated if impaired mitochondrial function in endothelial cells is central to endothelial dysfunction in the metabolic syndrome. We observed reduced coronary arteriolar vasodilation to the endothelium-dependent dilator, acetylcholine (Ach), in Zucker Obese Fatty rats (ZOF, 34 ± 15% [mean ± standard deviation] 10–3 M) compared to Zucker Lean rats (ZLN, 98 ± 11%). This reduction in dilation occurred concomitantly with mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) strand lesions and reduced mitochondrial complex activities in the endothelium of ZOF versus ZLN. To demonstrate endothelial dysfunction is linked to impaired mitochondrial function, administration of a cell-permeable, mitochondria-directed endonuclease (mt-tat-EndoIII), to repair oxidatively modified DNA in ZOF, restored mitochondrial function and vasodilation to Ach (94 ± 13%). Conversely, administration of a cell-permeable, mitochondria-directed exonuclease (mt-tat-ExoIII) produced mtDNA strand breaks in ZLN, reduced mitochondrial complex activities and vasodilation to Ach in ZLN (42 ± 16%). To demonstrate that mitochondrial function is central to endothelium-dependent vasodilation, we introduced (via electroporation) liver mitochondria (from ZLN) into the endothelium of a mesenteric vessel from ZOF and restored endothelium-dependent dilation to vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP at 10–5 M, 4 ± 3% vasodilation before mitochondrial transfer and 48 ± 36% after transfer). Finally, to demonstrate mitochondrial function is key to endothelium-dependent dilation, we administered oligomycin (mitochondrial ATP synthase inhibitor) and observed a reduction in endothelium-dependent dilation. We conclude that mitochondrial function is critical for endothelium-dependent vasodilation.
Objectives The objective of this study is to analyse retrospective, observational, longitudinal growth (weight, height and BMI) data in ambulatory boys aged 5–12 years with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). Background We considered glucocorticoids (GC) use, dystrophin isoforms and amenability to exon 8, 44, 45, 51 and 53 skipping drug subgroups, and the impact of growth on loss of ambulation. We analysed 598 boys, with 2604 observations. This analysis considered patients from the UK NorthStar database (2003–2020) on one of five regimes: “GC naïve”, “deflazacort daily” (DD), “deflazacort intermittent” (DI), “prednisolone daily” (PD) and “prednisolone intermittent” (PI). A random slope model was used to model the weight, height and BMI SD scores (using the UK90). Results The daily regime subgroups had significant yearly height stunting compared to the GC naïve subgroup. Notably, the average height change for the DD subgroup was 0.25 SD (95% CI − 0.30, − 0.21) less than reference values. Those with affected expression of Dp427, Dp140 and Dp71 isoforms were 0.77 (95% CI 0.3, 1.24) and 0.82 (95% CI 1.28, 0.36) SD shorter than those with Dp427 and/or Dp140 expression affected respectively. Increased weight was not associated with earlier loss of ambulation, but taller boys still ambulant between the age of 10 and 11 years were more at risk of losing ambulation. Conclusion These findings may provide further guidance to clinicians when counselling and discussing GCs commencement with patients and their carers and may represent a benchmark set of data to evaluate the effects of new generations of GC.
Respiratory diseases remain a significant cause of global morbidity and mortality and primary care plays a central role in their prevention, diagnosis and management. An e-Delphi process was employed to identify and prioritise the current respiratory research needs of primary care health professionals worldwide. One hundred and twelve community-based physicians, nurses and other healthcare professionals from 27 high-, middle- and low-income countries suggested 608 initial research questions, reduced after evidence review by 27 academic experts to 176 questions covering diagnosis, management, monitoring, self-management and prognosis of asthma, COPD and other respiratory conditions (including infections, lung cancer, tobacco control, sleep apnoea). Forty-nine questions reached 80% consensus for importance. Cross-cutting themes identified were: a need for more effective training of primary care clinicians; evidence and guidelines specifically relevant to primary care, adaption for local and low-resource settings; empowerment of patients to improve self-management; and the role of the multidisciplinary healthcare team.
Hemispheric lateralisation is a fundamental principle of functional brain organisation. We studied two core cognitive functions—language and visuospatial attention—that typically lateralise in opposite cerebral hemispheres. In this work, we tested both left- and right-handed participants on lexical decision-making as well as on symmetry detection by means of a visual half-field paradigm with various target–distractor combinations simultaneously presented to opposite visual fields. Laterality indexes were analysed using a behavioural metrics in single individuals as well as between individuals. We observed that lateralisation of language and visuospatial attention as well as their relationship generally followed a left–right profile, albeit with differences as a function of handedness and target–distractor combination. In particular, right-handed individuals tended towards a typical pattern whereas left-handed individuals demonstrated increased individual variation and atypical organisation. That the atypical variants varied as a function of target–distractor combination and thus interhemispheric communication underlines its dynamic role in characterising lateralisation properties. The data further revealed distinctive relationships between right-handedness and left-hemispheric dominance for language together with right-hemispheric dominance for visuospatial processing. Overall, these findings illustrate the role of broader mechanisms in supporting hemispheric lateralisation of cognition and behaviour, relying on common principles but controlled by internal and external factors.
Objective Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) helps people stop smoking. Monitoring treatment adherence is important as poor adherence to NRT limits its effectiveness. As e-cigarettes contain nicotine, their use (‘vaping’) is likely to affect both NRT use and smoking. We wished to measure adherence to NRT, and to investigate relationships between NRT, vaping and smoking so we developed ‘NicUse’, a smartphone App linked to a cloud database for collecting data relevant to NRT adherence. We report user-acceptability and investigate data validity among pregnant people by comparing heaviness of smoking reported to NicUse surveys with contemporaneous exhaled carbon monoxide readings. Results Thirty five pregnant women participating in a pilot study were asked to install and use NicUse on their smartphones. 32/35 (91%) logged into NicUse, 31 (89%) completed one or more surveys, and 22 (63%) completed these on ≥ 20 of 28 study days. Twenty-four gave end-of-study user acceptability ratings; 23 (96%) agreed or strongly agreed NicUse was ‘Easy to use’ and ‘Instructions were clear’. There was a strong correlation between the number of daily cigarettes reported on NicUse and exhaled CO readings taken on study Day 7 (Pearson’s r = 0.95, p < 0.001). NicUse appears highly acceptable, and smoking data reported to it shows validity.
Prostate cancer is a complex disease affecting millions of men globally. Radiotherapy (RT) is a common treatment modality although treatment efficacy is dependent upon several features within the tumour microenvironment (TME), especially hypoxia. A hypoxic TME heightens radioresistance and thus disease recurrence and treatment failure continues to pose important challenges. However, the TME evolves under the influence of factors in systemic circulation and cellular crosstalk, underscoring its potential to be acutely and therapeutically modified. Early preclinical evidence suggests exercise may affect tumour growth and some of the benefits drawn, could act to radiosensitise tumours to treatment. Intracellular perturbations in skeletal muscle reactive oxygen species (ROS) stimulate the production of numerous factors that can exert autocrine, paracrine, and endocrine effects on the prostate. However, findings supporting this notion are limited and the associated mechanisms are poorly understood. In light of this preclinical evidence, we propose systemic changes in redox signalling with exercise activate redox-sensitive factors within the TME and improve tumour hypoxia and treatment outcomes, when combined with RT. To this end, we suggest a connection between exercise, ROS and tumour growth kinetics, highlighting the potential of exercise to sensitise tumour cells to RT, and improve treatment efficacy.
A method is proposed which considers Integrated Pest Management (IPM) through several lenses, in order to obtain a more holistic view of the potential for IPM, and is described using a case study of Scottish spring barley. Long-term experimental field trial databases are used to determine which management methods are best suited to the system at hand. Stakeholder engagement provides insight into which of these methods are most likely to be taken up by farmers. Finally, a database of commercial practice allows an estimate of the potential for improving management patterns, based on current levels of IPM uptake across a wider sample of Scottish farmers. Together, these diverse sources of information give a more complete view of a complex system than any individual source could and allow the identification of IPM methods which are robust, practical, and not already in widespread use in this system. Bringing together these sources of information may be of particular value for policy and other decision makers, who need information about strategies which are both practical and likely to have a large positive impact. In the case of Scottish spring barley, there is good potential to reduce the need for fungicide use through the increased use of highly resistant barley varieties.
Clinical trial managers play a vital role in the design and conduct of clinical trials in the UK. There is a current recruitment and retention crisis for this specialist role due to a complex set of factors, most likely to have come to a head due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Academic clinical trial units and departments are struggling to recruit trial managers to vacant positions, and multiple influences are affecting the retention of this highly skilled workforce. Without tackling this issue, we face major challenges in the delivery on the Department of Health and Social Care’s Future of UK Clinical Research Delivery implementation plan. This article, led by a leading network of and for UK Trial Managers, presents some of the issues and ways in which national stakeholders may be able to address this.
Intratumoral heterogeneity is caused by genomic instability and phenotypic plasticity, but how these features co-evolve remains unclear. SOX10 is a neural crest stem cell (NCSC) specifier and candidate mediator of phenotypic plasticity in cancer. We investigated its relevance in breast cancer by immunophenotyping 21 normal breast and 1860 tumour samples. Nuclear SOX10 was detected in normal mammary luminal progenitor cells, the histogenic origin of most TNBCs. In tumours, nuclear SOX10 was almost exclusive to TNBC, and predicted poorer outcome amongst cross-sectional ( p = 0.0015, hazard ratio 2.02, n = 224) and metaplastic ( p = 0.04, n = 66) cases. To understand SOX10’s influence over the transcriptome during the transition from normal to malignant states, we performed a systems-level analysis of co-expression data, de-noising the networks with an eigen-decomposition method. This identified a core module in SOX10’s normal mammary epithelial network that becomes rewired to NCSC genes in TNBC. Crucially, this reprogramming was proportional to genome-wide promoter methylation loss, particularly at lineage-specifying CpG-island shores. We propose that the progressive, genome-wide methylation loss in TNBC simulates more primitive epigenome architecture, making cells vulnerable to SOX10-driven reprogramming. This study demonstrates potential utility for SOX10 as a prognostic biomarker in TNBC and provides new insights about developmental phenotypic mimicry—a major contributor to intratumoral heterogeneity.
Understanding what factors predict whether an urban migrant will end up in a deprived neighbourhood or not could help prevent the exploitation of vulnerable individuals. This study leveraged pseudonymized mobile money interactions combined with cell phone data to shed light on urban migration patterns and deprivation in Tanzania. Call detail records were used to identify individuals who migrated to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania's largest city. A street survey of the city's subwards was used to determine which individuals moved to more deprived areas. t-tests showed that people who settled in poorer neighbourhoods had less money coming into their mobile money account after they moved, but not before. A machine learning approach was then utilized to predict which migrants will move to poorer areas of the city, making them arguably more vulnerable to poverty, unemployment and exploitation. Features indicating the strength and location of people's social connections in Dar es Salaam before they moved ('pull factors') were found to be most predictive, more so than traditional 'push factors' such as proxies for poverty in the migrant's source region. Supplementary information: The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1140/epjds/s13688-022-00340-y.
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Konstantina Kourmentza
  • Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering
Malcolm Stuart Raven
  • Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering (retired)
Nigel Hunt
  • Division of Psychiatry and Applied Psychology
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