2020's top news from the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health

This year our stories have reached hundreds of thousands of people across the world. And in a year when the Covid-19 pandemic dominated, here’s some of our most popular and interesting stories from the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health in 2020. Enjoy!

At number 10, Common cardiovascular disease drug could help hearts of at risk new mums A drug has shown potential to improve heart function in women diagnosed with preeclampsia during their pregnancy, research carried out by Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (MFT) and The University of Manchester (UoM) – has found.The results of the ‘Postnatal enalapril to Improve Cardiovascular fUnction following preterm Preeclampsia’ (PICk-UP) feasibility trial were published in the peer-reviewed journal, Hypertension, .

At number 9, the role of bone marrow immune cells in COVID-19 is revealedWhite blood cells called monocytes released into the blood from bone marrow have abnormal features in people who have COVID-19, according to a new study by University of Manchester immunologists at the Lydia Becker InstituteAnd the team from the Coronavirus Immune Response and Clinical Outcome (CIRCO) consortium say the abnormalities are greater in patients with severe infection. By spotting the abnormal monocytes early, doctors may be able to predict which patients are more likely to develop severe disease.


At number 8,robots are on on the march to walking like humans.A psychological theory could kickstart improvements in the way robots are able to walk, thanks to a University of Manchester study.The study - a unique collaboration between a clinical psychologist, robotics engineers and a robotics entrepreneur is published in the Journal of Intelligent and Robotic Systems .


At  number 7, trials show new drug can ease symptoms of chronic cough. Two trials of a new drug have shown that at low doses, it can ease the often distressing symptoms of chronic cough with minimal side effects. Principle researcher Jacky Smith, a Professor of Respiratory Medicine at The University of Manchester and a consultant at Wythenshawe Hospital, says Gefapixant has the potential to have a significant impact on the lives of thousands of suffers. Higher doses can reduce the sense of taste, though at 50mg, the effect is much reduced, say the research team.


At number 6,  early signs of hearing damage found in young clubbers and gig-goers. Hearing damage which isn’t yet severe enough to be diagnosed as hearing loss is common in young adults who regularly attend loud music events, according to University of Manchester led research. Early signs of damage to hearing are associated with exposure to loud recreational noise such as clubs and concerts, says Dr Sam Couth, who carried out the study published in the journal Hearing Research. The study was funded by the Colt Foundation, which funds occupational and environmental health research, and was run in collaboration with the Royal Northern College of Music.


At number 5, COVID-19 history project is given £1million. A  University of Manchester team of researchers and volunteers who have been documenting NHS voices of COVID-19 since March, are to join forces with the British Library thanks a grant of nearly £1m. Dr Stephanie Snow, who leads the influential ‘NHS at 70’ project, and her team have already collected over 200 COVID-19 voices, including Nick Hart, the respiratory doctor who treated Prime Minister Boris Johnson in intensive care.


At number 4, excess death toll in care homes from Covid-19 ‘hugely underestimated’. An early draft of a study by University of Manchester health economists and data scientists calculates that up to 10,000 more people may have died in care homes from Covid-19 than previously realised. The study is the first independent analysis of daily death notification data sent to the Care Quality Commission by 13,630 care homes in the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. In March 2020, there were 15,524 care homes operating in England, offering around 455,600 beds.


At numnber 3, shift workers at increased risk of asthma, research shows. An international team of scientists led by The University of Manchester and Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust has found that shift workers, especially those working permanent night shifts, showed increased risks of asthma, especially moderate or severe asthma. The study of 280,000 UK Biobank participants also revealed that irregular night shift workers who are morning people (‘larks’), are at an increased risk of asthma compared to night shift workers who are evening people (‘night owls’).


At number 2, a  significant number of patients reported a deterioration in their hearing when questioned eight weeks after discharge from a hospital admission for COVID-19, according to University of Manchester audiologists, in a study supported by the NIHR Manchester Biomedical Research Centre (BRC).One hundred and twenty one of the adults admitted to Wythenshawe Hospital, part of Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, took part in the survey by telephone.  When asked about changes to their hearing sixteen people (13.2%) reported their hearing was worse. Eight people reported deterioration in hearing and another eight reported tinnitus (hearing noises that are not caused by an outside source).


And  at number 1, a new technique has been shown to  reduce heart transplant rejection. University of Manchester scientists have discovered that removing immune cells from donor hearts using a new technique can reduce the risk of acute rejection after heart transplant surgery - even without the use of powerful immunosuppressant drugs.

Top 10 Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay