Science and Technology Group

From Reform Club Science and Technology Group

May Meeting: Giles Yeo, Are your genes to blame if your jeans don't fit?

May 16th

Obesity may well be the world’s largest public health problem.

The recent rapid increase in obesity must be down to changes in our lifestyle and in the types of food we eat. It is clear that our environment has changed a lot over the past fifty years. People take much less exercise and consume far more calories than ever before.

Although we are all exposed to these changes, only some of us are obese.

Our response to this changed environment depenfileds on our genetic make-up. Twin studies estimate that 40% to 70% of the variability of our weight may be due to genetic factors.

Once we realize this, we can use genetics as a tool to understand human obesity. The focus of Dr Yeo’s group is on the molecular mechanisms underlying obesity. It has made major advances in understanding the biology of appetite control. It appears that some of us simply feel hungrier all the time and, as a result, eat more.

Dr Yeo will challenge the prevailing view that obese people are bad, lazy and lacking in moral fibre. He argues rather that they are fighting their biology, at least in most cases. Society will have to accept this before it can come up with strategies to tackle the problem successfully.

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June Meeting: Prof Paul Veys, T Cells and the CAR-T Study

June 21st

Paul Veys collects immune system cells from the patient, modifies them to help to recognize his cancer cells. The modified cells, cultured in the lab, are then injected back into the patient. This allows the patients own immune system to recognize the cancer cells that were previously invisible to it and kill them. The advantage of this treatment is that the cells become part of the body's own immune system and provide indefinite protection against recurrence of the disease.

This is a new and exciting form of treatment for an old and devastating disease. Prof Veys will describe the trial he has carried out at Great Ormond Street Hospital. The successful trial was carried out on a one-year old child who was suffering from drug resistant leukemia. Prof Veys will indicate the chances that this form of treatment will become a viable alternative to the current mainstream cancer treatments, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

This is called Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) T-cell Therapy, or CAR-T therapy for short. The cells extracted from the patient are T-cells. They are genetically engineered to produce special receptors on their surface to recognize specific targeted cells from the patients own tumor. These receptors are the Chimeric Antigen Receptors. 'Chimeric' because they incorporate genetic information from more than two organisms. Once the T-cells are produced in sufficient quantities they can be injected into the patient.

T-cells are a key component of our immune system that fights off infection, and indeed any 'foreign' protein that our bodies are exposed to. Cancer cells evade the attention of our immune system. By using gene editing techniques it is possible to program T cells to recognize and eliminate cancer cells that would otherwise go undetected by our bodies. This is a very promising area of work, although it is still experimental and in early stages. Pioneering work has been done at Great Ormond Street Hospital, and we are delighted to welcome Prof Paul Veys to speak to the meeting of the Reform Club Science Group.

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2017 Programme

Dates for 2017 are as follows (all meeting are on Wednesdays, usually the 3rd one of each month):

Month Day of Month Speaker Title
February 15th Prof Martyn Thomas Cybersecurity
March 15th Prof Anil Seth Machine Consciousness
April 19th Prof Peter Wilson Anti-Microbial Resistance.
May 16th, Dr Giles Yeo Are your genes to blame if your jeans don't fit?
June 21st Prof Paul Veys CAR-T Study, Anthony Nolan.
September 20th Dr Paolo Tasca Bitcoins and the Blockchain
October 18th Prof J A Madrigal Stem cell therapies.
November 22nd [TBC] Dr Uday Phadke How to give Tech Businesses Scale

2018 Programme

Dates for 2018 are as follows (usually 3rd Wed of each month):

Month Day of Month Speaker Title
February 21st
March 14th
April 25th
May 23rd
June 20th
September 11th
October 24th
November 28th