Manchester’s week in science: 15th – 21st March – Eclipse special

Eyes on the sky: Images of the eclipse in manchester:

On Friday the 20th of March 2015 millions of eyes (and camera lenses) were turned skywards as our Sun became eclipsed when the Sun Earth and Moon came into alignment. Solar eclipses, like the one we saw today, are relatively rare events and the next time Manchester will be plunged into this type of unnatural darkness will not be until 2090. Luckily for may of us, this Friday offered just the right amount of cloud cover to observe the whole event pretty clearly and to capture some amazing images – Thanks Manchester! As a reminder of this awe-inspiring event, here are a few amazing shots taken from just outside the city centre in Bury, Lancashire, using a semi-professional astro-photography set-up:

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DSC_1832DSC_1874DSC_1900DSC_1917DSC_2028If you want to learn more about last weeks eclipse and other similar celestial events, you can find more information here.

Manchester researchers take steps towards a better understanding of stroke:

66245374_afe6d3d8d1_zLike a fire sparked in the brain a stroke can happen fast, coursing through large sections of brain tissue. The damage caused by a stroke can be utterly devastating and is recognised to be the leading cause of disability worldwide. However, it’s not just the stroke itself which underpins brain damage experienced by sufferers. In fact, we know that the time period after a stroke has occurred is extremely important for patient recovery. Specifically because, during this period, the body mounts its own response to this onslaught in the form of inflammation. But, rather than aiding recovery, inflammation in the brain can actually cause and worsen damage!

Therefore, it is particularly important for improved treatment strategies that we understand how and why inflammation occurs, with a view to modulating its actions.

Scientists from the University of Manchester are doing just that. Dr David Brough, working in the Faculty of Life Sciences alongside Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell and Dr Stuart Allen, are studying the role of inflammation in stroke. This group studies inflammasomes: large protein complexes which are responsible for controlling production of the inflammatory protein Interleukin-1, which has a myriad of roles in the inflammatory process including a contributing role in brain cell death.

Dr Brough explains: “Very little is known about how inflammasomes might be involved in brain injury. Therefore we began by studying the most well researched inflammasome NLRP3, which is known to be activated when the body is injured. Surprisingly we found that this was not involved in inflammation and damage in the brain caused by stroke, even though drugs are being developed to block this to treat Alzheimer’s disease.”

Further studies using experimental models of stroke demonstrated that it was actually the NLRC4 and AIM2 inflammasomes that contribute to brain injury, rather than NLRP3. This result was unexpected, since NLRC4, was only known to fight infections and yet Dr Brough and colleagues found that it also caused injury in the brain.

This new discovery will help the Manchester researchers discover more about how inflammation is involved in brain injury and develop new drugs for the treatment of stroke.

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