As we say goodbye to 2021 and look forward to 2022, I want to reach out to wish everyone on the iPlacenta consortium and friends who have supported a Happy Hogmanay and wishing you a prosperous 2022.
Hogmanay is about passion and revelry, celebrated by the Scots at new year, and I am biased but it is one of the greatest celebrations in the world. With Edinburgh fireworks over the historic rock-perched Castle. To less well known traditions like the fierce swinging of flaming balls in east coast town of Stonehaven. Other traditions are no longer practiced such as the seemingly violent stick beating of boys wrapped in animal hinds as they run through the village*. Whilst more hospitable traditions remain such as ‘first footing’ - involving a dark-haired male bringing symbolic gifts of coal, shortbread or a wee dram of whisky to ensure good luck to the household.
Hogmanay has been influenced from different nationalities, it had pagan routes and many of these traditions likes the torch like procession were adopted from the Viking days. The word Hogmanay has its origins from the French term ‘hoginane’ meaning ‘gala day’, which may have adopted by Mary Queen of Scots after returning from France*.
As we all celebrate Hogmanay tonight let us raise a glass - a wee dram for me- to the iPlacenta ESRs and PIs. All of the iPlacenta ESRs moved to a new country to work with passion and revelry in their new labs, adopting the local traditions. As we start to wish them good luck on their new adventures, the mobility enforced by Marie Curie ITNs will result in some of their traditions being adopted by the host lab.
As we bid 2021 farewell it soon will be time to do the same to iPlacenta. The Marie Curie ITN was due to finish on 31st of December 2021 -but thankfully has been extended by 5 months- it is only apt to finally mention the midnight tradition of Hogmanay- singing of Robert Burns’ ‘Auld Lang Syne’ after the bells. A folk song reminiscing of the past, we too can remember the 4-years of iPlacenta days gone by, collaborations and friends made. But let us also look forward to 2022, like 'first footing' a bounty of gifts will arrive on our doorstep - papers accepted, thesis defended, and collaborations maintained.
‘We’ll take a cup o kindness yet, for auld lang syne’.
Happy Hogmanay iPlacenta and friends.
Everyone knows what it is like to look at someone’s eyes. A brief but powerful feeling may invade us: love, admiration, anxiety or even fear. We can also experience different sensations according to the length or circumstance of the gaze: Staring directly into someone’s eyes causes an arousal reaction, however, too much eye contact can make us uncomfortable; waiting for the last bus at midnight and seeing somebody looking at you may evoke fear, whereas you feel relaxed if this person averts gazing away from you.
For sure, some phrases like “the eyes are the window to the soul” and “I can see it in your eyes” sound poetic. But what else can the eyes tell us? And why am I, an Obstetrician, writing about this?
COVID-19 infection during pregnancy increases severe maternal morbidity and death. In particular, pregnant women with SARS-CoV-2 infection are at increased risk of respiratory problems and admission to the intensive care unit . Moreover, their babies can be born before the term and admitted to neonatal intensive care unit more frequently than babies from pregnancies without COVID-19. There has been interesting evidence about a possible relationship between pre-eclampsia and COVID-19 infection in pregnancy. However, the type of relationship between them is still unclear. I would like to summarize what we have learnt so far from the literature.
Hi, it's iPLACENTA project manager Mirren writing here. I have just witnessed the six teams in our Enterprising Skills Training Programme deliver their end-of-programme business pitches and wow, I was impressed.
Infertility is at its all-time high with one in six couples in Europe unable to conceive naturally. Some researchers suggest that by the year 2050 most couples would need to resort to IVF assisted pregnancies. So, what exactly is infertility and how are we disrupting fertility?
It’s been a while since I wrote an article for the blog, and maybe because I am feeling a little cheesy, a little homesick and the weather has gone back to winter even though we are in the middle of spring... I have decided to get personal, and share some of the “workings of my heart” (“Emma”, 2009, BBC TV serial).
This time I would like to introduce you to one of the tools we use to assess the well-being of babies in the womb. As many of you know, ultrasound gives us a lot of useful information about the baby, for example, the estimated fetal weight, the amount of amniotic fluid, detection of malformations, etc. But today I would like to explain, above all, how we get information about the placenta and whether the fetus is receiving enough nutrients, among other parameters that I will explain below.
(c) Artwork by Audrey Bell
How are living beings created? Where is all this diversity coming from? Proteins are the building blocks of living organisms. Those small molecules have their own specific function, and work together in a well-orchestrated way to ensure that we can grow, breathe, and keep healthy at all times. In order to function properly, we require a massive number of proteins: one human alone can produce up to 400 000 different types! And yet, our DNA only contains an average of 20 000 to 25 000 genes. It means that genes alone do not account for the diversity of proteins created: the “1 gene -> 1 protein” model we are generally taught is actually a very simplistic representation of a more complex reality. Alternative splicing is one of the twists and turns happening on the journey from a gene to a protein, enabling the creation of several types of proteins from a single gene. What is behind this very science-y term? How does this crucial process work, and why is it so important?
I would like to introduce you to epigenetics. This very fancy word caught my attention while I was in undergraduate school and later on during my MSc. Probably the discovery of this part of molecular biology led me to pursue a PhD in epigenetics, as Steve Jobs would have said... connecting dots!
When I was in undergrad school, suddenly a very naive question popped out in my head: all cells in our body have the same DNA... however, the cells present in the brain and the cells in the skin are very very different... How is this possible?? It is almost the same as asking... how do genetically identical twins show a wide variety of differences?
About the blog
Being a PhD student in a European training network is a life-changing adventure. Moving to a new country, carrying out a research project, facing scientific (and cultural) challenges, travelling around Europe and beyond… Those 3 years certainly do bring their part of new - sometimes frightening - but always enriching experiences.