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This week's Friday Five: 29/7/22

AI programme discovers the structure of almost all proteins known to science

DeepMind, an AI company owned by the same parent company as Google, has used its AlphaFold technology to unveil the structure of more than 200 million proteins.

The potential of this discovery has beneficial implications for a huge range of disciplines, including vaccine manufacturing, treating genetic diseases, and addressing plastic pollution and antibiotic resistance. One example is the recent discovery of the protein structure of phosphoprotein 1, which is destroyed in the brains of patients with Parkinson’s disease. The protein structure was previously unknown, but now AlphaMind has paved the way for future experiments to target this protein and benefit the field of Parkinson’s disease research.

Dr Demis Hassabis, CEO and Founder of DeepMind, said: “It was also a great demonstration of how AI can be used to advance scientific discovery and it has provided structural biologists with this powerful new tool to look up the 3D structure of a protein almost as easily as doing a keyword Google search and, as we know, the 3D structure of proteins is vital for understanding their function.”

Read the full story in The Telegraph.

Health Education England announce that medical degree apprenticeship programme will begin next year

Health Education England have approved their medical degree apprenticeship scheme, which could begin as early as September 2023.

The scheme hopes to help the recruitment of doctors, especially those who may not be able to afford medical school fees. Students will be employed throughout the 60-month long degree, learning on the job through clinical placements as well as attending medical school lectures.

HEE medical director for undergraduate education, Professor Liz Hughes said: “At present, there are many barriers that exist and which hold back talented people. An apprenticeship could help to change that, whilst maintaining exactly the same high standards of training.”

Read the full story in Pulse.

Tavistock gender clinic ordered to close

The gender identity service at Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust has been ordered to close over accusations that the centre rushes children into puberty blocker treatment and fails to meet the holistic needs of distressed and vulnerable patients.

Dr Hilary Cass, a paediatrician leading a review of the service, recommends that the centre is replaced with regional hubs at existing children’s hospitals that have better links to mental health services.

Cass said: “Staff should maintain a broad clinical perspective in order to embed the care of children and young people with gender uncertainty within a broader child and adolescent health context.”

Read the full story in The Times.

Two common viruses underly cause of child hepatitis outbreak

Experts have discovered that two common viruses, adenovirus and adeno-associated virus two, may have triggered the recent rise in child hepatitis cases.

Researchers say that infants were exposed to these two viruses later than usual due to the pandemic lockdowns, meaning that they missed out on early immunity. Some children fell seriously ill after contracting hepatitis, with numerous requiring liver transplants.

Professor Judith Breuer, an expert in virology at University College London and Great Ormond Street Hospital, said: “During the lockdown period when children were not mixing, they were not transmitting viruses to each other. When the restrictions were lifted, children began to mix, viruses began to circulate freely – and they suddenly were exposed with this lack of prior immunity to a whole battery of new infections.”

Read the full story in BBC News.

Quote of the week

Researchers at Strathclyde University in Scotland have been involved in a new treatment for bowel cancer diagnosis, which may replace traditional endoscopy tubes with a small, pill shaped camera that can take pictures of the intestines after being swallowed by patients.

Brian Hills, Chief Executive of The Data Lab, said: “It has the potential to make bowel cancer diagnosis and treatment more cost effective, less invasive, and easier for patients than existing procedures, and has fantastic potential to reduce the capacity pressures NHS health boards across the UK are experiencing.”

Read the full story in PharmiWeb.

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