Imperial College London

Isolation insights and microbial adaptability: News from the College

by , ,

An elderly man looking out of a window

Here’s a batch of fresh news and announcements from across Imperial.

From insights into social isolation during lockdown, to deeper understanding of microbial adaptability, here is some quick-read news from across the College.

Lockdown isolation insights

One in 10 older adults reported increased feelings of depression and/or anxiety due to social isolation during the first UK national lockdown, according to a survey from Imperial researchers. 

Drs Catherine Robb and Celeste de Jager-Loots and colleagues from the AGE Research Unit contacted more than 7000 men and women over 50 as part of the study and found that risk factors included being female, of younger age, living alone, poor sleep and experiencing loneliness.

The team suggests that as in-person activities are limited by restrictions, the use of technologies, such as apps, may play an important role in reducing the risk of loneliness, anxiety and depression in older people.

But lack of access could potentially exclude significant numbers of particularly vulnerable older people.

Read the full paper, published in Frontiers in Psychology: Associations of Social Isolation with Anxiety and Depression During the Early COVID-19 Pandemic: A Survey of Older Adults in London, UK

Biomolecular insights

An illustration of a moleculeMass spectrometry is a technique used to figure out the composition and structure of molecules. However, the measurements gained from large biomolecules like peptides and proteins can be too complex to provide meaningful insights into the structure.

Now, researchers from Imperial have created a method that can extract more detail from these measurements. The software they created, available from Imperial.tech, can apply this method on standard, existing mass spectrometers, potentially allowing new discoveries to be made. For example, lead researcher Dr Marina Edelson-Averbukh from the Department of Physics invented the technique as a means to uncover new therapeutic targets for breast cancer.

Read more in Physics Today and read the full paper in Physical Review X: “Two-Dimensional Partial-Covariance Mass Spectrometry of Large Molecules Based on Fragment Correlations

Adapting to a heating world

Microbes under the microscopeA moderate increase in temperature generally promotes microbial growth, but some microbes are more sensitive to it than others. To find out why that might be, researchers from the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial and Oxford University examined the evolutionary history of microbes including algae, bacteria, archaea and terrestrial plants, which are the main ‘drivers’ of the global carbon cycle

They found that across these groups, adaptation to differing thermal environments has led to relatively large and rapid shifts in sensitivity to temperature. This indicates that microbes have a strong potential to adapt to a warming environment, and provides a basis for better understanding how adaptation could mediate the effects of climate change on the functioning of local ecosystems as well as the global carbon cycle.

Read the full paper in PLOS Biology: “Adaptive evolution shapes the present-day distribution of the thermal sensitivity of population growth rate

Want to be kept up to date on news at Imperial?

Sign up for our free quick-read daily e-newsletter, Imperial Today

Imperial Today on an iPad

Reporters

Ryan O'Hare

Ryan O'Hare
Communications and Public Affairs

Click to expand or contract

Contact details

Tel: +44 (0)20 7594 2410
Email: r.ohare@imperial.ac.uk

Show all stories by this author

Hayley Dunning

Hayley Dunning
Communications and Public Affairs

Click to expand or contract

Contact details

Tel: +44 (0)20 7594 2412
Email: h.dunning@imperial.ac.uk

Show all stories by this author

Andrew Youngson

Andrew Youngson
Communications and Public Affairs

Tags:

Coronavirus, News-in-brief, Climate-change
See more tags

Leave a comment

Your comment may be published, displaying your name as you provide it, unless you request otherwise. Your contact details will never be published.