Imperial College London

Refugee mental health and malarial mysteries: News from the College

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Refugee women carrying supplies in a camp

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

From a study of refugee mothers’ mental health, to a new method for cracking a malarial mystery, here is some quick-read news from across the College.

Refugee mental health

Refugee women carry supplies in a campA small study of women in the Middle East has found very high rates depressive symptoms among mothers living in refugee camps.

In a survey of 60 Syrian and Lebanese women in Beirut, Imperial researchers found that Syrian refugee mothers had more symptoms of depression, with three-quarters warranting psychiatric assessment.

The findings, published this month in Scientific Reports, reveal that symptoms were made worse when the women were illegal residents, had domestic violence or a history of mental illness.

An estimated 5.5 million people have been displaced by the civil war in Syria, one million of whom are believed to be in neighbouring Lebanon.

Dr Kerrie Stevenson, from the Institute of Reproductive and Developmental Biology, said the work highlights the “urgent need for more research focusing on mental health of refugees, and to improve their access to mental health services”.

SUNRISE teams up with ENERGY-X


Two huge EU Horizon 2020 projects have joined forces to work towards a clean-energy future.

SUNRISE, which includes Imperial College London as a collaborator, is merging with ENERGY-X. Both projects originally received €1 million from the European Commission to develop a detailed proposal for a large-scale research initiative, culminating in the two merging in February 2020.

SUNRISE and ENERGY-X aim to develop sustainable approaches for the storage of renewable energy (solar and wind) through its conversion to fuels and commodity chemicals using abundant molecules such as carbon dioxide, water and nitrogen.

A Physics Honour

Dame Sue IonThe Institute of Physics has announced Dame Sue Ion as one of its 2019 Honorary Fellows. Dame Ion is a visiting professor at Imperial’s Department of Materials, and a key figure in the nuclear power industry.

Dame Ion has been made an Honorary Fellow ‘for her internationally recognised expertise in energy and energy policy and tireless advocacy of the safe and efficient use of nuclear power for a better world’.

Her outreach activities focus on explaining the role of science and engineering in the modern world and the need to build and maintain the supporting skills required for the future. She actively engages with schools and colleges and is an inspirational figure in promoting the role of women in science and engineering.

Image credit: Duncan Hull (via Wikimedia Commons)

A new tool to crack malaria infection

An illustration o a parasite infecting a red blood cellThe symptoms of malaria are triggered when the parasites that cause the disease invade their host’s red blood cells (RBCs), but exactly how they do this is debated. To find out, researchers would like to make RBCs that have something missing – such as a protein – and see what affect this has on parasite invasion.

However, RBCs cannot be genetically modified in this way because they lose their DNA genetic code as they mature. Instead, researchers at Imperial and the University of Bristol have used stem cells that become RBCs, taking advantage of a stage when they still have DNA.

Knocking out a gene for surface proteins in these specialised cells and replacing it with different forms revealed for the first time some of the hidden biology of parasite invasion. 

Using this specialised stem-cell approach should enable researchers to test myriad theories about parasite invasion and ultimately find ways to block it, stopping malaria disease.

Read more from the University of Bristol and in Nature Communications.

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Hayley Dunning

Hayley Dunning
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Andrew Youngson

Andrew Youngson
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Ryan O'Hare
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Caroline Brogan

Caroline Brogan
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