ARCHAEOLOGY AND ANCIENT HISTORY
Professor C Ruggles
Ancient Hawaiian Skies: Archaeoastronomical Fieldwork in Maui and Molokai
£3,650 British Academy
This project forms part of a longer-term research programme which aims to advance our understanding of the development of ancient Polynesian cultures through an integrated study of sky knowledge in its broader archaeological and historical context. An important aspect of this work is to obtain data on the form, spatial layout, location (within the natural and cultural landscape) and astronomical potential of sacred temples and shrines known as heiau. A first reconnaissance of the island of Maui in 2002, funded by the Royal Society, drew attention to a remote area known as Kahikinui, where there is an evident trend amongst the heiau orientations that appears to relate to the horizon rising position of the Pleiades, an asterism known to have been of particular significance in the Hawaiian ritual calendar. The objective of the first period of fieldwork funded under this grant, in spring 2003, is to back this up with accurate surveys of the Kahikinui heiau. A second expedition in the summer will undertake a first reconnaissance of the adjacent island of
Professor G Roberts
Molecular enzymology studies of cytotoxic prodrug activation by human
cytochrome P450 reductase - Fellowship for Dr A Gutierrez
£328,152 Wellcome Trust
An essential attribute of anti-cancer drugs is obviously that they should kill tumour cells selectively. In one group of anti-cancer drugs (both existing drugs and others being developed) this selectivity is achieved by the fact that they only become active when reduced in the relatively oxygen-poor environment in the middle of a tumour. This reduction is carried out by the enzyme cytochrome P450 reductase. Dr. Gutierrez has earlier used advanced methods which make it possible to follow rapid (millisecond) reactions to elucidate the mechanism of this enzyme in its 'natural' role. The award of this prestigious Fellowship will now allow him to apply this understanding to investigating the mechanism by which the enzyme activates anti-cancer drugs. This will make an important contribution to the design of improved drugs of this type.
PHYSIOLOGY AND PHARMACOLOGY
Dr S Ennion
Transcriptional control mechanisms in the human P2X1 and P2X3 genes
One of the ways cells receive information is by the passage of minute electrical currents through ion channel proteins in their membranes. P2X channels open after detecting adenosine triphosphate (ATP) outside the cell. There are seven different P2X channels each with distinct properties. Therefore, the type and amount of P2X channel produced by a cell will determine how it responds to ATP signals. P2X channels are important in a wide range of processes including male fertility and in the sensation of pain. Furthermore, changes in P2X expression patterns occur in heart disease. It is therefore important to understand the mechanisms controlling production of these proteins. This project will identify DNA sequences and proteins involved in switching P2X genes on and off. This will enable us to determine the mechanisms by which different cell types express different P2X proteins and better understand why changes occur in some diseases.
Characterising the mechanisms of established and potential neuroprotectants
and tinnitolytics in the mammalian cochlea: physiology, pharmacology,
£32,000 Action for Tinnitus Research
The new family of voltage dependent sodium channel blockers (VDSCBs) derived from the drug Lamotrogine, were developed for use as anticonvulsants. Interestingly, they have also been shown to have neuroprotectant properties that can reduce damage in the brain from stroke. It also appears that drugs from this family may now also be able to protect the ear from noise damage. Moreover, they may also be able to ameliorate certain kinds of tinnitus, particularly those that are arise have an epileptiform characteristic.
It appears that the VDSCBs act by damping down higher levels of activity of the voltage activated sodium channels in neurones, whilst leaving lower to medium levels of neural activity unaffected. The aim of this project is to characterise in detail how these drugs are acting in the auditory nerve during noise exposure. This will give important clues as to how this group of drugs can be developed further as neuroprotectants, both in the ear and the central nervous system, and as tinnitolytics.
Professor W Charemza
Nonlinearity and stochastic unit roots in economic time series
£10,130 Leverhulme Trust
The project stems from the conjecture that failure of contemporary empirical economic models to forecast properly is due to their weak mathematical foundations. It has been found out that scholars from St. Petersburg (Russia) have developed appropriate theoretical foundations, which can be adopted aiming at more effective modelling of economic time series. It is likely that, as the result of four months of close collaboration with Russian academics a substantial progress in developing new modelling and forecasting techniques will be achieved. These techniques will be then used for the analysis of
worldwide economic and financial data.
The macroeconomic impact of political violence in Israel and Egypt
Israel/Palestine and Egypt have experienced various types of political conflict over recent years. Both violent attacks by groups opposed to the established state and the state’s reprisals have have a direct or indirect effect on a large proportion of society. There has also been violent inter-ethnic / inter-religious conflict within the civilian population. However, the intensity of these conflicts has varied substantially over time. We will use this variation to explore the extent to which changes in conflict intensity (measured in different ways) are associated with changes in economic performance (measured in different ways). We will see how political change impacts on the economy, and also whether such change is itself responsive to economic conditions. Our results will aid the calculation of the size of any peace dividend, and inform the political and economic policy interventions of international institutions.
Dr A Svalberg
The Grammar Awareness in Lebanon Project
£2,500 Council for British Research in the Levant
This project looks at the appropriacy of inductive Language Awareness activities in a Lebanese cultural setting. Questions asked are how Lebanese students and teachers perceive and engage with such tasks. In addition to the principal researcher, the project will involve a number of Lebanese secondary school teachers in collaborative action research.
Dr M Pont
Design and Implementation of Safety-Critical Control and Monitoring Systems
£183,660 Leverhulme Trust
This three-year project will be carried out in the Embedded Systems Laboratory (ESL) at the University of Leicester. Previous work by ESL researchers has resulted in the creation of a comprehensive “pattern language” that supports the development of reliable software for a range of embedded systems (such as automotive and aerospace designs) where reliability is a key design consideration. The present project, funded by an award from the Leverhulme Trust to the University of Leicester, will be managed by the Dr. Michael Pont (Head of the ESL), and will involve the appointment of two new researchers to the laboratory. The programme of work will involve the design and implementation of a realistic and representative hardware testbed. This testbed will then be used to assess and compare different (software) architectures for use in distributed embedded systems
Dr M Plumb
Hemopoietic Stem Cell Numbers and Risk of Radiation-Induced Acute Myeloid
Leukemia in the Mouse
£26,332 Leukaemia Research Fund
Acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) is the result of the accumulation of mutations in a bone marrow stem cell over time. The risk of AML increases with age and is determined by the mutation rate and the number of genetic lesions required for malignant transformation. Exposure to ionising radiation increases the mutation rate and the risk of malignant transformation. Genetic studies of a mouse model of radiation-induced AML suggests that one genetically determined risk factor is the number of target bone marrow stem cells. We will employ genetic and biological techniques to test the hypothesis that stem cell numbers is a risk factor in AML.
Dr F Mayle
Quaternary history of neotropical dry forests
£19,464 The Leverhulme Trust
Tropical dry forests are the most endangered tropical ecosystem on Earth, of which the Chiquitano Dry Forest of eastern Bolivia constitutes the largest remaining expanse. Understanding the long-term responses of this ecosystem to past climate change is critical to determining the origin of its high biodiversity. It has been hypothesised that the Chiquitano Dry Forest constitutes an ancient biological refugium of a formerly far more extensive distribution at the height of the last ice age, and that this biogeographic history accounts for its high species diversity. The aim of this project is to use fossil pollen analysis of lake sediment cores to test this widely held hypothesis.
Dr W Cunningham
Earthquake Geology, NW Slovenia
£3,570 The Royal Society
One of the least studied, but most interesting belts of active faulting and historical earthquakes within Europe occurs in northwestern and western Slovenia where the Alps and Dinaride mountain ranges intersect. Within this zone, a 20km-wide belt of active crustal deformation named the Idrija Line poses a seismic hazard to large cities in the region where over 5 million people live including Trieste, Udine, Ljubljana, Fiume and Zagreb. The objective of this project is to conduct field studies and analyse satellite imagery to document the geometry and distribution of active faults and growing anticlines along the Idrija Line and to analyze the tectonic geomorphology of the area for more subtle insights into the style and distribution of Quaternary deformation. This primary fieldwork is essential for future earthquake forecasting and for understanding geodetic data on regional displacement patterns.
The interplay between phytoplankton and climate: the Palaeozoic record
£124,682 The Leverhulme Trust
The objectives of this research are to determine trends and patterns in the
temporal and biogeographical record of marine phytoplankton from the Cambrian to the Permian (545 ? 248 million years ago). These patterns will
be related to cyclic changes in the Earth?s climatic regime during this interval, when fluctuations between warm and cool (including glacial)
phases are evident.
It is of major interest to understand how these climatic phases affected, and were affected by, plankton productivity in the oceans. In addition,
the role of Palaeozoic phytoplankton in the history of global biodiversity has been severely neglected. There is a pressing need to integrate this
oceanic microflora, which forms the basis of the marine food web, into models of extinction and radiation in the history of life.
Specialists on Palaeozoic phytoplankton are very few in number, and they are distributed in a small number of institutions worldwide. Each of these
research units is investigating a limited part of the phytoplankton record, both geographically and temporally. A complete overview, on the ambitious
scale envisaged here, requires the pooling of data and ideas from all of these groups through the interchange mechanism supported by this grant.
Cloning of Pneumocystis Carinii Chromosome Ends
£34,243 NIH via University of Cincinnati
Pneumocystis carinii is a fungal pathogen that causes PCP pneumonia in immune compromised patients and is a particular problem in
AIDS patients. This organism cannot be cultured making genome projects and analysis difficult. The chromosome ends are particularly difficult to clone
and physically analyse yet they contain many genes of interest involved in the pathogenecity of this organism. We have developed a telomere cloning
technology that can be applied to almost any organism including difficult ones like P. carinii and are using it to clone chromosome ends as part of
the genome project being organised in the US.
Dr N Aston
The Eighteenth Century Scottish Studies Society Conference
£350 British Academy
The Eighteenth-Century Scottish Studies Society this year holds its annual conference (10-12 April) in the historic district of Charleston, South Carolina. The leading subject for discussion will be the Scottish poet, philsopher, and man of letters, James Beattie, for the bicentennial of Beattie's death falls this year. AS well as chairing panels, Dr Nigel Aston of the School of Historical Studies will be presenting a paper on Beattie's religious identity for, as one of David Hume's principal opponents and a leading anglophile, Beattie was one of the foremost religious apologists of the eighteenth century, and yet his own Church allegiance remains both complicated and relatively unexplored. He was, throughout his life, a restless member of the established Church in Scotland and yet, when opportunity offered, he declined to leave it. Aston hopes that, by surveying Beattie's own public religious life, some of the wider fault lines and areas of confessional convergence in eighteenth century Britain will appear in enhanced relief.
Monopoly and Privilege: A reassessment of the British Trade to Asia, 1700-1813
£15,000 National Maritime Museum
This project is based upon an interlinked study of the three major components of British trade with Asia during the first ‘global age’ of the world economy. It examines the East India Company’s trade; the private ‘privilege’ trade of the commanders and officers of East India Company ships; and smuggling, interloping, and the ‘clandestine trade’ conducted via Europe. The study aims in particular to re-evaluate the relationship between Company trade and private trade in the development of British economic activity in Asia. This will enable a detailed re-estimation to be made of the value and volume of British manufactures and raw materials exported to Asia, and it will facilitate the reconstruction of the supply and transfer chains that linked specialised producers in Britain with purchasers and consumers in India and China. In overall terms, the study will more fully establish the levels of integration between the British economy and expanding overseas markets.
MATHEMATICS AND COMPUTER SCIENCE
Dr S Koenig, Dr A Henke
Cellular Algebras: Structures Theory and Applications
£18,000 Royal Society
Leicester's pure mathematics group is leading a Chinese-European network
7in the subject area of algebras and representations. This network runs a
sandwich PhD programme for Chinese students, it organises workshops and
conferences and it funds collaborations between Chinese and UK/European
researchers. The grant RP15054 provides additional funding for scientific
collaboration between researchers from Beijing Normal University and from
Leicester. The organisers of the network and holders of this grant are
Professor Steffen Koenig and Dr Anne Henke.
Dr S Koenig, Dr A Henke
Actions of the Braid Group on Derived Categories
of Representations of Simple Lie Algebras
A group is a way of measuring the symmetries of an object. For example a square has a symmetry group with 8 elements: 4 reflections and 4 rotations (including 0 degrees). A braid is a way of twisting strings around each other, and the collection of all braids forms a group. Its natural definition means that it is prevalent in many areas of mathematics. Symmetry also plays a role in the more abstract setting of algebras, which are spaces in which elements can also be multiplied; natural examples include spaces of matrices (arrays of numbers). In order to understand an algebra, it is useful to represent it by transformations. The links between different representations can be studied via the derived category associated to the algebra. In some cases, the braid group is known to be the symmetry group of the derived category of an algebra, but it is not really understood why. We aim to use the "Category O" (from Lie theory) to construct and understand such examples, while at the same time deepening the understanding of the Category O itself. The awarded funds are for employment of the research assistant and to cover meetings with experts in the field and dissemination.
Dr L Anderson
Evaluation of professional perceptions of multi disciplinary teamwork for
children with complex needs
£10,000 Leicester City West PCT
This work aims to assess professional perceptions of the extent to which team working is fostered through inter-disciplinary working, for disabled children.
Professions have historically developed their own cultures, beliefs and models for achieving optimal patient care. Bringing together different disciplines can create tension while developing a shared focus. These tensions can create problems for team working. Team working in health care has historically been difficult where some professions are seen or perceived by other group members as more important or central while others are peripheral.
Using qualitative research methods 75% of health care staff will be consulted to share their views on team working through focus groups and interview questionnaires. A section of the questionnaire will enable professionals’ to assess their experiences against key dynamics of successful team working. The outcomes will enable the Specialist Children’s Child Health Services to assess the extent professionals perceive they have engaged in effective team working, consider identified problems and solutions required to foster and develop effective team working.
Professor L Ziegler-Heitbrock
Regulation of the immunosuppressive IL-10 gene by interferons
The immune system is regulated by cytokines. Most cytokines are stimulatory but Interleukin-10 is one of a few that down-regulate immune response and inflammation. Therefore, the controlled production of Interleukin-10 is very important in order to avoid excessive and damaging effects of the immune system. Interleukin-10 is produced by different leukocytes and among these monocytes are a major source of this cytokine. The project aims at understanding how the production of Interleukin-10 is controlled in these cells. This is done by analysing transcription factors, which bind to DNA motifs in the promoter and thereby stimulate or repress expression of the gene. These analyses will exploit the new technology of adenoviral reporter constructs that allows for promoter analysis in primary monocytes. Knowledge of the factors that control the Interleukin-10 gene in human leukocytes may open new avenues for intervention in the treatment of diseases involving the immune response.
Supplement - The effects of catechomine stress hormones, ionotropes and their
metabolites on the physiology and virulence of coagulase-negative
£12,579 The Wellcome Trust
Opportunistic infections by bacteria normally resident in the body as harmless commensals are a major problem in the clinical care of patients in intensive care units. Particularly worrying is sepsis resulting from colonisation of intravenous catheter lines by the skin bacteria coagulase-negative staphylococci. Environmental factors that affect the growth and virulence of these bacteria are still poorly understood. However, we have recently shown that catecholamine inotropes, a class of drugs routinely administered via intravenous lines to maintain heart and kidney function, massively increase the growth of these organisms, and induce physiological changes that enhance their ability to grow within catheter lines. This project, funded by the Wellcome Trust, seeks to determine the mechanism by which these effects occur, so as to inform the development of inotropic treatments that will reduce the risks of catheter colonisation and sepsis. The ultimate aim is to improve the clinical care of critically ill patients.
Professor T Robinson
Short term visit by Dr Nikalai Borisov
£4,311 The Royal Society
The Radio and Space Plasma Physics Group's SPEAR (Space Plasma Exploration by Active Radar) facility, which has received a grant of
£2.4M from the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC), will shortly be completed and begin operations on
Svalbard. This major new radar is the focus of the UK's effort in research into
the Earth's Aerospace environment and is attracting considerable attention, internationally, from space plasma physicists who want to
participate in our exciting new research programme. This small grant from the Royal Society will enable one of our colleagues from Russia,
Dr. Nikolai Borisov, to spend 3 months in Leicester, working with the group on some theoretical aspects of SPEAR science. In particular we
are going to investigate theoretically the processes by which the SPEAR high power radio waves will interact with the ionosphere to
form striations that act as targets for radars operated by our Radio and Space Plasma Physics group in Northern Scandinavia. These
processes allow us to follow the motions of the charged particles that cause the aurora and which also deposit large amounts of energy
from the Sun into the Earth's upper atmosphere. Our ultimate goal is to understand better the solar-terrestrial processes which control
the Earth's climate.
A Study for the Development of a Micro-Channel Plate Based Fast Neutron
£10,000 DSTL Fort Halstead
A novel detector concept is being explored for the non-destructive radiographic inspection of large samples or structures using high-energy neutrons. The energy of the neutrons can be tuned to provide information of the elemental composition of the sample probed. This new detector concept will make use of a combination of technologies: a microchannel plate to detect the neutrons and convert their energy signatures to electrons and an amorphous silicon thin film transistor array to detect the electrons and generate an image. The improved detector resolution and efficiency should make it easier to inspect large rock samples for their mineral content or in the case of homeland security explosives or contraband.
Dr P Moran
Research Grant - The effect of MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxmethamphetamine)
"ecstasy" on impulsivity
£750 AstraZeneca UK
The drug “ecstasy” is increasingly used by greater numbers of young people. Its long term effects on brain function and behaviour are not well understood. Our previous research has indicated that ecstasy can produce long term changes in anxiety behaviour. We will follow up this study to determine whether such long term changed are seen in impulsive behaviour which is subserved by a similar neural substrate to anxiety. This will contribute to our understanding of the long term behavioural changes following ecstasy and help to localise its effects to specific brain systems.
Professor M Galinanes
Myocardial Regeneration by Autologus Mesenchymal Stem Cell Therapy - Prize
Fellowship Dr L Shenje
£148,951 Bristol-Myers Squibb
In the future stem cell therapy may be used for the treatment of heart failure. Understanding the signaling pathways of differentiation of these cells would facilitate ways of inducing lineage specific differentiation as a part of cellular therapy for myocardial regeneration and treatment of heart failure. Ischaemic heart disease is the single largest cause of death in the UK. There are approximately 300,000 new myocardial infarctions per year. Half of those affected die immediately, 30 % die within the first three years after the event and the remainder although alive at 10 years, have significant restriction in life style.
Recent findings showing that human bone marrow cells (MMSCs) develop into heart cells challenge the assertion that heart muscle cannot be regenerated. Preliminary studies in our department have shown that injection of bone marrow stem cells into myocardial infarct scars of patients is safe and improves myocardial function although how this occurs is not known. We will investigate these conditions and the likely mechanisms involved. This may help the development of new treatment for failing hearts.
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