March 05, 2011

Warwick Week – Water efficient seeds, training doctors in Malawi, and why family meals are essential

New path to water efficient seeds discovered

Research by University of Warwick's School of Life Sciences has opened up a new path to produce water efficient seeds that will be a significant tool to help create drought resistance, and ensure global food security. The research team, led by Dr Lorenzo Frigerio, looked at two proteins that are members of the large family of "Major Intrinsic Proteins", or MIPs, which are widespread among living organisms and are known to act as water channels governing water uptake.

The researchers focussed much of their attention on an understudied group of intrinsic proteins known as "Tonoplast Intrinsic Proteins" or TIPs. The University of Warwick's research team work not only resulted in the most complete plant TIP expression map produced to date - it also threw up a major surprise in that they found that TIP not only had a role to play in water management in seed maturation and germination - in fact they found that it probably plays the crucial water management role.

Dr Frigerio said:

We are now on the right path to build a real understanding of how water uptake is regulated in seed development and germination. That understanding will help researchers produce seeds to meet the challenges of Global climate change, and food security through improved  drought resistance and increased water use efficiency.

Find out more at PhysOrg >>

£12 million to help local SMEs design products that even targets customers' emotional experience

A new £12 million programme has just be announced to help Midlands SMEs access some the world's leading product and service design Technology. The new International Institute for Product and Service Innovation (IIPSI) at WMG at the University of Warwick, is jointly funded by the European Regional Development Fund and the University of Warwick in a funding partnership brought together by the regional development agency, Advantage West Midlands (AWM).

The institute will bring into one place some of the world's leading product and service technologies including:  multi functional polymers that enable advanced electronics and functionality to be embedded in three dimensional plastic moulded components, and digital design tools that will allow the creation of virtual products that can shared with production partners. However the very latest digital design tools that will be available to SMEs the new institute  will go one step further than most in that they will also be designed deliver the best emotional experience for consumers.

WMG Director Professor Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya said:

Today even the most low tech of products benefit enormously from the latest design technology in creating them and fitting them for the marketplace. The best product design technology will ensure that even the sound, feel and look of a product is perfected and even tailored to the customer's desires. This new International Institute for Product and Service Innovation will allow Midlands SME to find the technology they need to deliver that customer expectation.

Find out more in the press release >>

€2.6 million research project to prevent mothers and babies dying in Malawi

Warwick Medical School has just begun a €2.6 million three year research and training programme to train Malawian clinical officers in a bid to reduce the country's high death rate for pregnant mothers and babies. Their aim is to train 50 clinical officers as advanced leaders who will then be expected to teach and cascade to others what they have learnt.

In a country with a population of just over 14 million, only 40 doctors complete their training each year and there is a chronic shortage of skilled obstetricians. By training up the existing network of non-physician clinicians - who would be described as somewhere between midwives and obstetricians in this country - Warwick doctors are sharing their expertise to ensure they are taught the extra skills to deal with the 15 per cent of pregnancies which end up in difficult births and improve the care for mothers and newborns to increase their chances of survival.

Dr Paul O'Hare, Reader in Medicine from the University of Warwick Medical School, said:

There are probably more Malawian doctors in Manchester, than there are in the whole of Malawi. Whilst it's difficult to stem the numbers of qualified doctors leaving Africa for better pay and work conditions elsewhere, what we can practically do is ensure that the existing clinical officers and midwives are provided with the a higher level of clinical training and education. This means, for example, not only teaching them to improve their surgical skills such as C-Sections, but to be more aware that the aftercare treatment can have a profound effect on survival rates.

Find out more in the press release >>

Family meals are the key to happiness

A study conducted by academics from the universities of Warwick, Essex, Oxford and Surrey suggests that eating a family meal at least three times a week will strengthen bonds between parents and children, and prevent family breakdowns.

Other findings included that married couples are most likely to happy with their relationships, yet the longer a couple stays together, the more dissatisfied they are likely to become with each other.

The findings are among the first results to emerge from Understanding Society, a £50 million, government-funded study following the lives of 100,000 people in 40,000 households across the country.

Find out more in the Daily Telegraph >>

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