October 1, 2020

Episode 12 - Snail fever

Turning our attention away from Covid, we look at a different disease that has plagued humanity since the time of the ancient Egyptians - and still claims 280,000 lives every year. What’s all the more tragic, is it's curable by modern medicine. We hear from 2 researchers who are part of a multinational, multidiscipline team who are trying to finally eradicate it.

WISER: Water Infrastructure for Schistosomiasis-Endemic Regions

From the humble AAs we stick into the back of our TV remote controls, to our phones, laptops, and increasingly, our cars, batteries are now everywhere to be found. We hear from someone who spends more time than most of us examining these magical capsules that power our lives, and looks at what exciting new ways we could use them.

Ethical and environmental battery brands: https://www.ethicalconsumer.org/energy/shopping-guide/batteries 

We have a returning guest with some exciting results from the initial tests of the vaccine! Anna Blakney gives us an update on vaccine trials, including when they now think it will be ready, along with her take on public health measures and the use of masks.

Continuing on from the last episode, Kieran hears about the work of a team at Imperial College who are now grappling with the next big challenge to producing a Covid-19 vaccine: how to make enough of the vaccine for billions of people. And since it's mental health week, we speak to the team about the pressures they face and how they are managing to cope.

Most of us have been in some form of lock down now for several weeks. The only sure way we can get back to the life we had before is with a vaccine, which is what researchers at Imperial College London are trying to develop. Kieran speaks to one of the team about what it’s like developing arguably the most urgent tool ever needed.

Music: Viral Counterpoint of the Coronavirus Spike Protein by Markus J Buehler.

Carbon capture is muted by some as a key tool in the fight against that other huge challenge facing human kind, climate change. Kieran finds out more about this emerging field by going on a tour of Europe’s first educational carbon capture pilot plant, and discovers how recycled carbon could be used to make mattresses!

From HG Wells to David Bowie, "is there life on Mars?" is one of the most iconic questions yet to be answered. We speak to someone who could be one of the first people to answer that question in the next year! Also, the recent coronavirus outbreak shows us just how quickly disease can spread. With the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance is it just a matter of time before now curable infections - like bubonic plague - make their return?

Ever wonder why you hate Brussels sprouts? It turns out the answer could be in your genes! It's also the reason chemical in these controversial little vegetables was used as a paternity test! We also investigate an unintended side effect of our festive gorging - fatbergs - and how researchers in Imperial are exploring ways to use them as a biofuel. 

Every schoolchild will tell you that Penicillin, one of the great discoveries of the 20th century, was discovered by Alexander Fleming. But it was a young German refugee that brought Penicillin out of the scientific papers and into the hospital, his name was Ernst Chain. Kieran travels to University College London to speak to Ernst’s son, Benny, himself a pioneer in biochemistry.

3D printing has evolved to the stage where we can now create aircraft parts, satellite components, medical implants and even copies of people’s faces. However, as Kieran finds out, this promising field also has potentially troubling aspects. Also, in the era of "fake news", we hear how science communication is more important than ever with the presenter of the BBC World Service programme "Digital Planet", Gareth Mitchel.

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