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New composition pays tribute to young poet killed in WW1

The experiences of a young soldier killed in the First World War underpins new work by the world-renowned composer and University of Southampton professor, Michael Finnissy.

Remembrance Day draws on the poetry and prose of Henry Lamont Simpson, who was an officer in the Lancashire Fusiliers, and was injured in Belgium in 1917.

He was brought back to Southampton and then treated at a military hospital in Hursley Park near Winchester. Returning to The Front in 1918, he was killed by a sniper while reconnoitring No Man’s Land. He was just 21 years old.

Henry Lamont was an officer in the Lancashire Fusiliers, and was injured in Belgium in 1917. Credit: UniversityofSouthampton

Professor Michael Finnissy comments:

It is fitting that young people are integral to the performance. The student musicians are much the same age as Henry when he was sent to fight in the war and this premiere gives them the chance to reflect on the horrors faced by young soldiers a century ago.

My composition simply presents evidence, much as Simpson’s poetic war-diary does. Significantly, he laments the loss of his friends, but does not accuse or apportion blame. It is not the work of a general, or a war-hero, or a politician and moves from scenes of mass volunteer-enlistment, to the horrors of the battlefield – from regret, to simple off-duty pleasures in the countryside.

– Michael Finnissy

Michael Finnissy’s piece receives its world premiere at the University’s concert venue Turner Sims on 16 November. Finnissy himself will play the solo piano part, and Henry Lamont Simpson’s great nephew will be in the audience as a special guest.

Southampton University wins contract for health centre

Southampton University has been awarded a £5.1m contract to share research findings with patients and managers in health and social care.

A new National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Dissemination Centre will make it easier for people to get research they need in a helpful form.

The new centre will showcase the most important findings from the NIHR, which invests over £1bn in research that saves lives and improves care.

The £5.1m contract awarded by the NIHR will run for five years from the 1st April 2015.

These new awards are important because of the role systematic reviews play in the health research landscape. By removing uncertainties in science and research, systematic reviews help to ensure that only the most effective and best-value interventions are adopted by the NHS and social care providers.

“The centres will provide high quality systematic reviews infrastructure, enabling our health and care services access to the best possible evidence to inform decisions and choices.”

– Professor Dame Sally C. Davies FRS FMedSci, Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Adviser at the Department of Health

The centre was one of three contracts awarded by the NIHR, which also saw Southampton have its contract renewed as one of nine Technology Assessment Review (TAR) teams.

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New study reveals 'worrying statistic' of ME sufferers

One third of those affected by the condition ME - or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome - have no access to specialist care. This worrying statistic has come to light through a new study by the University of Southampton.

Experts say the illness still isn't being taken seriously. A teenage boy from Alton in Hampshire says the lack of support makes living with ME even harder for him. Sally Simmonds reports.

£3m awarded for Arts at University of Southampton

Arts venues based at the University of Southampton have been awarded more than £3m over three years (2015-18) by Arts Council England, as part of its National Portfolio funding programme.

The University is proud to continue to host three Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisations on its Highfield campus – John Hansard Gallery, Turner Sims, and Nuffield, providing a concentration of artistic and cultural activity at the University, which is unique in the UK.

It’s been announced that over three years the John Hansard Gallery will receive approximately £1.3m, the theatre company Nuffield £1.6m and the concert venue Turner Sims just over £129,000.

Arts at Southampton form an integral part of the University’s research, enterprise, student experience and its relationship to the city and region. This funding secures our ability to continue to provide world-class arts activities, both on campus and beyond – enriching the cultural lives of our staff, students and the wider community of the region.”

– University of Southampton Registrar, Tessa Harrison

We are in the premier league of creative nations and this portfolio will keep us on top in an era of tight funding. We can delight in our arts organisations and museums for the sheer inspiration they bring to our daily lives, as well as their contribution to the creative sector. I’m proud that we’ve been able to deliver such a strong and well balanced portfolio.”

– Sir Peter Bazalgette, Chair Arts Council England

Southampton invention to ease pain for amputees

A new device that was partially created by researchers at Southampton University will help relieve pain for amputees.

The device is the first prosthetic liner with pressure sensors to ease pain for poorly fitting replacement limbs.

The device is thought to be available to NHS patients in as soon as three years.

The sensors for the device were developed by Dr Liudi Jinag and his team at the University of Southampton, where they measured the pressure and pulling forces that patients face on their prosthetic limbs.

There are 50,000 lower-limb amputees in the UK and many use artificial limbs that are attached to their limb through a socket.

This means no two stumps are the same shape and size and even an individual’s stump can change shape over the course of a single day.

Socket fit is the single biggest factor determining whether prosthesis will be successful for a patient. If we had a simple way to accurately measure the load at the socket-stump interface and determine the best possible fit for that limb, it would completely transform the socket fit experience for amputees. We’re hoping that the development of the intelligent liner will be the first step leading to the ‘holy grail’ in prosthetics – a fully automatic, self-adjusting smart socket interface for amputees.”

– Dr Liudi Jiang

Seasonal changes in vegetation key to findings

University of Southampton research suggests that the end of Autumn is taking place later in the year and Spring is starting earlier. Researchers examined satellite imagery covering the northern hemisphere over a 25 year period (1982 - 2006).

They then looked for any seasonal changes in vegetation by making a measure of its ‘greenness’. They examined in detail, at daily intervals, the growth cycle of the vegetation – identifying physical changes such as leaf cover, colour and growth.

This delay in the signs of Autumn was generally more pronounced than any evidence for an earlier onset of Spring, although there is evidence across the groups that Spring is arriving slightly earlier.

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Blood test could predict obesity levels in children

Scientists at the University of Southampton have found that a simple blood test, which can read DNA, could be used to predict obesity levels in children.

Researchers used the test to assess the levels of epigenetic switches in the PGC1a gene – a gene that regulates fat storage in the body.

The Southampton team found that the test, when carried out on children at five years old, differentiates between children with a high body fat and those with a low body fat when they were older.

Results showed that a rise in DNA methylation levels of 10 per cent at five years was associated with up to 12 per cent more body fat at 14 years. Results were independent of the child’s gender, their amount of physical activity and their timing of puberty.

It can be difficult to predict when children are very young, which children will put on weight or become obese. It is important to know which children are at risk because help, such as suggestions about their diet, can be offered early and before they start to gain weight. The results of our study provide further evidence that being overweight or obese in childhood is not just due to lifestyle, but may also involve important basic processes that control our genes. However, our findings now need to be tested in larger groups of children.”

– Dr Graham Burdge, of the University of Southampton

Promising results for trials treating inherited blindness

Patients suffering from an inherited form of blindness have, for the first time, had their vision dramatically improved by gene therapy.

The first six people given experimental injections at the Oxford Eye Hospital were able to see better.

Researchers at the city's university and also at Southampton University say trials have shown promising results for the treatment of Choroideremia.

The Phase I clinical trial is funded by the Health Innovation Challenge Fund, a partnership between the Wellcome Trust and the Department of Health.

Children have strong muscles if mothers have Vitamin D

Researchers at the University of Southampton have discovered that more vitamin D during pregnancy gives children stronger muscles.

Low vitamin D status has been linked to reduced muscle strength in adults and children, but little is known about how variation in a mother’s status during pregnancy affects her child.

Vitamin D levels were measured in 678 mothers in the later stages of pregnancy. When the children were four years old, grip strength and muscle mass were measured. Results showed that the higher the levels of vitamin D in the mother, the higher the grip strength of the child.

Lead researcher Dr Nicholas Harvey, Senior Lecturer at the Medical Research Council Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit at the University of Southampton said, “These associations between maternal vitamin D and offspring muscle strength may well have consequences for later health.

"Muscle strength peaks in young adulthood before declining in older age and low grip strength in adulthood has been associated with poor health outcomes including diabetes, falls and fractures."

Children are more likely to have stronger muscles if their mothers had more Vitamin D Credit: Press Association

£18m funding for Southampton food waste project

The University of Southampton is to receive part of £18m funding to turn food waste into renewable energy.

The unique project will get a share of the money with 12 other new industrial networks in bioenergy and biotechnology.

The funding by Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council aims to boost the relationship between academic research and promoting the benefits for the UK.

Universities Minister David Willetts, who also represents Havant, said:

To get ahead in the global race we need to turn our world-beating science and research into world-beating products and services, as set out in our Industrial Strategy. These networks will unlock the huge potential of biotechnology and bioenergy, such as finding innovative ways to use leftover food, and creating chemicals from plant cells.”

– David Willetts, Universities Minister, who also represents Havant
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