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Wellcome Trust Research Round-up 01.06.15

1 Jun, 2015

Our fortnightly round-up of news from the Wellcome Trust Community

Understanding cancer’s origin


A quarter of our facial skin cells may have cancer-associated mutations, according to a new study from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute published in the journal Science.

Researchers analysed skin cells taken from the eyelids of four patients to try to further understand the origins of cancer in normal tissue. They found that approximately 25% of the cells analysed contained DNA changes consistently associated with the disease.

Estimations suggest that these mutations corresponded to, on average, a new mutation for every day of the cell’s life and were mainly caused by exposure to sunlight. Cells carrying the DNA changes clustered together into ‘clones’ that had grown to twice the normal size, but they had not become cancerous.

Watch the short video to find out more about the study and hear from the researchers involved.

Europe’s Bronze Age ancestors

M0015078 Helmeted bronze figurine, Bronze Age.Wellcome Trust-funded researchers have discovered that a population explosion occurred amongst European males during the Bronze Age, much more recently than previously thought.

The study, published in Nature Communications, also identified that two thirds of modern European men descended from just three paternal lineages. DNA sequences from the Y chromosome of over 300 men from 17 populations in Europe and the Middle East was analysed to build up a historical genetic picture.

Researchers used a new method of analysis that is better at placing in time population events and has produced contrasting results to previous studies. Looking at just male inheritance patterns – the Y chromosome is only passed from fathers to sons – suggests that the population explosion occurred between 2000 and 4000 years ago. In comparison, studies using the maternally-inherited mitochondrial DNA point to a much more ancient population growth.

Professor Mark Jobling, University of Leicester, said: “The population expansion falls within the Bronze Age, which involved changes in burial practices, the spread of horse-riding and developments in weaponry. Dominant males linked with these cultures could be responsible for the Y chromosome patterns we see today.”

A clear look at dyslexia treatment

L0058205 Test type to test eyesight, England, 1920-1960A new review has found that there is no strong evidence to support the use of vision-based treatments for children with dyslexia.

Many practitioners continue to offer dyslexic children eye therapies and treatment despite the overarching view that sight issues have little impact on a child’s reading ability.

The eye test results of 5000 subjects from the Wellcome Trust-funded Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) were analysed, with 11% children found to have moderate or severe dyslexia. The results of the children with severe dyslexia were then compared to another 5000 children from the cohort study that did not have dyslexia.

The review, published in Pediatrics, found that vision problems are rare in dyslexic children, with the majority of them exhibiting perfect vision. Vision impairments that did occur were also found in non-dyslexic children, suggesting that sight treatments may offer little benefit.

Dr Cathy Williams, a paediatric ophthalmologist, said: “These population-based results give the ‘bigger picture’ and show us that vision problems are rare in dyslexic children. The few vision impairments we did see in the dyslexic children also occurred in their non-dyslexic classmates.  Some practitioners feel that vision impairments may be associated with dyslexia and should be treated. However, our study results show that the majority of dyslexic children have entirely normal vision on

In other news…

Wellcome Trust Intermediate Clinical Fellow Dr David Hunt has been awarded the Sir Derrick Dunlop Prize by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency for his contribution to drug safety. Dr Hunt was recognised for his work, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, which identified a link between recombinant interferon-beta and the potentially fatal blood vessel disease, thrombotic microangiopathy.

Image credits: (from top to bottom) © Sanger Institute; Helmeted bronze figurine, Wellcome Library;  Science Museum, Wellcome Images

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