Welcome to the Genomics Forum blog

Based at The University of Edinburgh, the ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum is part of the ESRC Genomics Network and pioneers new ways to promote and communicate social research on the contemporary life sciences.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

How Dr Atkins brought me to the Genomics Forum

I came to work at the Genomics Forum by a somewhat strange route. As an undergraduate I studied English at the University of Adelaide, South Australia. When the time came to think about a PhD, I was keen to research something more “socially relevant” than literature. I’m not sure I agree with my younger self any longer about the social irrelevance of fiction – or indeed, that “relevant” is even the relevant word. Nonetheless, that wish back in 2003 to study something “relevant” is responsible for my career path to date.

Back in 2003, one of the hottest topics in the media was the craze for the Atkins Diet, and other low-carbohydrate, high-protein weight-loss diets (such as South Beach, Protein Power, and The Zone). Low-carbohydrate diets were hugely popular in the late 1990s and early 2000s in English-speaking countries such as the UK, US and Australia. For those who haven’t tried them, they recommend a more or less drastic reduction in starchy and sugary foods, including bread, rice, pasta and potatoes; all foods with added sugar; and certain high-carb fruits and vegetables (bananas, tropical fruit, sweet potatoes, corn, etc). The rationale is that these foods raise blood sugar and insulin levels, causing weight gain and type 2 diabetes.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Telling a story of body parts

Blog by Ann Lingard - Genomics Forum Bright Ideas Fellow

Would you donate your eyes, your brain, biopsy samples or an amputated limb? And why would you do it - for research, to help someone who needed new organs, for teaching purposes, or for display in a Museum? If you have donated bits of yourself, for any reason, would you like me to write the story of how and why you made this decision? And if you are long, long dead, would you mind if I tried to find out more about you, and wrote your story too?

Amongst the extraordinary collections at the Surgeons' Hall Museum there are skeletons, plaster-casts of faces, amputated limbs, fixed pathological tissues and foetuses, and a collection of surgeons' 'memorabilia' - drawings and tools of their trade - which help us to put in context just why some of the human specimens have ended up in Museum shelves. But 'specimen' is a dry word: these organs and bones were 'donated' by human beings, each of whom had a life, perhaps in a town, on a farm, perhaps with a family and friends; or perhaps he or she was ridiculed and despised.