The discoveries that landed the North East's three unis on a list of UK's best breakthroughs

Research to reverse Type 2 diabetes, a waterproof coating for mobile phones and work on measuring Antarctic ice changes have landed three of the North East’s universities on a list of the UK’s 100 best breakthroughs. Between them, Newcastle, Northumbria and Durham universities have been honoured for breakthroughs in health, technology and the environment. The list demonstrates how UK universities are at the forefront of some of the world’s most important discoveries, innovations and social initiatives, including the creation of the internet, work tackling plastic pollution, ultrasound scans to check the health of unborn babies and the establishment of the Living Wage.

It has been compiled by Universities UK, the umbrella group for UK universities, as part of the MadeAtUni campaign to change public perceptions of universities and bring to life the difference they make to people, lives and communities across the UK.

Read More

Professor Dame Janet Beer, President of Universities UK, said: “Universities really do transform lives. The technology we use every day, the medicines that save lives, the teachers who inspire – all come from UK universities and the important work being done by academics. “The UK’s Best Breakthroughs list is a testament to the difference that universities make to people’s lives and we want everyone to join us in celebrating the work they do.”

Here are the North East breakthroughs that made the list this year:

Newcastle University, Diabetes research

Roy Taylor, professor of medicine and patient Gordon Parmley from Stocksfield

Newcastle University research which has identified the cause of Type 2 diabetes and shown how the condition can be reversed is being celebrated for its transformational impact on patients. Professor Roy Taylor is honoured in the list for his pioneering work which has shown that consuming a very low-calorie diet can reverse Type 2 diabetes. The simple, effective method of shedding around two and a half stone in weight, means that sufferers no longer have to take medication and can return to normal health.

NHS England has recently announced that the low calorie diets will be piloted by up to 5,000 people in the NHS for the first time, from next year. Patients will be prescribed a liquid diet of just over 800 calories a day for three months and then have a period of follow up support to help achieve remission of their Type 2 diabetes. This follows the DiRECT trial, led by Professor Roy Taylor and funded by Diabetes UK where almost half of those who went on a very low calorie diet achieved remission of their Type 2 diabetes after one year.

A quarter of participants achieved a staggering 15 kg or more weight loss, and of these, 86% put their type 2 diabetes into remission. Northumbria University, Antarctic ice changes

The discoveries that landed the North East's three unis on a list of UK's best breakthroughs Video LoadingVideo UnavailableClick to play Tap to playThe video will start in 8Cancel

The university is involved in one of the largest joint Antarctic missions for more than 70 years. Last month marked the start of the first field season of a five-year quest to understand the contribution that the Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica will make to global sea level.

Currently, the amount of ice draining into the sea from this West Antarctic Ice Sheet glacier accounts for around four per cent of global sea-level rise. Scientists are concerned that a collapse of the Thwaites Glacier could significantly raise global sea levels. The GBP20 million research collaboration involves over 100 scientists and support staff working on eight different projects to understand how the glacier is behaving and to establish whether it is likely to begin to collapse within the next few decades or within centuries.

Northumbria University is involved in two of these eight projects. Hilmar Gudmundsson, a Professor of Glaciology and Extreme Environments, is leading a GBP648,000 project called PROPHET in which he will use new techniques to model the history and evolution of the glacier and its ice flow to understand how it has behaved in the past. This will help the team to make predictions on how it will evolve in future.

In the second project, Professor John Woodward, Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Engineering and Environment will spend three months in Antarctica in 2020 to find the best sites to drill into the ice to look for evidence of the ice sheet collapsing in the past. If it has collapsed, the project team will be able to assess how it recovered and how it is currently responding to environmental conditions.

Durham University, Mobile phone technology

The discoveries that landed the North East's three unis on a list of UK's best breakthroughsProfessor Jas Pal Badyal of Durham University

Use your mobile in the rain or drop it in a puddle and it will probably still work. You may take this for granted but millions of mobile devices and other products are protected by super-repellent coatings invented at Durham University.

The extremely thin polymer film, known as a nanocoating, has been applied to the surfaces of more than 200 million phones, 75 per cent of the world’s hearing aids and 100 million pipette tips. The invention has been commercialised by the British company, P2i, which is the world leader in liquid repellent nanocoating technology. Customers include household names such as Nokia, Motorola and Huawei (mobile phones), Samsung (wireless Bluetooth headsets), Lenovo (computer tablets), Timberland and Hi-Tec (footwear) and HLT (hearing aids).

The secret of the Durham technology is plasmachemical deposition – a process of electrically exciting molecules to coat surfaces. The reliability of electronic devices such as smartphones and tablets are dramatically increased because their outer and inner surfaces are protected from the effects of corrosion and water damage. Professor Jas Pal Badyal commented: “It is fantastic to see our technology recognised as one of the top 100 discoveries by Universities UK.

In my research group, we are always trying to develop functional surfaces which can have practical applications, whether that be in the commercial world or to benefit society more widely.

We are continuing to develop novel surfaces in our lab which we are currently applying to fog harvesting for clean drinking water in developing countries and to create better antibacterial surfaces.”

You may also like...