The first meeting of King’s Muscle Lab Student Advisory Panel began with an introduction on what the future panels will consist of as well as some background on the panel. For example, the laboratory was started by Professor John Moxham, to investigate the function of the respiratory and skeletal muscles and how this changes in people with lung disease. I think that it’s an interesting field of research as it enables a group of people from diverse career backgrounds, from physiology to medicine to biomedical engineering, to come together to conduct research. The research team undertakes clinical physiological research in adults and children with and without lung (or other) diseases. After the initial introduction for the panel, the visiting professionals introduced who they were by outlining their career journey from A levels to what they were currently doing. In this meeting the professionals were Miss Claire Pringle, Dr Peter Cho, Miss Hannah Perry and Dr Alexis Cullen. Then we got into groups of around seven people and started the meeting’s discussion topic which was on tobacco and its effects. Each of the visiting professionals took turns to talk to each group.
The discussions within each group were split in four categories, each of which was tailored to the professionals’ specialisation: physical effects of tobacco with Dr Peter Cho; tobacco and the intersection of mental health with Dr Alexis Cullen; public health and tobacco with Miss Claire Pringle; and imaging the effects of tobacco with Miss Hannah Perry. The discussions were initiated by questions from the professionals which people within the groups answered but the discussions were also integrated with expert input from the professionals. In my group the first discussion was with Miss Hannah Perry where we focused on the chemical properties of tobacco. Whilst some people in my group guessed that there were around 200 chemicals within a cigarette, there are approximately 7,000 including over 60 known cancer-causing chemicals. Some of those carcinogenic chemicals are metals or radioactive compounds. It was interesting to discover more of the chemicals inside cigarette smoke other than nicotine and tar. For example, there is also the fatal carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide.
The next discussion was with Dr Peter Cho where we discussed some of the physical effects on the body such as breathlessness due to swelling and narrowing of the lung airways and excess mucus in the lung passages. The most intriguing fact we learned in that discussion, in my opinion was the fact that there is permanent damage to the air sacs of the lungs due to scarring from the constant strain from coughing. In the discussion with Dr Alexis Cullen we were stimulated to think about possible relationships between mental health and smoking. For instance, ways in which we could test whether individuals with mental health are more likely to smoke or whether smoking led to and/or worsened mental health. What I found most fascinating was the fact that research needs to be cautious of third factors that could affect the investigation. For example, a third factor could be the socio-economic background of the individuals causing them to either start smoking or affecting their mental health. The final discussion was with Miss Claire Pringle where we discussed ways in which the government could help solve the public issue of smoking. It was interesting because we were made aware of the difficulties of solving such big problems but also discovered that there are some solutions which worked well within certain areas such as banning smoking from certain public areas but didn’t work as well in other areas. Overall, the discussions were great as we weren’t simply told information we were prompted to think and evaluate information regarding the topic. I think that the panel is a fantastic opportunity because we were able to communicate with professionals on subject matters that interested us and gain knowledge from professionals who specialise in that area. Also, there isn’t really any other way to experience this type of learning experience elsewhere. Moreover, it was beneficial as we could learn about possible routes within medicine related jobs as well as discover more roles within the industry.
Iva Koshova, Year 12, Harris Academy Greenwich
Selected students from Harris Experience Advanced attended their first King’s Muscle Lab student panel meeting at King’s College London on Monday as part of their academic cultural enhancement. Established by Professor John Moxham, King’s Muscle Lab is a respiratory and physiology research facility, consisting of academics from all fields of health; such as medicine, physiotherapy and nursing and was created with the purpose of investigating the function of respiratory and skeletal muscles and how this changes in people with lung disease. Their work is largely focused on physiology, which is the study of how the systems of the body work and its relation to different conditions and diseases in which people have problems with their breathing. Being a part of the student panel will provide various opportunities and this first meeting was just the start of them.
The students were joined by visiting professionals working in a variety of departments ranging from Psychosis Studies to Health and Social Care in the United Kingdom Government and they gave presentations outlining their carer trajectories and current research areas and roles. Then it was discussion time. The topic brought to the table was ‘Tobacco and its Effects’, and the students were separated into small groups, each with a professional to discuss.
With Dr Alexis Cullen, an expert in psychosis studies, the groups talked about how smoking links to mental health issues, and observed the fact that there are a lot of other contributing factors to consider when looking at the correlation between smoking and mental health issues, for example; stress, home life and family problems. Ms Claire Pringle currently works in the Department of Health and Social Care, United Kingdom Government and the small group discussion with her looked at the social issues surrounding tobacco. The student panel argued whether tobacco could ever be criminalised, and introduced the comparison of Marijuana, discussing whether the use of it could ever be legalised. The role marketing can play in deterring people from smoking was an avenue which was also explored. Packaging of cigarettes is becoming less appealing in government efforts to try to discourage people from smoking, for example the U.K has begun to adopt cigarette packaging with graphic images on them such as people with rotting teeth, and bold letters which read; ‘Smoking Kills’ also appear on the boxes. The physical effects of smoking were explored with Dr Peter Cho. These consist of addiction to nicotine, many types of cancer, and COPD. Whilst the physical effects of smoking are horrific, the most shocking facts however, came from the discussions with Ms Hannah Perry, of the School of Biomedical Engineering and Imaging Sciences. No one expected to hear that there are around 7,000 chemicals inside cigarettes, and 70 of these are carcinogenic.
After the small group talks, the panel reunited to share the things they had learnt with each other. The afternoon was intellectually engaging and students were able to broaden their knowledge, talking about elements of life they come across each day, but do not necessarily give a second thought. They look forward to the next King’s Muscle Lab meeting and what opportunities for the future, panel membership might mean.
By Eliana Oworu, Uzma Niazi and Gisela Simbana-Tipan
(Year 12, HEA, Harris Academy South Norwood)
On 26th of February the Student Panel met to hear from academics and discuss tobacco and its effects. The Panel was comprised of students ranging from Year 11 (like myself and fellow JFS School members) to Year 13 with the vast majority sharing a strong interest in biology and many considering pursuing this, medicine or related sciences as a future career option. The attending schools were JFS School, Harris Academy, Burntwood Academy and Graveney School.
Upon arrival, we were briefed by Dr MacBean regarding the agenda for the day and the future opportunities for the panel members including database updating, summarising published researches and many other forms of work experience. The Panel was subsequently introduced to the visiting academics.
Miss Claire Pringle, working in the Department of Health & Social care told us about the various means used to cut down on the number of peoples starting to consume tobacco. It was particularly interesting to find out that the new green packaging of cigarettes has come as a result of market research used to find that the colour is the least appealing as well as, looking into the difficulties that arise when deterring young people from starting smoking through educating them without patronising them.
With Dr Peter Cho, we focussed on the physiological effects of tobacco on the body especially looking at tar and nicotine and considering how they affect people’s body function such as, by raising blood pressure which increases the risk of blood clots that can cause heart attacks. It was intriguing to discover that the harmful effects of tobacco, in terms of causing cancer, were first noticed when researchers compared the list of doctors that smoked and the list of those that developed cancer and spotted a clear correlation.
The topic of medically imaging the effects of tobacco was looked at with Miss Hannah Perry and the mechanisms behind the 3 main imaging methods (CT, PET and MRI) being the main focus of conversation. I found the fact that usually, a radioactive fluorine isotope, is attached to glucose molecules fascinating as a large amount of the glucose goes to the tumour to provide energy for its rapid cell division. The fact that MRI imaging can be used to locate tumours because the fast growth does not allow the tumour to be properly connected to the lymphatic system, which draws away water, was also interesting.
Finally, with Dr Alexis Cullen we looked at understanding the connection between smoking and psychosis and considered the nature of the relationship: does smoking affect the brain by physically cause the development of this mental illness? Or is there some confounding factor which has a link to smoking and a link to psychosis but no direct causational relationship? This along with thinking about some of the ethical concerns involved with research regarding this connection were all ideas discussed.
Overall, the day was filled to the brim with information, questions and answers with some very interesting academics and it is certain that the entire Panel learnt plenty.
Gilad Fibeesh, Year 11, JFS School, Harrow