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Celebrating 100 years of medical breakthroughs

A third of people in Newcastle say they’ve met a medical research scientist, reflecting the flourishing development of the city of science. Now Newcastle University scientists are hoping to inspire a future generation with an event this weekend.

According to a new YouGov survey run by the UK’s oldest research council, the Medical Research Council (MRC), 34% of people in Newcastle said they had met a medical research scientist bucking the trend of the North East as a whole where it was 18%.

Over half of people, 51%, in the North East know their taxes are funding exciting medical research including many ground-breaking projects at Newcastle University, reflecting the pride in its status as a city of science.

The results of the YouGov survey of 2,190 UK adults were announced today by the MRC, on its official one hundredth birthday.

To celebrate 100 years of life-saving science, Newcastle University’s MRC Centre for Brain Ageing and Vitality is holding Meet the Scientist activities. They are moving their equipment into the Centre for Life on Times Square, Newcastle on Saturday 22 June and Sunday 23 June.

You can see the exercise equipment and activity monitors used by Newcastle University’s ‘MoveLab’ and the team will show you how exercise research data is gathered and interpreted, and assess your activity level doing simple exercises. You can have your body composition assessed as well as find out how much of your body is muscle and how much is fat. You can also learn how to make DNA from plants and fruits, and find out how the discovery of DNA really is changing our lives.

Dr Amy Reeve works at the University’s MRC centre improving our understanding of what happens within the cells in Parkinson’s disease and will be at the event. She said: “I was inspired to go into science by my Dad who always encouraged my natural curiosity – I remember my parents giving me a microscope for my birthday when I was about six or seven. This definitely inspired me and cultivated my excitement for science – and that’s what we hope to be doing for other young people this weekend.

“The most exciting thing about my work now is the possibility that our research could directly help patients one day. My research aims to understand what causes Parkinson's disease and the fact that one day my research could lead to better treatments for patients is what keeps me going.

"The science and scientists that have gone before us have made medical research the exciting field that it is today. You can't help but to be inspired, especially by the research that the Medical Research Council has funded over their 100 years."

Further questioning in the YouGov survey showed that when asked which disease or condition they would study if they were a medical research scientist, people in the North East gave a full spectrum of issues close to their heart, with cancer and dementia being the most common.

Sir John Savill, Chief Executive of the Medical Research Council, said: “It’s important for people to know how crucial their own money has been in uncovering health improvements that have saved millions of lives. If I asked the person on the street, ‘did you know you’ve helped invent the MRI scanner and DNA fingerprinting, or helped make skin grafts work or proved the link between smoking and cancer?’ … they’d probably look blankly at me. And these discoveries are just the tip of the iceberg of what the taxpayer has funded - through the MRC - over the course of its history.”

Newcastle and North East data from the YouGov Omnibus Survey for the MRC Centenary:

When asked “Do you think the following statement is true or false: UK taxpayers fund medical research in the UK” – 49% of people from the North East answered “False” or “Don’t know”. In Newcastle - 55% of people answered “False” or “Don’t know”.

When asked “Have you ever met a medical research scientist?”, 18% of people in the North East said they had. Of the 101 people surveyed in Newcastle, when asked “Have you ever met a medical research scientist”, 34% of people said they had.

When asked  “If you were a medical research scientist which one area (e.g. medical condition, disease etc.) would you choose to do medical research in?” The most common answers in the North East and Newcastle were cancer and dementia.

When asked  “Before taking this survey had you heard of the Medical Research Council (MRC)?”, 48% of people in the North East said they had, in Newcastle it was 58%

published on: 20 June 2013