Pamela Ball: first Jamaican woman to gain the fellowship of The Royal College of Surgeons of England

Pamela Ball, FRCS, source: 29/10/21

Pamela Ball, a broadly skilled surgical officer mostly operating in Kidderminster and Wordsley in the UK Midlands, is the first Jamaican woman to gain the prestigious fellowship of The Royal College of Surgeons of England.

She was born Pamela Margaret Moody in Kingston, Jamaica. Her father is also a trailblazing Jamaican medic, who after moving to study medicine at King’s College London and in 1919 became the first Jamaican to pass the MRCP exam!

Pamela’s vibrant and varied work history includes beginnings as a house surgeon at Birmingham General Hospital where she trained with ‘… lots of operating, including gall bladders and gastrectomies and so on’ along with developing experience in casualty and orthopaedics.

She then went on to gain the fellowship of The Royal College of Surgeons of England in 1954.

Eventually she settled in Kidderminster as a resident surgical officer, going on to dabble in other highly skilled surgical disciplines including plastic surgery and anaesthetics. She later became a clinical assistant and taking lead within the highly dynamic accident unit in Kidderminster.

Retiring in 1991, she stayed active within the Kidderminster hospital, continuing as a locum for a further two years and helping the League of Friends of Kidderminster Hospital to raise funds for new equipment, eventually becoming the leagues president in 2006.

Celebrating a highly accomplished life, Pamela Ball died of bone marrow cancer in September 2019, just after receiving an MBE for her services to the NHS. She was 92.

Read the original article:

Women living with HIV – carrying the burden of the pandemic.

Source: Sophia Forum – We are still here – accessed 25-10-21

All groups affected by HIV should have access to appropriate care and the opportunity to, for instance, enter clinical trials and access innovative treatments. A recent editorial noted the mismatch between those PLWH that were recruited to clinical trials (overrepresentation of young white males) and those seen in the general population (a more heterogeneric demography). Women have been severely underrepresented in many areas of HIV treatment and care including inclusion in research. This appears to be an ongoing issue across the HIV landscape with alternative approaches required to allow both access and opportunity in advancing care and its underpinning research. This is essential as in the UK a third of people living with HIV are women and globally the figure stands at fifty percent and it is incumbent on everyone that the right interventions are utilised in this as well as any other community. This is particularly important where intersectional issues make marginalisation and stigma even more challenging.  The near-invisibility of WLWH is not a recent phenomenon but one that has existed from the early 80s when HIV came to the fore and the public’s attention.  This is one legacy that the community needs to overcome and as Jacqui Stevenson says:

No more excuses: Making HIV research work for women. (Sophia Forum)

Other marginalised groups such as those from BAME backgrounds, whilst being disproportionately affected, were also largely excluded from trials and medical care more generally.

As ART has produced improved outcomes in terms of life expectancy, the demographics of people living with HIV has changed radically. A significant number of PLWH including women have a life expectancy similar to that found in the general population.  However, there are disparities between groups (see, for instance, Solomon et al 2020) and a general reduction in quality of life for PLWH due to the onset of a range of geriatric syndromes a decade or more earlier with ongoing discrimination. This has been emphasised recently by ongoing research and advocacy by Jacqui Stevenson who has studied WLWH growing older. The outcomes of the research provide eight asks to improve the lives of WLWH.

Advice for women and HIV including using PrEP can be found at:

UKRI Reviews of Doctoral Training – The Good and Some Cause for Concern

The UKRI, the overarching government body that manages publicly funded research and innovation in the UK, has just published two reports on doctoral training one in STEM (the EPSRC report) and one by the equivalent in social sciences (the ESRC report). Both reports recognise the value of doctoral training with an emphasis on employers rather than the wider community. The reports highlight the need for future action in this area:

Alongside council-specific actions, the two reviews are also an important contribution to the evidence base for a new deal for postgraduate research, which will address:

  • funding and stipend levels
  • routes in, through and out of doctoral training
  • rights and conditions
  • diversification of models and access.

UKRI – accessed 10-10-2021

The EPSRC has released its review of doctoral training in the STEM arena within the UK. There is a wealth of information on the background to the report including outcomes from workshops with stakeholders and a review of the current literature. There is also the report itself and the recommendations therein.

List of recommendations  
Recommendation 1 To stimulate economic growth, EPSRC should increase the number of students it supports and the professional development that they receive. EPSRC-funded doctoral students go onto careers in innovation and research in manufacturing, information and communication technologies and other scientific and technical careers in industry and academia. To become a global science superpower, the number of people with these skills must grow and EPSRC must lead by increasing the number of students it supports. EPSRC should bid for an uplift of investment in EPS for doctoral education from the spending review and other opportunities.
Recommendation 2 EPSRC should better demonstrate the value of a doctorate, its outcomes, and the destination of doctoral graduates, so that this is understood by all key stakeholders.
Recommendation 3 EPSRC should continue to provide thought leadership in doctoral education to the EPS community by investing in the highest quality doctoral education provision which supports a diverse range of career paths.
Recommendation 4 EPSRC should provide a stable long-term baseline of investment to support a creative and innovative fundamental research community (such as the current algorithmic DTP investment), alongside a more dynamic framework to respond to and support emerging strategic priorities (for example by investing in more frequent CDT competitions and including studentship investments alongside research investments in top priority strategic areas).
Recommendation 5 To effectively support the UK’s increasing STEM capability, the system as a whole needs to grow. Recognising the high value placed on doctoral studentships by industry, EPSRC should engage with industry (both the current and new sectors) to encourage and enable increased industry funding and co-funding of doctoral students. These are effective ways of attracting industry investment into the R&D landscape.
Recommendation 6 EPSRC should showcase the ways small and medium enterprises can and do engage with doctoral students, to widen participation and enable overall growth in the system.
Recommendation 7 EPSRC should work with UKRI on doctoral student issues covered by the Government’s People and Culture Strategy expected to be published in summer 2021, ensuring that issues facing the EPS community are addressed. In particular, the New Deal for postgraduate research is expected to address areas such as the stipend level for doctoral students, the rights and conditions of doctoral studentships, financial sustainability of doctoral education investments, doctoral student recruitment policies, and the health and wellbeing of students.
Recommendation 8 The existing opportunity to employ graduates on UKRI grants does not replace our main route to doctoral education but could provide a valuable alternative career
Recommendation 9 EPSRC should work with the sector to provide greater recognition and visibility of the wider skills developed alongside research skills during a doctorate to ensure the employability of all doctoral graduates.
Recommendation 10 All EPSRC funded students should have access to opportunities outside of their research project (e.g., conferences, placements, public engagement), irrespective of the funding route. EPSRC should be explicit within each scheme that funding should be made available for opportunities outside of the research project.
Recommendation 11 EPSRC should prioritise funding excellent doctoral experiences and access to opportunities over student numbers, while ensuring value for money.
Recommendation 12 EPSRC should assist those who deliver the EPSRC doctoral investments in developing and sharing good practice.
Recommendation 13 It is essential that EPSRC continues to invest through a diverse range of flexible approaches so that we continue to support doctoral students’ varied needs, backgrounds and potential careers as well as the differing requirements of the research and innovation communities.
Recommendation 14 As EPSRC’s current mechanisms are well regarded, new initiatives should only be introduced where there is a compelling case for an alternative approach.
Recommendation 15 EPSRC should work with all stakeholders to ensure the current flexibilities relating to both collaboration and supporting students are well known and used.
Recommendation 16 Doctoral education should be available to people following a variety of career paths. EPSRC should work with stakeholders to continue to improve access, diversity of entry points to doctoral education and tailored support for individuals.
Recommendation 17 EPSRC should understand detailed EDI issues in each of our research areas or sectors and work with our community and representative bodies to address them. EPSRC will continue to work within UKRI on broader EDI initiatives.
Recommendation 18 EPSRC should explore how doctoral training investments can support the levelling up agenda.

Nasal chondrocytes as a potential alternative for tissue-engineered replacements for osteoarthritic joints

According to a recent study published in Nature, nasal-tissue engineered chondrocytes showed promising preclinical results to treat knee arthroplasty in osteoarthritic conditions. According to the authors, the in vitro exposition to inflammatory cytokines (IL-6, IL-1𝛽, TNF) did not imply articular cartilage phenotype loss. Successful tests were currently conducted in animals (mice) showing integration with the underlying bone. Two patients were also successfully treated with the novel therapy with a resulting reduction in pain and increased joint function. The results are promising for further clinical trials with controlled groups and for the treatment of other joints [1].


“Rheumatoid arthritis of finger joint with one-sided inflammation of the synovial membrane and articular cartilage” by MyArthritis is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0


This article was written by André Plath as part of an ongoing series of scientific communications written and curated by BioTrib’s Early Stage Researchers.

André is researching Boundary Lubrication of Fibrous Scaffolds at ETH Zürich, Switzerland.




[1]    L. Acevedo Rua, M. Mumme, C. Manferdini, S. Darwiche, A. Khalil, M. Hilpert, D.A. Buchner, G. Lisignoli, P. Occhetta, B. von Rechenberg, M. Haug, D.J. Schaefer, M. Jakob, A. Caplan, I. Martin, A. Barbero, K. Pelttari, Engineered nasal cartilage for the repair of osteoarthritic knee cartilage defects, Sci. Transl. Med. 13 (2021) eaaz4499.

Kartogenin – a promising drug for cartilage regeneration.

Kartogenin (KGN) is a small, non-toxic, heterocyclic molecule, it has been known for effectively enhancing the chondrogenic differentiation of human bone marrow MSC (hBMSC), for exhibiting chondroprotective effects in vitro and for reducing cartilage degeneration [1].
KGN interacts with the actin-binding protein filamin A, disrupting its balance with the transcription factor core-binding factor β (CBFβ), giving it the ability to enter the nucleus and interact with RUNX1 to form the CBFβ-RUNX1 complex that activates the transcription of chondrogenesis-related proteins and enhances cartilage ECM synthesis [1].

Comparison between hBMSC proliferation and morphology on PCL nanofibers (A) and KGN-loaded aligned nanofibers (B): SEM images showing hBMSC morphology on selected electrospun scaffolds tested (at day 21). Results are presented as mean ± SD (n = 3). *p < 0.05. Scale bar: 10 μm. Image reproduced from [3].
KGN has been pointed out as a promising drug for cartilage regeneration in vivo [2].
In a recent study, it has been speculated that KGN released from coaxial aligned electropsun nanofibers in a controlled manner would promote hBMSC chondrogenesis. To access the bioactivity of the released KGN it was used the evaluation of KGN-loaded electrospun scaffolds ability to promote hBMSC growth and chondrogenesis. The experiments showed that KGN-loaded electrospun scaffolds promoted sGAG production and chondrogenic gene expression when compared to the respective non-loaded scaffolds, a promising result for the regeneration of the cartilage superficial zone. [3].

This outcome highlights the potential of KGN-loaded aligned nanofibers for the development of novel biomimetic MSC-based strategies to regenerate articular cartilage.


This article was written by Elisa Bissacco as part of an ongoing series of scientific communications written and curated by BioTrib’s Early Stage Researchers.

She is studying a PhD in Tribological Characteristics of Nanofibrous Electrospun Materials at ETH Zurich.



[1] Johnson K, Zhu S, Tremblay MS, Payette JN, Wang J, Bouchez LC, Meeusen S, Althage A, Cho CY, Wu X, Schultz PG, A stem cell-based approach to cartilage repair, Science. 336 (2012) 717–721. doi:10.1126/science.1215157.
[2] Cartilage Extracellular Matrix Scaffold With Kartogenin-Encapsulated PLGA Microspheres for Cartilage Regeneration, Front. Bioeng. Biotechnol. (2020)
[3] Silva J, Udangawa R, Mancinelli C, Kartogenin-loaded coaxial PGS/PCL aligned nanofibers for cartilage tissue engineering, Mater Sci Eng C Mater Biol Appl. (2020) 107: 110291.

Mechanical Engineers Walk the Walk – Well Cycle the Cycle!

Absolutely great effort from the School’s Med Tech cyclists Drs Peter Culmer and Andrew Jackson in support of Cancer Support Yorkshire. The route was the famous The Way of the Roses… nice play on words… unifying the pre-eminent counties of England, Lancashire and Yorkshire.

A mighty 250 km cycle across the country in one day!

Please donate on Just Giving:

This post was written by Richard M Hall on behalf of Andrew Jackson and Pete Culmer – Mechanical Engineering, University of Leeds.

Conspiracy theories as new pandemics arise… the role of the scientist!

Word Cloud from a set of Guardian posts on the origins of HIV

While reading the literature for a forthcoming grant submission on aspects of the HIV pandemic, I came across several articles both within and outside the mainstream media that relate to the development and spread of troubling assertions. These concern, for instance, the origin of HIV and an implied role of politicians in restricting or encouraging certain avenues of development to maintain industries’ pre-eminent economic position and profit-making. Sometimes these assertions develop into conspiracy theories which are explained, at a later date, in relatively simple terms, as is the case in recognising HIV sequences in the SARS-Cov-2 virus. Here, a bit more thought and critical evaluation would have prevented this avenue of thought, but instead it was posted on a pre-print server for all to see and then subsequently withdrawn, but not before the ‘engineered’ virus concept had taken hold in certain areas of the media.  The simple explanation was that a number of viruses have these sequences.

So what, as scientists, are we to do about preventing such misrepresentations in terms of engaging the public and our own self-management? Here are some thoughts:

  • Employ the skills that are central to our work as scientists, indeed as researchers more broadly, of checking, validating and providing critical insight to our work.  This is particularly important in the medical field generally, but in pandemics specifically, where there may be a heightened awareness of our own frailty and fear of new pathogens that arise from time to time.
  • Personally, I am concerned by the rise in the production of pre-prints from a niche activity to one that has now become mainstream. I suspect this is motivated by data-driven metrics (citations but also prestige) as well as the ‘first to print’, which may be important in exploiting base technologies. It can be argued, however, that this rapid dissemination of information is key, not only in developing collaborative research, especially in times of a pandemic, but also in allowing the quick development of frameworks and insights that may otherwise take months to generate if the peer-review process had to be adhered to. To protect both the research community and the wider public, servers hosting pre-prints have strengthened their assessment procedures once an article is posted. Nature Cancer provides a more nuanced overview of this issue as does the Lancet.
  • We should take it upon ourselves to assess the risks involved in how we report scientific findings, asking ourselves whether our published work can be misconstrued or misrepresented so as to allow a false discourse to emerge that can create a situation that does more harm than good.  I am not suggesting, in any form, that we should self-censor but there may be better ways of disseminating information to allow a more constructive debate.  A lack of transparency can also lead to a rise in misinformation, although we should endeavour to realise that the relationship between opaqueness, conspiracies and power, in the eyes of the public and other stakeholder groups, is a complex one and there are no easy fixes.
  • Following on from this we should aim to provide the public with timely information (see my second point) that adds to the debate, treats the individual or group with respect and takes out of the communication moralising (our prejudice) about their behaviour or activity. This is a multidisciplinary arena which works most effectively when it engages people from different disciplines and stakeholder groups to develop strategies relevant to the target cohort(s).
  • Words (and deeds) matter – choose your words carefully and have consideration for the cultural as well as scientific aspects of the cohorts’ living status.  Using certain words and phrases, however well meaning, can alienate, disenfranchise, further stigmatise and evoke distrust in the individuals or groups we are trying to help.  This applies across a range of illnesses and traumas, but particularly so for those in which there is significant stigma, such as mental health and HIV. In doing so, and where you can, try to make it a two-way dialogue and place the person we are trying to help at the centre of the research – co-create and co-produce – and ensure their contribution is valued.

Those outside science, medicine and research also have responsibilities, especially those that are in positions which require them to uphold given behaviour and adhere to certain protocols or codes of conduct. This is particularly important when using frameworks to build trust between stakeholders in the public at large and the wider concept of ‘truth’.

These are just a few thoughts and are not meant to be definitive answers. But I do hope to stimulate some debate.

ETH-Zurich Early Stage Researcher’s Participate in the Swiss Medtech and Additive Manufacturing EXPO 2021!

On September 14 and 15, 2021, the Messe Luzern hosted, simultaneously, the Swiss Medtech Expo and the Addictive Manufacturing (AMX) Exhibits. Andre Plath and Elisa Bissacco, BioTrib ETH ESRs, and their ETH-colleagues participated in the exhibit and visited the 160 exhibitors on-site. The trade fairs showcased new designs, materials, technologies, and medical processes. The event also had talks from key industry and research partners, among them several ETH professors. The talks were held continuously throughout the event in two stages. 

Swiss Manufacturing and AMX were interesting opportunities to be in contact with top-notch technology and with the latest developments in the biomedical industry. There we had an opportunity to network with key stakeholders and attend talks that will enrich our careers and our projects” says Andre.
The fair was really interesting; it gave us the possibility to observe and analyze the top-notch additive-manufacturing swiss technologies and to discuss with several field experts and professionals” according to Elisa.


This article was written by André Plath as part of an ongoing series of scientific communications written and curated by BioTrib’s Early Stage Researchers.

André is researching Boundary Lubrication of Fibrous Scaffolds at ETH Zürich, Switzerland.


Cartilage Tissue Engineering and Electrospinning

Cartilage-related diseases are a promising field to explore in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. The cartilage hydrated structure is aneural, avascular, and non-lymphatic, which complicates natural regeneration [1,2]. The increase in life expectancy and obesity is directly correlated to osteoarthritis –the disease caused by the degradation of cartilage. The painful consequences also increase comorbidities and burden patients and healthcare providers with exorbitant costs [3,4].

Currently, surgical and non-surgical therapies are employed to address osteoarthritis. They are not permanent solutions [5–7]. Therefore, several groups are developing hydrogels [8,9], electrospun mats [10], and other biomaterials to mimic the natural properties of cartilage. These implants can increase patients’ quality of life, reducing pain, comorbidities, and other undesirable effects after their clinical trials and regulatory agency approval.


Chondrocyte proliferation on neutralized chitosan fiber mats. Image adapted from under Creative Commons License

Yilmaz and Zeugolis discuss the promises, challenges, and future perspectives of electrospinning applied to cartilage tissue engineering [11]. They emphasize that although electrospinning literature is abundant in the Pubmed database, few studies explore electrospining’s potential applied to cartilage tissue engineering. The authors demonstrate with pre-clinical results that stem cell-seeded electrospun scaffolds combined with other techniques (3D printing and freeze-drying) can recover lubricating properties, mechanical resistance and restore cartilage tissue properties [11]. Although the reviewed studies consider small animals (rats, mice, and rabbits), they are promising to people suffering from the pain and harmful effects of osteoarthritis worldwide [11].


This article was written by André Plath as part of an ongoing series of scientific communications written and curated by BioTrib’s Early Stage Researchers.

André is researching Boundary Lubrication of Fibrous Scaffolds at ETH Zürich, Switzerland.




[1]        L.M. Billesberger, K.M. Fisher, Y.J. Qadri, R.L. Boortz-Marx, Procedural Treatments for Knee Osteoarthritis: A Review of Current Injectable Therapies, Pain Res. Manag. 2020 (2020) 1–11.

[2]        E.D. Bonnevie, V.J. Baro, L. Wang, D.L. Burris, Fluid load support during localized indentation of cartilage with a spherical probe, J. Biomech. 45 (2012) 1036–1041.

[3]        S. Glyn-Jones, A.J.R. Palmer, R. Agricola, A.J. Price, T.L. Vincent, H. Weinans, A.J. Carr, Osteoarthritis, in: Lancet, Lancet Publishing Group, 2015: pp. 376–387.

[4]        D.J. Hunter, L. March, M. Chew, Osteoarthritis in 2020 and beyond: a Lancet Commission, Lancet. 396 (2020) 1711–1712.

[5]        Y. Lee, J. Choi, N.S. Hwang, Regulation of lubricin for functional cartilage tissue regeneration: a review, Biomater. Res. 22 (2018) 9.

[6]        G. Musumeci, C. Loreto, M.L. Carnazza, F. Coppolino, V. Cardile, R. Leonardi, Lubricin is expressed in chondrocytes derived from osteoarthritic cartilage encapsulated in poly(ethylene glycol) diacrylate scaffold, Eur. J. Histochem. 55 (2011) 31.

[7]        W. Kabir, C. Di Bella, I. Jo, D. Gould, P.F.M. Choong, Human Stem Cell Based Tissue Engineering for In Vivo Cartilage Repair: A Systematic Review, Tissue Eng. Part B Rev. 27 (2021).

[8]        Y. Gombert, R. Simič, F. Roncoroni, M. Dübner, T. Geue, N.D. Spencer, Structuring Hydrogel Surfaces for Tribology, Adv. Mater. Interfaces. 6 (2019) 1901320.

[9]        M. Jurak, A.E. Wiącek, A. Ładniak, K. Przykaza, K. Szafran, What affects the biocompatibility of polymers?, Adv. Colloid Interface Sci. 294 (2021) 102451.

[10]      J.K. Wise, A.L. Yarin, C.M. Megaridis, M. Cho, Chondrogenic Differentiation of Human Mesenchymal Stem Cells on Oriented Nanofibrous Scaffolds: Engineering the Superficial Zone of Articular Cartilage, Tissue Eng. Part A. 15 (2009) 913–921.

[11]      E.N. Yilmaz, D.I. Zeugolis, Electrospun Polymers in Cartilage Engineering—State of Play, Front. Bioeng. Biotechnol. 8 (2020).

BioTrib Conversations: Clinical expertise in polymer, dental and joint replacement biotribology

In Episode 5 of BioTrib Conversations, Prof Nazanin Emami (BioTrib Lead Scientist, Luleå University of Technology) discusses with Prof Richard Hall (BioTrib Co-ordinator, University of Leeds) her career path to becoming a leading researcher in biotribology and the importance of a clinical understanding within medical device development.


NuSpine Outreach Videos

Early Stage Researchers within the NU-SPINE ETN produced six videos for BeCurious outreach events in 2020/21.

Cervical Total Disc Replacement – Faizal Kamarol

Have you or anyone you know ever suffered from a neck problem? Faizal Kamarol from the University of Leeds School of Mechanical Engineering explains research into Cervical Total Disc Replacement (CTDR), a procedure for patients who suffer wear and tear of the spinal discs in the neck.

Developing Spinal Simulators – Kaushikk Iyer

Kaushikk Iyer from the Unviersity of Leeds School of Mechanical Engineering and Key Engineering Solutions is developing spinal simulators to help test spinal disc implants, to ensure they can be used to treat patients safely.

Tribology of facet joints – Beril Saadet Yenigul

Beril Saadet Yenigul from the NU-SPINE project at the University of Leeds gives an introduction to biotribology, facet joints, and the challenges of designing facet joint replacements!

Spinal fusion surgery – Xiaoyu Du

Xiaoyu Du from the NU-SPINE project at ETH Zurich, interrupts cooking dinner to show us how spinal fusion surgery works with some of her ingredients!

Structural engineering – Thijs Smit

Thijs Smit from the NU-SPINE project at the University of Science and Technology, ETH Zurich, shows us some do-it-yourself engineering, using… LEGO! Why not try building your own super-strong structure at home with lego too?

Understanding Non-Newtonian Fluid with SLIME! – Yijun Zhou

With the help of ‘Ms Shark’, Yijun Zhou from the NU-SPINE project at Uppsala University shows us a fun Non-Newtonian fluid experiment you can do at home by making SLIME!