Monthly Archives: April 2016

Prize Lecture Memoria – Ernest Starling

L0026329 Ernst Henry Starling.

Ernest Henry Starling (April 1866 –1927) was an English Physiologist and Fellow of the Royal Society. Starling joined Guy’s Hospital, London in 1882, earning his qualifying degrees of MB, in 1889 and MD in 1890. Starling worked part-time from 1889 to 1899 at Guy’s and also lectured at the London School of Medicine for Women. In this period, after research experience in various German laboratories, he established ‘Starling’s Principle’ which describes tissue fluid formation and the importance of osmotic forces across the capillary wall. He was next appointed Professor of Physiology at University College London, serving from 1899 to 1923. It was here he met Sir William Maddock Bayliss, with whom he first described gut peristalsis and then discovered the peptide hormone secretin. This first discovery of a hormone significantly broadened the fields of research in physiology. Starling was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1899, but it was not until 1915 that he uncovered the findings known now as the ‘Frank-Starling law of the Heart’, which was further revised in 1919. Together with Otto Frank, Starling had independently discovered and characteristed that the stroke volume of the heart (‘cardiac output’) increases in response to an increase in the volume of blood filling the heart (‘end diastolic volume’), when all other factors were held constant and that the force of the muscular contraction of the heart is directly proportional to the extent to which the muscle is stretched. On 2 May 1927, Starling died at the age of 61 whilst aboard a ship in the Atlantic. He was buried in Kingston, Jamaica. The Physiological Society created the Bayliss Starling Prize Lecture as a joint memorial in 1960 and in 1979, the Bayliss and Starling Society was established, focusing on central and autonomic peptide functions.

Prize Lecture Memoria – Bernard Katz

KATZ, Sir Bernard 1984  Barts (14. 6-6A)Sir Bernard Katz (1911 –2003) was a German-born Nobel Prize winning physiologist. Katz was born to a Jewish family in Leipzig. After studying medicine at the University of Leipzig, he fled to England in 1935 to escape Nazi persecution. He went on to work at University College London (UCL) under AV Hill, and on finishing his PhD in 1938, won the Carnegie Fellowship to study with John Eccles at the Kanematsu Memorial Institute in Sydney. After being naturalised in 1941, Katz served in the Royal Australian Air Force for the duration of World War II. In 1946, he returned to UCL and continued his research on the synapse. Katz became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1952, the same year in which he became Head of the newly designated Biophysics Department at UCL. He was knighted in 1969, shortly before receiving the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1970 (with Julius Axelrod and Ulf von Euler), for his discovery that neurotransmitter release at synapses is ‘quantal’, meaning that the amount of neurotransmitter release is never less than a fixed minimum and, if more, this is an integer multiple of this amount. This functional evidence was later complemented by ultrastructural evidence of transmitter-containing, membrane-bound vesicles common to nerve endings and secretory cells. Katz became Emeritus Professor at UCL in 1978. On 20 April 2003, Sir Bernard Katz died aged 92. In 1999 The Physiological Society established the Hodgkin-Huxley-Katz Prize Lecture; this prestigious biennial lecture celebrates the contributions to the physiological sciences of Alan Hodgkin, Andrew Huxley and Bernard Katz.


Prize Lecture Memoria -William Bayliss

V0026008 Sir William Maddock Bayliss. Photograph b

Sir William Maddock Bayliss (1860–1924) was an English physiologist and Fellow of the Royal Society, renowned for his work with Ernest Starling. Bayliss gained a BSc from London University in 1881, but it was 4 years later at Wadham College in Oxford that he achieved his MA and DSc. In 1888, he took a teaching position at University College London which is where he would enter into research with Starling. Together, they discovered the peptide hormone secretin and peristalsis of the intestines. Secretin was the first hormone ever identified; Bayliss and Starling coined the term ‘hormone’ from the Greek phrase ‘I arouse/excite’. This breakthrough opened up new fields of medical and scientific research and discovery. Starling’s sister, Gertrude Ellen Starling married Bayliss in 1893: they went on to have four children together. In 1903, Bayliss successfully sued Stephen Coleridge for libel over the ‘Brown Dog Affair’ for claiming that Bayliss had not correctly sedated a brown dog on which he performed a vivisection, the same year in which he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. Bayliss went on to become the Professor of General Physiology at University College London in 1912, where he made discoveries into the effect of saline injections in countering shock experienced after surgery. In 1922, Bayliss was knighted for his contribution to medicine. On 27 August 1924, Sir William Maddock Bayliss died in London aged 64. The Physiological Society created the Bayliss Starling Prize Lecture as a joint memorial in 1960 and in 1979, the Bayliss and Starling Society was established, focusing on central and autonomic peptide functions.

Anti-doping: evolution or revolution?

debate-handout (002)_Page_1_crop

What is the best approach to tackle doping in sport? Should we improve our current detection and deterrence methods, or would a complete different approach be the best solution?

The event, held by Cycling Weekly and co-hosted with the University of Brighton, was inspired by two recent comment pieces published in CW; the first by sports ethics specialist Dr Paul Dimeo, who called for a revolution in anti-doping policy — a complete re-evaluation of what we mean by ‘cheating’.

In response, genetics expert Professor Yannis Pitsiladis countered that current anti-doping measures can succeed provided they evolve via improved testing and more severely punitive deterrents. Thus the debate was born — anti-doping: evolution or revolution?

You can catch up with the debate here.

We were delighted to have our Member Yannis Pitsiladis join our panel at Edinburgh Science Festival where he debated with sports psychologist Edward Coughlan about the relative importance of genetics and training in our event ‘Olympians: Born or built?’. The event, chaired by three time Paralympian Dan Gordon, was a huge success with the audience, continuing the debate online, and in the bar. The event was one of many stops in the Professor of Sport and Exercise Science public engagement appearance.


Prize Lecture Memoria – GL Brown

BROWN GL 1959 Z.2.1.31

GL Brown, 1959

Sir George Lindor Brown, commonly referred to as Sir Lindor Brown, or to colleagues simply as ‘GL’ (1903 –1971) was an English Physiologist and Fellow of the Royal Society. Brown attended the University of Manchester on a scholarship to study medicine, where Nobel Prize winner A V Hill was the professor of physiology. He completed his BSc and MSc in 1924 and 1925 respectively, finally qualifying in medicine in 1928 and joined the university as a lecturer. During his time at the University of Manchester, Brown won both the Platt Physiological Scholarship and the Bradley Prize and Medal for operative surgery. In 1934 he accepted a post at the National Institute for Medical Research in Hampstead, offered by Sir Henry Dale, where he worked with Sir John Gaddum and W S Feldberg, helping to establish the cholinergic theory of chemical transmission. Brown left the Institute in 1949 to become the Jodrell Chair of Physiology at University College London to strengthen the Department and help underpin the creation of the Biophysics departments under Sir Bernard Katz (from 1952). He served on various committees for the Royal Society, and became Biological Secretary from 1955-1963. He was knighted in 1957. In 1960, Brown moved to the University of Oxford, taking the post of Waynflete Chair of Physiology and becoming a Fellow of Magdalen until 1967 when he was elected Principal of Hertford College Oxford. Sir George Lindor Brown passed away on 22 February 1971 aged 68. In 1975 The Physiological Society established the GL Brown Prize Lecture in his memory, this is an annual series of peripatetic lectures aimed at a younger audience in order to stimulate an interest in physiology.

Of Ice Swims and Mountain Marathons (and So Much More)

I Spy Physiology Blog

If you regularly read this blog, you may know that the research questions that physiologists ask relate to wide range of topics—cells, tissues and organs, insects and animals, and how the environment influences all of these things. Nowhere is this more apparent than at the annual Experimental Biology meeting. This year, thousands of physiology-based research abstracts were presented over five days. Read on to learn about two research studies on extreme sports that caught our eye.

Glacier Dive Credit: Ram Barkai

Ice swimming is growing in popularity, with hundreds of athletes worldwide giving this chilly sport a try. Human performance in water this cold—swims must take place in water that’s 5 degrees Celsius or colder—has not been well-studied. In a study presented at the EB meeting, researchers looked at how age, gender and environmental factors such as wind chill affected athletes during one-mile ice swims. Among other results, they found…

View original post 289 more words

Researcher in the Spotlight April 2016


Dr Melitta McNarry is a Senior Lecturer, College of Engineering at Swansea University and specialises in cardiorespiratory fitness across the health, fitness and lifespan with a particular interest in paediatric populations. 



What is your research about?

My recent work has focused on the development of non-pharmacological intervention strategies, such as inspiratory muscle training and high intensity interval training, for people with asthma and cystic fibrosis. I specialise in cardiorespiratory fitness across the health, fitness and lifespan with a particular interest in paediatric populations. Recent work has focused on the development of non-pharmacological intervention strategies, such as inspiratory muscle training and high intensity interval training, for people with asthma and cystic fibrosis.

Furthermore, I am interested in the role of pulmonary rehabilitation for patients with respiratory disease, especially Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis, and the potential modifications that can be made to traditional strategies to optimise the outcome for the patients. With regards to such patient populations, I have recently begun to investigate the relationship between rheological parameters, namely blood clotting, hypoxia and exercise. Finally, following on from my PhD work, I continue to investigate the interaction between training and maturity on the bioenergetics responses of children and adolescents.

How did you come to be working in this field and was this something you always wanted to do?

While studying for my Biology degree at the University of Exeter, I realised that I was more interested in human physiology than plants or microbiology, so when a conversation at training one evening led to the offer to complete my dissertation in the School of Sport and Health Sciences I jumped at it! Little did I know this was just the start as following the success of my undergraduate dissertation I was offered a scholarship to complete a PhD at the University of Exeter. Whilst not something that I planned to do when I was “older”, I have been brought up in an academic family so it wasn’t a foreign concept when the opportunity arose.

Why is your work important?

My work unites theory with application, aiming to provide real-world solutions to pathophysiological conditions that do not revolve around pharmacological interventions. I therefore believe that my work has the potential to improve patients’ quality of life on a daily basis – even if this is only one patient I would count this as an important impact from my work.

Do you think your work can make a difference?

I think my work has the potential to make a difference on the individual patient level, improving the functional capabilities and enhancing their quality of life.

What does a typical day involve?

I would say that the joy of this job is that there is no such thing as a typical day, every day differs with the only common features being that they are generally too busy and that I never get what I planned to do that day done but a thousand other things instead! Nonetheless, a ‘typical’ day involves getting to work early in the morning to try and fight a rising tide of emails before numerous meetings with everyone from undergraduates to internationally renowned professors. This is then combined with giving lectures and running lab sessions for our undergraduates and, on the good days, with conducting testing to advance our studies and research.

What do you enjoy most in your job?

I enjoy working with children and patients in the lab and field, interacting with them and seeing research translated into real-life. The mundane (aka, admin-related) elements of the job often make you wonder why you continue working such hours but the rare moments you get to run physiological tests with participants reminds you why you started.

What do enjoy the least?

The requirement to be a jack-of-all-trades from teaching to research to administration, resulting in you being a master of none.

Tell us something about you that might surprise us…

I am not formally trained in Sport Science or Exercise Physiology! My undergraduate degree was in Biosciences.

What advice would you give to students/early career researchers?

Working hard is more important than intelligence, but sometimes things will happen at their own pace and nothing you can do will speed it up; be patient as if it is meant to be, it will be.