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Ageing through the Ages: multidisciplinary perspectives

Prof Tess Fitzpatrick (Swansea, Linguistics): Age-related changes in lexical retrieval behaviour: a consequence of cognitive decline or accumulated learning

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Ageing through the Ages: multidisciplinary perspectives

Roger and Annie Panton (Patient/Public representative): Coming to terms with being 70+ and our experiences to date.

Annie Panton

My initial business experience, following a secretarial course at Mrs. Hoster’s in Central London, included working for a variety of businesses – within the property industry, the fashion industry and Human Resources. This gave me a basic grounding in the business world which I have loved working in ever since.

 

All of these organisations were in Central London – one story – a guy rang me one day at the company I worked for called Garrard Smith and said ‘my name is Michael Caine and I want to view a property that you have’ – well, I could have died but he insisted on collecting me from the office, taking me to the property he wanted to view and was charm personified!

Subsequently, I went on to work seriously in HR and joined a company that was starting up in the UK from the US. I had a great time within this company which was where I met Roger! The company moved out of central London into Berkshire sometime later and it was there that we decided to buy a property in Cookham village. I then worked within the property business in Slough – where my introduction to relocation was made – and at the same time Roger’s company grew in stature in Maidenhead.

 

Then as part of my connection with property, I came across something I thought was a good idea – moving into Oxfordshire – into a property which I had been asked to sell – so we did and I was pregnant so a. we moved and b. we had our daughter in the Radcliffe Hospital in 1979.

 

Village life was beautiful but I wanted to get back to where Alex might become friends with her age group more easily and we ended up coming back into Berkshire near Maidenhead where we all settled into our respective careers and bringing up our dear daughter. The friends she made here at that time are still her friends now – 32 years of friendship!

 

So we’re still here, getting older and having to cope with the ‘getting older’ syndrome particularly when illness creeps into the equation.

 

Roger Panton MBCS CITP

Joined Esso Petroleum in 1964 as Junior Programmer, became member of the system team responsible for HASP. Joint Leasco Software 1970, worked on assignments in Germany (HOAG) Holland (KLM Tropic reservation system), SEALINK ferries, IOW Ferries, Daily Mirror (Night Payroll/Sporting Life). Joined MCS Maidenhead 1976 Shell (Depot transport), BP (Library Management),1982 Joined Guardata delivering secure networks to Financial Networks and ATM’s.

1993 installed Cellnet’s(O2) first intranet, SSE’s new gas and electric’s management process, Department of the Environment, Archive Management plan, MOD infrastructure relocation, British Gas, customer marketing DB. Joined Activity Forum 2000, RFU website and membership system and clubs system. This package is hosted and maintained by Activity Form and is used by customers in the UK and USA. Since 2008 play a supporting role in Activity Forum, I thought I would have more spare time but I now am Chairman or Older Persons’ Advisory Forum (www.opaf.org.uk), Maidenhead Neighbourhood Plan, Civic Society.

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Dr Julie Hawkins from the School of Biological Sciences discusses recent research which aims to revitalise the hunt for new plant-based medicines.

The earliest medicines were derived from plants, and the first doctors were trained in botany. Today, many societies rely directly on plants and plant knowledge for the health of their people, and a large proportion of pharmaceutical medicines are derived from plants. These pharmaceuticals are often used in ways which reflect traditional use of the species from which they have been derived.

Despite the importance of plants to health, however, there is some controversy as to whether new drugs could be derived from them. Recent developments in drug discovery have made use of robotic screening of compound libraries, whist bioprospecting based on traditional knowledge of plant use has fallen out of favour. Some have argued that useful pharmaceuticals are unlikely to be discovered amongst the ‘riches of the rainforests’. There are issues surrounding recognising the intellectual property of the people discovering and using these plants, which is seen as politically complex, and this discourages investment. In addition, collecting traditionally used plants for screening is time consuming and relies on expertise in botany and ethnobotany. Furthermore, some have argued that plant use may not be indicative of bioactivity, so screening plants used by traditional healers may not yield valuable insights.

Research I have been involved in has recently looked at a novel way of evaluating plants used by traditional healers to address this. We considered the phylogenies, or ‘family trees’ of the plants found in three global biodiversity hotspots. By using DNA sequences to work out how plants in these regions were related, we were able to see whether plants usedby traditonal healers in different regions were closely related to each other. The geographic regions we selected for the study were ones unlikely to have exchanged knowledge about traditional plants – Nepal, New Zealand and South Africa. We found that in these regions the same closely-related plants were used by traditional healers, and interestingly were used to treat the same conditions. 

The fact that evolutionarily related plants are used in different regions, even though the same species are not present, strongly suggests an independent discovery of plants which share the same or similar health properties.  This new finding could revitalise the search for valuable plant medicines. Targeted screening of plants with a high potential for having health benefits would reduce the time investment in collecting species, and also make it easier to negotiate fair and equitable distribution of benefits with the originators of the knowledge.

Dr Julie Hawkins works in the School of Biological Sciences and is interested in the application of molecular marker data to determine identity, parentage and provenance of economically important plant species. This research has recently been published in PNAS: Haris Saslis-Lagoudakis, Vincent Savolainen, Elizabeth M. Williamson, Félix Forest, Steven J. Wagstaff, Sushim R. Baral, Mark F. Watson, Colin A. Pendry & Julie A. Hawkins. ‘Phylogenies reveal predictive power of traditional medicine in bioprospecting’ PNAS (2012). doi:10.1073/pnas.1202242109.

 

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