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Session 17A-17C & 17E 11:30-13:00 // day two

17A - Nanotechnology & Biomolecules University of Warwick, University of Leeds, and Nanyang Technological University

Background

Breast cancer is common and has increasing incidence in the UK. Although mortality rates have fallen, they can be reduced further by improved diagnostic and predictive markers. Current studies indicate a clear correlation between microscopic morphology and behaviour, but are yet to find an efficient and effective method of analysing overall tumour shape to correlate with outcome. Aim: to conduct a pilot evaluation of methodology of analysing tumour shape and investigating any potential relationship between tumour shape and patient outcomes.

Methods

Archival stained slides from a cohort of 59 breast tumours from woman age 56.4 ± 13.7 years (mean ± standard deviation), spanning across 3 grades with known survival data, were formalin fixed and embedded in paraffin blocks, sectioned, stained using H&E, scanned using Aperio ScanScope to create virtual slides. For each tumour, the area and perimeter were calculated by annotating around the outermost border of the tumour using a stylus, touch screen and ImageScope software. These were then used to calculate an additional metric, A:P, to effectively quantify irregularity. This was then compared to the known survival data of the patients.

Results

Currently, grade is used to indicate patient prognosis. A:P against death from breast cancer gave a p-value of 0.006, implying it is a stronger indicator than grade. This suggests rounder tumours are associated with higher grades and higher rates of death from breast cancer.

Conclusion

This study has demonstrated a viable method for tumour shape analysis and hinted at its value. Our results have indicated that global tumour shape may be a better indicator of death from breast cancer than grade is. Tumour shape can be used as a potential surrogate for grade and thus grade equivalent data could be inferred from radiological appearances. So patients could get an idea of the prognosis of their disease from their first mammogram.

The increasing prominence of Chinese medicine as an alternative medicine results in the growing concern with regard to the composition of active components in medicinal herbs. Schisandra chinensis is widely used in Chinese medicine for treating chronic cough and asthenic dyspnea. Cysteine-rich peptides (CRPs) have multiple disulphide bonds and a rich presence of cysteine, which enhances its stability. This form of stability gives rise to antimicrobial properties and serves as a fingerprint for authentication of medicinal herbs. In this study, we report the isolation and purification of CRP from berries of S. chinensis, specifically known as sC1, using reverse phase flash chromatography, strong ionic exchange flash column and high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). Reduction and alkylation reveal that sC1 contains six cysteine residues and three disulphide bonds. Stability assays showed that S. chinensis sC1 is highly resistant against thermal, acidic and enzymatic degradation. This study reviews the characterisation of the sC1 sequence using de novo peptide sequencing. MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry analysis identifies sC1 to have a molecular weight of 2154 Da with less than 20 amino acids. Our findings suggest that S. chinensis sC1 could be a potential bioavailable peptide therapeutic.

With the advancements in nanotechnology, we are able to build nanodevices, which are small, use less power and can incorporate quantum mechanical effects (such as wave-particle duality where electrons also behave like waves in addition to the classical picture of localised particle) which is not

possible with macroscale devices. Understanding electronic transport at this scale allows us to engineer these materials in a specific way to obtain desired electronic properties, but the classical transport approach remains inadequate at the nanoscale to simulate these materials as quantum effects start to dominate.

The Non-Equilibrium Green Function (NEGF) method is one of the most common electronic quantum transport methods employed to investigate the properties of nanomaterials and devices. It can incorporate in a straightforward manner nanoscale geometrical complexities and non-uniformities. However, its high computational cost limits its applicability to the nanometre scale.

This project attempts to develop coarse-graining techniques inspired by the quasi-continuum method to reduce the computational cost of NEGF and expand its capabilities to much larger physical domains. No one has successfully implemented coarse-graining techniques in NEGF formalism before and, if successful, this new technology will have a significant impact in investigating transport properties of a new generation of nanocomposite materials and devices.

The versatile properties of nanoparticles have elicited the exciting development of a pioneering field of rapidly accelerating scientific growth. Current literature has demonstrated effective applications of nanoparticles to address numerous contemporary biomedical treatment issues such as drug

delivery, antimicrobial action and cancer applications. Our research question asks how strongly nanoparticles interact with lipid membranes – a fundamental biological response.

To address this, we encapsulate the fluorescent (light-emitting) dye carboxyfluorescein within a lipid membrane and use fluorescence spectroscopy, an analytic technique that measures the intensity of light emission, as the membrane interacts with increasing concentrations of nanoparticles. This tells us about the dosage at which the nanoparticles damage the membrane to cause increased dye leakage. We also use a range of other techniques in conjunction to provide a more thorough and comprehensive toxicological assessment.

Currently our research indicates the disruption of lipid membranes with increasing nanoparticle concentrations, which suggests impairment of cell activity. These results support the establishment of safety measures to direct new consumer advances, without threatening to instigate long-term consequences such as toxic internal accumulation and organ damage. Overall, our research aims to explore whether nanoparticles pose a significant health hazard, as understanding of potential risks is still unknown.

The future of this research continues to investigate further separate components of the cell membrane in isolation, gradually superimposed to incorporate graduated layers of complexity modelling a natural cell – thereby also potentially leading to a reduction in intensity of reliance on animal testing, which published studies are finding increasingly flawed.

17B - Global Perspectives University of Warwick and Univerity of Brawijaya

This study aims to investigate the influence of perceived usefulness, perceived ease of use, perceived novelty and perceived enjoyment on consumer attitude and adoption intention of the Samsung Gear VR. The primary data used in this study were collected from 140 respondents who have experience operating the Samsung Gear VR using a survey method by distributing online structured questionnaires. The collected data was analysed using a path analysis method using SPSS and AMOS software. The results show that perceived ease of use, perceived novelty and perceived enjoyment influence the consumer adoption intention through attitude, while perceived usefulness and perceived enjoyment have direct effects on adoption intention. Among those factors, perceived enjoyment is the most dominant factors that strongly affects both the consumers’ attitude and adoption intention of the Samsung Gear VR. Based on the findings, marketers should improve the aspect of product related to its usefulness, easiness (system), novelty and more focus on enjoyment (features) to enhance the consumer attitude towards intention to adopt the Samsung Gear VR.

Keywords: Perceived usefulness, perceived ease of use, perceived novelty, perceived enjoyment, consumer attitude, adoption intention, wearable technology, virtual reality, Samsung Gear VR

When choosing what restaurant to go to, what book to read or what wine to buy, observable product characteristics are unlikely to provide a complete picture of what to expect. Hence, consumers may rely on external information sources to make informed decisions about a good or service. Thus, consumers’ demand can be thought of being shaped by two information sources: expert judgment and public opinion. We investigate the difference between these sources using a dataset of restaurants by merging TripAdvisor user-generated content (UGC) in the form of reviews, user profiles and restaurant information with the expert opinion expressed in the Michelin Guide Main Cities of Europe 2016.

By using a mix of statistical methods, machine learning and sentiment analysis, we answer three research questions: (Q1) To what extent does expert judgment, in the form of Michelin stars, and public opinion, in the form of TripAdvisor UGC, differ in the context of restaurants? (A1) One Michelin star restaurants have significantly lower overall, food and atmosphere ratings when compared to two and three Michelin star restaurants. (Q2) What is the most important background information about a TripAdvisor reviewer in explaining the possible differences between eWOM and expert opinion? (A2) The marginal effect of the average restaurant expenditure and number of helpful votes for Michelin related reviews on the difference between the overall rating and the number of Michelin stars is negative, whereas the effect of the number of visits to one, two or three Michelin stars restaurants, level and mean review sentiment is positive. (Q3) Do non-starred restaurants similar to one star Michelin restaurants have a higher TripAdvisor rating? (A3) On average one Michelin star restaurants have a higher mean rating when compared to similar non-starred restaurants. Additionally, we trained an MLP which classifies with 70% precision the rating difference between eWOM and Michelin stars.

This research project, based in Greece is titled “Refugees: The Truth Behind their Journey”. It aims to unravel the important process of asylum application, and the different factors that are considered when granting it. Readers will be interested in the larger work of this project, as the research is grounded on the current topic of the refugee crisis. A controversial humanitarian emergency which has most certainly struck an emotional chord amongst most readers, who are eager to learn more about this subject.

Our work seeks to investigate the legal status of refugees in a national (Greek) context as well as under international law. Our focus will be whether migrants’ human rights are respected and adhered to according to international law by local and national authorities, NGOs and the general Greek population. We will interview independent asylum lawyers as well as some working under NGOs to draw on their experiences throughout the refugee crisis and we will also interview some refugees and Greek locals to hear their side of the story. The purpose of the investigation will be achieved by gathering evidence from these interviews, our own observations on the field and online databases (such as ESI).

The work will add to the already extensive body of knowledge/research in this area, by offering more exposure on the topic, raising the awareness of readers. Unravelling the harsh realities of the crisis to people who haven’t visited these camps.

In this day and age, we the consumers have become well accustomed to and even irritated by receiving repetitive emails asking us to provide feedback on our recent eBay purchase or rate our latest Airbnb experience. However, much research advocates that product review functions provide the most powerful marketing tool to influencing the customer decision-making process.

From an economic standpoint, reviews allow the consumer to overcome information asymmetries. A recent study where respondents had to choose between two online shops – one with positive customer reviews but higher product prices and another with lower prices, but no customer reviews at all – showed online reviews to be significant and, in cases where they are used, fundamental determinants of online transactions. They, therefore, function as choice benchmarks. (Foxal et al., 2016).

Acknowledging the power of reviews in decision-making from previous studies, the research objective is set to investigate the relationship between customer-reviewing systems and cross-price, quantity-demanded elasticities. The study is conducted using quantitative tools such as R and Python, first, to scrape website data (e.g. from Airbnb) and then perform an econometric analysis following the standard methodology of working with cross-sectional data.

While for now we expect the relationship between ranking (marginal benefit) and price (marginal cost) to lie in a broad range somewhere between a weak negative and a strong positive correlation, this study will add to the literature in this relatively new sector of the economy, as well as aiding e-commerce practitioners in influencing customer behaviour.

17C - Advances in Medicine and Technology University of Warwick and Nanyang Technological University

Acinetobacter baumannii is an opportunistic pathogen that is responsible for a significant proportion of the burden of nosocomial infections, especially among immunocompromised patients. It has been identified by the World Health Organisation as a critical threat due to its extensive antimicrobial resistance. While the role of phospholipids in antimicrobial resistance, pathogenicity and virulence has been established in various pathogens, this remains poorly understood in A. baumannii infection, in part due to the lack of knowledge of its metabolism and lipid composition. In this pilot study, we aim to characterise the phospholipidome of clinical and laboratory strains of A. baumannii, and investigate whether the high definition biochemical signatures can serve as discriminants of antimicrobial resistance phenotypes. Employing a combinatorial liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry-based approach, we identified for the first time six major phospholipid classes – phosphatidylglycerol, phosphatidylethanolamine, cardiolipin, phosphatidic acid, lyso-cardiolipin and lyso-phosphatidylethanolamine – spanning 75 distinct molecular phospholipid species in the A. baumannii phospholipidome. We also quantified and compared the phospholipidome of clinical strains of varying antimicrobial resistance, and discovered that cardiolipin and lyso-phosphatidylethanolamine are differentially regulated between extensively drug resistant (XDR) strains and non-XDR A. baumannii strains. Based on the comprehensive phospholipidome characterised, we present a preliminary map of the phospholipid metabolic pathway of A. baumannii. Our results represent a concrete foundation for further hypothesis generation, and future application of this work could even extend to clinical application for rapid antimicrobial sensitivity diagnostics based on discriminatory lipid biomarkers.

Enterococci have emerged as one of the leading causes of hospital-acquired infections. Particularly, complications from Enterococcus faecalis wound infections can result in fatal prognosis of endocarditis and systemic bacteraemia. Early bacterial identification complemented with targeted treatment can improve the recovery of these infected wounds. However, accurate prognosis has been hampered due to a lack of available bacterial genetic information from infected wounds. To address this, 49 E. faecalis wound isolates were identified through species-specific PCR enrichment of the 16S rRNA and superoxide dismutase (sodA) genes and verified by Sanger sequencing. Common virulent traits were identified based on their propensity for biofilm formation, antibiotic resistance and intrinsic proteolytic activity. Our results identified pro-biofilm variants in majority of the E. faecalis isolates, with biofilm formation being enhanced with glucose supplementation. Most strains also demonstrated resistance to gentamicin and susceptibility to daptomycin. Similarities in virulent traits of these isolates were subsequently corroborated with the draft genomes of E. faecalis strains OG1RF and V583. Our results hold significance in establishing correlations between common genetic elements and virulence observed in nosocomial infections. More importantly, these correlations allow the prediction of prevailing infective species attributing to wound chronicity, hence conferring greater accuracy and efficacy in diagnosing and formulating tailored treatment towards E. faecalis infected wounds.

Multiferroic materials demonstrate a change in their electric, magnetic and elastic properties when exposed to external influences such as an applied electric/magnetic field. Thin film multiferroics (such as BiFeO3 and BaTiO3) have spatial regions where the electric/magnetic dipole moments of the molecules in that region point in the same direction.

Each region is called a domain and at the boundary between neighbouring domains are ‘domain walls’. The domain walls in multiferroic thin films have some different properties (such as their conductivity) to the bulk thin film sample, much of which are still not known. These properties of domain walls allow them to be used as active elements in memory storage devices as well as various sensors. By better understanding the various properties of domain walls in thin film multiferroics, their uses in such devices can continue to be optimised.

In this study, BaTi03 and BiFeO3 thin films are grown using pulsed laser deposition (PLD) on low lattice mismatch surfaces. Techniques such as atomic force microscopy (AFM) and X-ray diffraction (XRD) are then performed on the thin films to characterise the domain walls (for example, measuring domain wall thickness). Domain walls in multiferroics tend to increase their thickness in response to an applied electric field and the thickening of these domain walls is observed using high-resolution AFM. The usage of PLD and high-resolution probe microscopy in this study aims to further corroborate the knowledge base in domain wall properties that has been developed with similar studies.

In the brain, cell replacement is rare, so when brain cells die it can be devastating. Plasticity (the brain’s dynamic ability to alter its organisation and activation) in the adult brain is more restricted than during development, meaning that the brain’s ability to adapt and take over lost function is reduced.

As the world’s population ages, major neurodegenerative diseases and cognitive disorders (e.g. Alzheimer’s disease and dementia) are increasingly prevalent. As pressure of these afflictions on the public health sector heightens, so does pressure to discover and hone effective treatment. New approaches are needed more now than ever; burgeoning biotechnology is trying to fill the niche that medicines alone simply cannot – the ability to remove the ‘brakes’ on the adult brain’s plasticity.

Optogenetics, algae-derived technology, is making waves in neuroscience; it incorporates channelrhodopsin (a light-sensitive protein), allowing scientists to switch neurons on and off using light. Potentially, CRISPR/Cas9 (a genome editing technology that allows permanent modification of an organism’s genes using segments of prokaryotic DNA) can be incorporated to create a highly effective combined therapy.

This project’s aim is to explore the forefront of treatment for neurodegenerative diseases, comparing pathways and effectiveness. It also aims to discover how degenerated neurons can potentially be permanently renewed with the use of different biotechnologies. Enriching the project will be primary, academic sources (e.g. journals, research papers) and consultations with academics to discuss findings and ideas. I expect to find out more about the scope of research surrounding these diseases and perhaps discover potentially revolutionary, budding treatments.

17E - Warwick Spotlight Session: Brexit University of Warwick