Model Organisms in Biomedical Research

September 8, 2011

We have recently published the latest of our videos on bioethics. The subject this time is the use of model organisms in biomedical research (it last six and a half minutes). I am particularly please about this one as it is the first of two main films that have been at the core of a project supported by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (the other film, due for completion shortly, is on Comparative Genomics).

For reasons I needn’t go into these videos have had longer gestation than a baby elephant but we are very pleased with the outcome and hope you will agree that they have been worth the wait. In the fullness of time there will also be some structured suggestions for how to use these videos in a teaching context.

Production of the two main videos has resulted in the release of seven further films as side-product of the project. These have been previously mentioned on this site, see here for a list.


The NHS Postcode Lottery: It Could Be You – Panorama

September 5, 2008
It Could Be You" online at the Panorama homepage

Watch "The NHS Postcode Lottery: It Could Be You" online at the BBC's Panorama homepage

In this edition of Panorama (first broadcast in the UK on BBC1 at 20.30 on the August 18th 2008), reporter Shelly Jofre investigates the “postcode lottery”, an expression that has come into usage to describe differences in the availability of medicines and other treatments dependent upon where you live, and hence under the authority of which Primary Care Trust (PCT) your provision falls. This thirty minute episode focussed on discrepancies in the guidelines for prescribing three medications: Avastin, Lucentis and Aricept, which are used in the treatment of bowel cancer, wet age-related macular degeneration (wet AMD) and Alzheimer’s Disease, respectively. What all three drugs have in common is that they are licensed as safe and effective for use in the UK, but have not been approved for unrestricted provision on the NHS by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE).

Using the stories of patients – including the author Terry Pratchett – and their doctors, The NHS Postcode Lottery explores the various agencies who have a role in deciding whether or not these drugs could or should be provided at the point of NHS care, and to whom they should go.

This is an engaging, if a little sensational, introduction to some of the ethical issues raised by current resource allocation practices within the UK healthcare system, and – insofar as it is organised around three ‘case studies’ of approximately ten minutes in length – it could form the basis for discussion of resource allocation within a GCSE science or biology lesson (see the BioethicsBytes “Bioethics in the UK Curriculum” website for details of curricula requirements in this area). This post highlights the framework into which these cases fit and, based on the information presented in this episode of Panorama, it addresses two questions: How does the ‘postcode lottery’ arise? and What are the consequences of it? It also provides a rough guide to how the programme might be used in teaching.

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My Life On A Post-it Note

August 8, 2008
BBC News article

BBC News article

Christine was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. The BBC documentary series One Life gave a personal insight into the effect of the disease on both the sufferer and the family around them, as they endeavour to cope with this deliberating illness. Christine (mostly referred to as Chris in the documentary) is resolute in her determination to remain independent. This, however, becomes increasingly difficult as the disease becomes progressively worse.

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