Stem Cell Technology Reveals Clues to Alzheimer’s

Scientists in the US have used stem cells from patients to overcome the challenge of obtaining live brain cells, allowing them to learn more about the causes of Alzheimer’s. The study, published online today in the journal Nature, provides new opportunities for scientists to model the complex disease.

Induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPSCs, are cells which have been taken from one part of the body and can be reprogrammed into other cell types. They allow scientists to overcome the challenge of obtaining live cells from the brain – as they can take skin cells from people and transform them into brain cells.

The scientists used iPSCs to investigate what goes wrong in brain cells of people with both late-onset Alzheimer’s, and those with familial Alzheimer’s – an inherited form which tends to affect people at a younger age. Skin cells (or fibroblasts) were obtained from two people with familial Alzheimer’s, two people with late-onset Alzheimer’s disease, and two people without dementia to act as controls. The fibroblast cells were transformed into brain nerve cells in the lab and the scientists looked for features of Alzheimer’s in these cells.

The study showed that nerve cells derived from the two volunteers with familial Alzheimer’s and one of those with late-onset Alzheimer’s produced high levels of amyloid and tau, two characteristic proteins involved in Alzheimer’s. They also produced high levels of a protein called active GSK-3β which can be responsible for turning tau into its more toxic form. They also found that one particular inhibitor of amyloid production could reduce the levels of all three proteins in these cells.

Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“Induced pluripotent stem cells have the potential to provide a great resource for scientists to study diseases such as Alzheimer’s – where getting access to human brain cells to study is a huge challenge. The authors have shown that these cells can reveal vital clues about the biological changes taking place during Alzheimer’s and we hope further studies can expand on these early findings.

“In light of the recent European ban on patents using human embryonic stem cells, it may prove important to increase our use of technology using these non-embryonic stem cells. We hope that studies like this one will drive scientific research forward and help us to understand the biology behind different forms of Alzheimer’s and test new treatments. With 820,000 in the UK living with dementia, the need for such research has never been greater.”

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Letter to Mr YouTube

I’m sat in front of my computer, trying to figure out why everywhere I turn, there are multiple ads trying to sell me goods, or an idea that I do not want or need. I don’t have a problem with advertising as such; in fact some adverts are legendary (look at all the ads that aired during the super-bowl!)

I can deal with the ads that air at the cinema before the movie begins; in fact I look forward to them. I can deal with the ads on TV; I have grown accustomed to them. I can deal with the ads on Facebook, twitter and all the other social networking sites. I can deal with the ads on blogs and news publication websites. I can deal with advertising. Advertising offers me a service, as a consumer, I need advertising, but I do believe that there are boundaries, and I believe that YouTube has crossed them!

YouTube, you and I used to be friends, great friends. You saw me through some difficult times. When I was bored and lonely, you were there for me. You cheered me up with videos of fat people falling over, of people with strange talents, or cat videos, or dog videos, even videos of people squeezing their spots! YouTube, you and I used to have a good thing!

Then the advertising came along, well it became more in your face. I didn’t mind them then. I didn’t mind having to watch at least five whole seconds of an advert, before I could skip, and watch the video I wanted to watch. I didn’t mind the promotional featured videos on the sidebar, I didn’t even mind the tiny Google ads bannered across the bottom of the video. What I do mind however, Mr YouTube, and I have a feeling that I am not alone, are the ads with audio that play whilst I’m trying to watch a video!

When I’m watching a video of a woman giving birth to her baby in a moving car, or a video of a girl who can dance with her eyebrows, or of a man singing his takeaway order at a drive-thru, the last thing I want to hear, is an advert telling me about the great wonders of a cleaning product, or some new stupid expensive app, that will lose it appeal ten minutes after purchase.

Yes I can turn the audio of the advert off, but this action is then made redundant seconds later, when another advert begins to play further down the screen.

Now I love YouTube, I’ve loved it from the very beginning. I loved the fact that it gave people a platform to express themselves. It gave people an opportunity to make a living out of their creativity.

Without YouTube, there would be no, or Justin Bieber (although I wish there wasn’t a Justin Bieber), or Rebecca Black (again not really a fan), or Karmin, or Shaytards, or Vlogbrothers and all the other talented individuals that started off making videos on YouTube.

Now like Facebook, twitter and other social networking sites that thrive on our human desire for attention, YouTube was created with a simple formula that worked! I mean, I wish I thought of it. I love YouTube so much that I bought the domain name called: (don’t log on though, there’s literally nothing on there).

YouTube, please I don’t want to break up, but you have to see things from my point of view. I understand capitalism. I’ve grown up in capitalism. I agree with capitalism, because as much as I would love this world to be a little more socialist, capitalism is the only system that seems to work.

Now I don’t know or understand what happens in the offices of YouTube. I don’t know what pressing agendas are brought up in cooperate meetings. What I do know is that those adverts are annoying, really annoying! What I also do know is that consumers like myself are fickle, once we get annoyed enough, we will find a replacement.

I know that it’s a competitive market out there, we all have to make a living, but can you please stop ruining this fantastic product with what I am now assuming is pure unadulterated greed?!

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The Artist – Silence is Golden

Silent cinema has made a big noise at this year’s awards ceremonies with The Artist winning a whole clutch of awards and receiving numerous nominations.

Already gaining 7 awards at the 2012 BAFTAs, including the coveted Best Film prize, and proving that silence is definitely golden as the movie’s leading actor Jean Dujardin won Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy at the Golden Globes 2012. The Artist also won Golden Globes awards for Best Picture and Best Score.

It is therefore no surprise that the film was expected to win yet more awards at the 84th Annual Academy Awards – also known as the Oscars 2012. With 10 nominations, by the end of the night The Artist had won Oscars for Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Director, Best Original Score Music and Best Costume Design

The Artist is a French movie by Michel Hazanavicius that premiered at the Cannes Film Festival before showing in the theatres in Paris. It has been greeted very warmly by the French public and has also been a great international success. The trailer looked highly intriguing and thus I decided to go and watch the movie to see for myself how this film fits into modern cinema, as I was unsure whether the revival of silent films would be a success or a complete failure.

The Artist stars Jean Dujardin & Bérénice Bejo

The Artist is a silent black and white movie set in Hollywood between 1927 and 1931 and is about a declining male film star and a rising actress. The film stars George Valentin played by Jean Dujardin and his leading lady is Peppy Miller, acted by Bérénice Bejo. As silent cinema grows out of fashion, Peppy Miller seizes the chance to become a star, whereas the old star, George Valentin, fails to adapt to the new style.

After Valentin’s fall, Peppy Miller becomes the new star of Hollywood but never forgets that it was George who helped her to become big. Ultimately, she looks after him and the romance has some unexpected but funny turns. Both of them are in fact desperately in love with each other.

Jean Dujardin as George Valentin

The film itself is a silent movie in black and white with music and effects playing in the background. The acting is absolutely phenomenal and the film is a real pleasure to watch. The story is quite simple but highly romantic and the viewer really gets absorbed in the plot and really wants it to end well. There are several nuances and jokes in the film and that keeps the audience engaged. It is sublimely funny and uses the silent film genre to create something new and unexpected.

The acting is very good throughout the film and the viewer really gets engaged with both protagonists. George Valentin, as his name suggests, is an incredible charming person and the wonderful Peppy Miller is sweet and seductive at the same time.

Dujardin and Bejo

The film, released in British cinemas in December 2011, will surely charm international audiences as it has the French public. I have to say that it is a stunning movie and an innovative revival of the silent movie.

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Video reproduced from YouTube / VisoTrailers

Bath Scientists Secure £220k Funding Boost for Dementia Research

A major research project into the role of iron in dementia with Lewy bodies is getting underway in Bath, thanks to grants worth £220,500 from two charities dedicated to funding dementia research. Alzheimer’s Research UK and Alzheimer’s research charity BRACE have teamed up to fund a unique three-year project that could bring new understanding of the disease.

Led by Prof David Brown, the scientists at the University of Bath will study a protein called alpha-synuclein, which accumulates in the brain in dementia with Lewy bodies, as well as other diseases such as Parkinson’s.

Dementia with Lewy bodies is the third most common cause of dementia, affecting about 100,000 people in the UK. People with the disease experience distressing symptoms such as hallucinations, problems with movement similar to Parkinson’s disease and ‘cognitive fluctuations’ – variations in alertness, attention and thinking skills.

Until recently, the normal role of alpha-synuclein has been poorly understood, but Prof Brown and his team have discovered that the protein helps convert iron into a form that can be used by cells. Cells need a certain amount of iron to function properly, and the scientists believe that alpha-synuclein’s normal activity may help protect brain cells. They now want to find out what happens to this activity when the protein begins to accumulate.

One theory suggests that as the protein builds in the brain, it may stop working properly, leading to a lack of iron that can be used by cells. Alternatively, as the amount of alpha-synuclein increases, its activity may also increase, leading to a surplus of iron in the brain. By finding the answers to these important questions, the scientists hope to gain new insight into the chain of events that causes cell death in dementia with Lewy bodies.

Prof Brown said:
“We’re extremely pleased to have secured this funding, which will allow us to gain a much better understanding of some of the processes that occur as alpha-synuclein builds in the brain. Discovering this protein’s normal role was a crucial step forward, but this funding will enable us to investigate what goes wrong in this process. If we can understand what goes wrong in cells as diseases like dementia with Lewy bodies take hold, we stand a much better chance of finding ways to stop those diseases in their tracks.”

Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“We’re delighted to be supporting this important project, which could bring us vital new information about a disease that has so far been under-researched. This study could greatly enhance our understanding of the causes of dementia with Lewy bodies, potentially giving us new clues for the development of treatments that could really benefit people.

“It’s especially pleasing to be able to work with such a well-regarded local charity to fund this project, and we hope this partnership could help us make real progress towards our common goal of defeating dementia. With more than 2,000 people affected by dementia in Bath and North East Somerset alone, there is an urgent need for research projects like this one.”

Mark Poarch, chief executive of BRACE, said:
“It’s wonderful to be able to partner Alzheimer’s Research UK and to fund this vital work at Bath University. Some of the most ground breaking research into dementia is being undertaken here in the South West. BRACE is proud to be helping some of the brightest minds in medical research beat this terrible disease.”

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The Optimum Health Clinic Research Paper published

We are very proud to be able to share with you the first published paper for the OHC Research Department. It was published in the Journal of Integral Theory and Practice in the USA in December 2011, and has received excellent feedback. It outlines the OHC approach to ME, CFS and Fibromyalgia in academic terms, and is a great introduction to the already published research that supports the OHC model. You can watch a video about the paper with Alex and Dr Arroll below, along with downloading the paper in full. Please do take the time to take a look, we believe this is one of the most important documents we have released in the eight years we have been running. Please also do post your comments!

   Click here to download the paper in full.

Practitioner Course

We still have just a few places left for the practitioner training starting in February, so if you are interested in having more support for your healing path, whilst also opening up exciting future career prospects, please visit and if you are interested in applying.

Conscious Transformation

Finally, after a number of requests over the past year, Alex’s groundbreaking seminar “Conscious Transformation” is making a return later this month. It is in a brand new web-based format and broken down into weekly training sessions, meaning you can take part from the comfort of your own home. Alex has also added some very exciting new material! Keep an eye on your e-mail for the official announcement and details sometime hopefully next week!

Content reproduced with the kind permission of the Optimum Health Clinic.

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Cambridge Scientists Use Down’s Syndrome Stem Cells to Model Alzheimer’s

Scientists at the University of Cambridge have developed a new and innovative way to study Alzheimer’s disease in the lab. The stem cell technique, which allows researchers to track the disease over a matter of weeks, could provide a valuable tool for scientists to unravel the complexity of Alzheimer’s and test potential new treatments. The findings, funded by Alzheimer’s Research UK and the Wellcome Trust, will be published today in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

The scientists used skin cells donated from healthy volunteers and those with Down’s syndrome and turned them into stem cells. These stem cells were then used to generate networks of functioning nerve cells in the lab, which resemble the complex wiring of cells in the human cerebral cortex. The cortex, which makes up over three quarters of the brain, houses many of the nerve cells involved in memory and thinking and suffers particular damage during Alzheimer’s.

People with Down’s syndrome have an extra copy of chromosome 21, a segment of DNA that carries a gene responsible for producing the Alzheimer’s protein amyloid. Due to this extra version of the gene, people with Down’s syndrome have a much higher incidence of Alzheimer’s than the rest of the population. By generating nerve cells from skin cells of people with Down’s syndrome, the scientists could observe the disease process over a period of weeks and compare this to those cells derived from healthy volunteers.

Dr Rick Livesey, who led the study at the Wellcome Trust and Cancer Research UK Gurdon Institute at the University of Cambridge, said:

“One of the biggest challenges facing dementia researchers at the moment is a lack of good ways to track the disease over time. By using stem cells donated from people with Down’s syndrome – who are much more likely to develop Alzheimer’s – we have been able to track how the disease develops over a shorter time period than has been possible in the past.”

Within 28 days, the nerve cells made from people with Down’s syndrome showed more than double the amount of the Alzheimer’s protein amyloid than those from healthy volunteers and this built up into amyloid plaques within two months. The scientists also observed that a protein called tau became abnormally altered and distributed in the cells- one of the common later-stage characteristics of the disease.

Dr Livesey added:

“What is promising about this stem cell technique is that we can create functioning human cortex cells in a dish, allowing us to more closely model what is happening in our brains. Not only this, but our new model shows many of the characteristic features of human Alzheimer’s disease and will allow us to test new treatments more easily.”

Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity, welcomed the findings. He said:

“We are pleased to have contributed funding towards this study and we hope it can be used to unravel some of the remaining questions about how Alzheimer’s progresses. Modelling a complex disease like Alzheimer’s is a big challenge, but innovative approaches like this can improve our understanding. As the stem cells in this study were donated by people with Down’s syndrome, they differ genetically to the rest of the population, but could still offer valuable insight into the disease processes in Alzheimer’s.

“Increasing our understanding of dementia is essential not only for people with Down’s syndrome, but for the 820,000 people across the UK living with the condition. It is essential that we improve the models that we have for understanding dementia, but this can only be done through research. As dementia research is so desperately underfunded, we must invest now if we are to find the answers that are so urgently needed.”

For further information, or to speak with Dr Rick Livesey or Dr Simon Ridley, please contact Laura Phipps, Science Communications Officer at Alzheimer’s Research UK on 01223 843304, mobile 07500 803936 or email  

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Two Food Wines from Bordeaux

I have recently been reviewing my way through a number of wines being promoted as part of the Good Food Would Choose Bordeaux campaign, aimed at promoting mid-priced, easily-available wines typical of Bordeaux.

The wines were selected by the Association of Wine Educators and details of all can be found on the GFWCB website.

However, the two best wines were both from The Wine Society.

Chateau Bourjaud Premieres Cotes de Blaye, £6.50

Made from 85% Merlot and 15%Cab, there is plenty of aroma, but less in the way of tannic structure, whilst the relatively low alcohol level of 12.5% gives this wine a food-friendliness.

The nose shows bramble fruit and dark cherries with hints of coffee grounds, forest floor and liquorice, whilst on the palate the juicy, rounded acidity dominates with dark cherry and plum fruit and more coffee and dark spice hints.

The finish is extremely well-balanced, even if there is very little in the way of grip.

A non-tannic Bordeaux is almost a contradiction in terms, but this is a very pleasant and well-made wine and if chewy tannins aren’t your thing or you want an introduction to cool-climate Merlot, this is not a bad place to start, and with its juicy acidity it will match well with Italian foods such as salami, crostini, roasted vegetables or pasta with a tomato sauce.


Perponcher Reserve Bordeaux Blanc 2010 , £8.50

Greeny-gold in the glass, the nose is herbaceous, mineral and clean – on the palate it feels fresh, crisp and poised with crystal-clear acidity, underpinned by good but not intrusive minerality.

There is some ripe, tropical sweetness that gives a rounded feel, whilst the finish is long and balanced, showing more fragrant and herbaceous notes, good acidity and minerality – this is a well-made, balanced and elegant little gem of a wine.

Poised, delicious and very more-ish, it will match well with mozzarella drizzled with pesto, or meaty white fish in a herby broth.

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The 3 Keys of Transformation

It is hard to believe that we are over a month into the New Year already! We hope 2012 is developing for you as planned? If you haven’t already checked out Alex’s brand new online programme Conscious Transformation, we strongly encourage you to do so ASAP as it is nearly 1/2 full already. You can read more about, and sign up for the programme, at Alex has also just put together a brand new video which explains “The 3 Keys to Transformation” and gives a very helpful insight into just why we believe this programme is so critical. You can view it below. A few of you that were not on the “Early Notification List”have also asked about the video of people karate chopping wood in half on the last Live programme, so we have included that video below too. This gives you a great insight into the kind of breakthrough that are possible with these tools!

Here is the link for more information about Conscious Transformation and sign up

Here is the link for more information about Conscious Transformation and sign up details: Also, we are now in the process of posting out a full printed version of our recent academic paper published in the Journal of Integral Theory and Practice, complete with an “Easy Reading Guide” to those on our mailing list, so do keep an eye on your post over the coming few weeks. For those of you keen to learn more about the academic research that supports the OHC approach, we think you will find this immensely informative! Image reproduced from

Uk Scientists Uncover New Clues for Early Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s

Scientists in Nottingham have found abnormal levels of seven different proteins in spinal fluid could act as markers for detecting Alzheimer’s disease. The study, which was part-funded by Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity, could lead to the development of a new test to detect the disease in its early stages.

Researchers at the University of Nottingham’s Human Genetics department and Nottingham Trent University’s John van Geest Cancer Research Centre studied samples of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) to look for potential markers of Alzheimer’s. They compared CSF samples from 33 people with Alzheimer’s disease, 20 healthy older people and ten people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) – a condition that causes problems with memory and thinking, but not to an extent that interferes with daily life.

Dr Baharak Vafadar-Isfahani and her colleagues first analysed each CSF sample to build a profile of the proteins it contained, and looked for patterns that could distinguish between people with Alzheimer’s and healthy people. They found people with the disease tended to have higher levels of four specific proteins, and lower levels of three other proteins, suggesting that together they could act as markers for the disease.

One protein in particular, called SPARCL1, was the strongest predictor for the disease. When the CSF samples were tested for changes in SPARCL1 alone, the researchers were able to detect whether a person had Alzheimer’s disease with 65% accuracy. When they checked for abnormal levels of all seven proteins, accuracy improved to 95%. The discovery of SPARCL1, amongst other proteins, resulted from the application of technologies developed at the John van Geest Cancer Research Centre.

The scientists then tested their findings on a new set of CSF samples, taken from 32 healthy people and 30 Alzheimer’s patients. All seven markers taken together were able to detect Alzheimer’s within this new cohort with 85% accuracy.

The researchers now plan to use their results, which are due to be published online in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease on 7 February, to help develop a blood test that could diagnose Alzheimer’s in its earliest stages.

Prof Kevin Morgan of the University of Nottingham, who co-authored the study, said: “Our results have given us a new lead for improving early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. An early diagnosis would not only help people prepare for the future, but would also enable people to be involved in clinical trials at a much earlier stage, when new treatments are more likely to have a positive effect.

“It will also be important to investigate what causes these specific proteins to change as Alzheimer’s develops. If we can understand the biochemical changes that occur during Alzheimer’s, we stand a better chance of developing new treatments that can tackle the disease. Dementia can only be defeated through research, and I hope these findings could take us a step closer to that goal.”

Professor Robert Rees, the Director of the John van Geest Cancer Research Centre at Nottingham Trent University, said:“The results of this study were obtained using analytical techniques to generate complex protein profiles from patient and control samples, coupled with advanced data analysis. We believe these findings will prove extremely important in allowing us to gain further insight into this disease.”

Dr Marie Janson, Director of Development at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “Improving diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease is a key target for scientists, and these important findings have opened up a new avenue for research. Alzheimer’s can be difficult to diagnose in the clinic, as memory problems on their own can be due to a variety of reasons. This study has the potential to help create a vital tool for doctors to identify patients that need further investigation – but these results must now be followed up in order to achieve that goal.

“Currently 820,000 people are affected by dementia, yet for many people a diagnosis comes too late. If we are to improve diagnosis for future generations, we must invest in research now.”

For further information, or to speak with Prof Kevin Morgan or Dr Marie Janson, please contact Kirsty Marais, Media Officer at Alzheimer’s Research UK on 01223 843304, 07826 559233 or email

To speak with Prof Robert Rees or Prof Graham Ball, co-authors of the study, please contact Dave Rogers, Senior Press Officer at Nottingham Trent University on 0115 848 8782 or email 

The study was supported by Alzheimer’s Research UK, the Big Lottery Fund and the EU FP6 Program through BIOPATTERN.

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Virtual Reality Exercise Games May Improve Cognition in Older Adults

Scientists in the US revealed the finding of a clinical trial investigating the effects of “exergaming”, or virtual reality-enhanced exercise, on cognition in a group of older adults. The study, one of the first trials of its kind, showed greater cognitive benefit for those who played exergames than those who took part in traditional exercise.

Of those participants who were enrolled, 63 completed the three month study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. All of the volunteers, aged between 58 and 99 years, rode exercise bikes an average of three times a week. Half of the volunteers rode a traditional exercise bike, whereas half rode a bike equipped with a virtual reality display. This ‘cybercycle’ provided users with 3D tours and allowed them to compete against an avatar of their last performance.

The volunteers were given cognitive assessments at the start of the study and after one and three months. Although there was no difference in exercise frequency, duration and intensity between the two groups, the cybercyclists performed better on a number of cognitive tests. In addition, fewer of the cybercyclists went on to develop mild cognitive impairment, a state of early cognitive impairment not quite severe enough to be diagnosed as dementia.

The scientists also analysed blood samples from 30 of the volunteers for a protective protein called brain-derived neurotrophic growth factor (BDNF). They found higher levels of the BDNF protein in the blood of the cybercyclists than those taking traditional exercise, suggesting that virtual reality-enhanced exercise may stimulate a greater physiological effect in the brain.

Dr Marie Janson of Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity, said:

“We already know that exercise is an important way to keep body and mind healthy. The results from this small study suggest that combining physical and mental exercise through exergaming could have even more beneficial effects on cognition in older adults than normal exercise alone. Larger and more detailed studies will be needed to get to the bottom of exactly what aspect of exergaming could be giving the benefit, but the early results are very interesting.

“Although it may be unrealistic to expect people to invest in exergaming technology, the findings show that both mental and physical exercise are important in keeping our minds active in old age. With 820,000 people in the UK already living with dementia, and an increasingly ageing population, it is important that we invest in research into preventative strategies that could help to maintain our cognition for that little bit longer.”

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Chateau Baccarat: Oenology range

Yesterday, I took delivery of a pair of “Oenology” wine glasses, courtesy of Baccarat; one for red wine and one for white.

The Baccarat Oenology collection, launched at Maison et Objet in Paris earlier this month, comes to the UK at the end of February, so this is something of a sneak  preview.

Baccarat claims that the glasses are created “with technical specifications that offer a perfect tasting of any wine or champagne”, so I plan to test them over the coming days and weeks alongside my other glasses to see if they enhance the wine appreciation experience in any way.

I’ll also be assessing what they are like to live with - as well as doing my best not to break them whilst washing up.

My current range of tasting glasses is fairly limited and functional – some Bormioli Roccos, a couple of Riedels, plus some basic flutes for fizz – so these two will certainly be, if nothing else, the smartest glasses in the cupboard.

Prices are £64 for a single glass, £125 for a pair or £360 for six; the range also includes a tumbler and decanter, all pictured above.


Baccarat –

Copyright Tom Lewis 2012

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Gili Meno – Paradise Found

Located off the coast of Bali, Lombok and the Gili Islands are an entirely different experience. Lombok is renowned for its trekking and diving and to access the Gilis, you drive across the island, taking in breathtaking views, lush forests and scores of monkeys. It’s tempting to stay, but I chose to continue on towards my destination, the Gili Islands.  Gili Air and Gili T. cater to the backpacker crowds, hordes of young tourists descend for cheap arak cocktails and cheap, but spectacular, diving. Save yourself the exhausting ten-hour bus-ferry-bus-boat journey and stay in Kuta if this is what you are after.

Sunrise on Gili Meno

Gili Meno, however, is different. Two kilometers in length, and a kilometer across, it’s a tiny haven of peace and tranquility. There are no roads on the island, just sandy paths for the picturesque horse and carts decorated with brightly coloured tassels and bells. Its quiet sandy beaches look out over crystal clear waters. There are virtually no waves and you can easily spend days floating in the water, staring at the mountains of Bali and Lombok in the distance. Even if you forgo the fishing, snorkeling and diving trips on offer, its possible to see fish teeming around your feet. Or visit the Turtle Conservation Sanctuary of Gili Meno. Here, the impossibly tiny turtles born on the island grow in small pools, waiting until they are big enough to released into the oceans. It’s refreshingly un-touristy, just a small sign asking you not to feed or touch the turtles, and a display explaining the organization’s work. It’s wonderful to see these amazing creatures so close. Explore the coconut groves or the salt lake, where locals harvest salt in the dry season. Bring a good supply of books, sunscreen and a flashlight. Wake up early and enjoy the sunrise and slowly make your way across the island to enjoy the sunset over the mountains

Known as the “Honeymoon Island,” Gili Meno is dotted with intimate reed huts, concealing net-swathed beds and an abundance of seashells. There’s a youth hostel aimed at party-weary backpackers set in a lush green hideaway (worrying when the island is experiencing such a dangerous drought).  Being neither recently wed nor eighteen, I opt to stay in the bird sanctuary. Like much of the island, it’s either closed for restoration or falling into disrepair. It’s very large and surreal, and supposedly the alligator is missing. But it’s pink, quiet, reasonably priced and has a remarkably well-stocked book exchange. The abandoned resorts and collapsing huts make for stunning photographs, and heighten the feeling that you truly are ‘away from it all.’

The seafront restaurants offer an abundance of fresh fish, sublime fruit juices and the usual variety of western and Balinese dishes. Most interesting is the local Sasak cuisine, reliant on fish, coconut and chili. It is delicious and unusual, and sometimes tear-jerkingly spicy. Persuading yourself to try something other than the fresh fruit juices is a challenge, but it’s worth trying the arak once. It’s best to have some water on hand as the homebrewed rice liquor tastes as strong as it smells. There’s no cash point on the island and the exchange rate is not in your favour, so bring a good supply of cash so you can sample everything, and be prepared to spend more than in most South East Asian countries.

Sending out regular calls to prayer, the bright blue mosque dominates the centre of the island. The Sasak inhabitants of the Gilis are Muslim and it’s important to be modestly dressed when in the villages. Many Westerners ignore the fact that they are causing offence and it’s a source of some tension. Turning a blind eye to bikinis on the beach has become an economic necessity, but respect the local inhabitants and save your swimsuit for the sea.

Gili Meno is a beautiful place to relax and feel the worries of day-to-day life drift away. It’s easy to see why so many couples choose to spend their honeymoons here. It is a place of no worries, love and turtles. What more can you want?

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Men at Higher Risk of Mild Memory Loss in Old Age

US scientists have found that men may be at higher risk than women of mild cognitive impairment – a stage that often precedes dementia. The study is published online in the journal Neurology.

Researchers from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, studied 1,450 people between the ages of 70 and 89, for an average of three years. Participants took part in evaluations every 15 months to assess whether or not they had mild cognitive impairment (MCI). MCI causes problems with memory and other thinking skills, but not to an extent that interferes with everyday life. Roughly half of all people who are diagnosed with MCI go on to develop dementia, usually Alzheimer’s disease, within five years.

Over the course of the study, 296 people were diagnosed with MCI, but the researchers found that men were more likely to develop the condition than women. The results were surprising because previous research has shown women are more likely to develop dementia than men.

Further analysis showed that MCI with memory loss – known as amnestic MCI – was more common than non-amnestic MCI, where memory loss is not a major symptom. People who had less education or were not married were also more likely to develop MCI. The scientists suggest that further research could reveal whether different risk factors affect separate groups of people in different ways.

Dr Marie Janson, Director of Development at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“These surprising results suggest that men may be at greater risk for MCI despite having a lower risk for dementia, and it will be important to see whether further studies can replicate these findings. A key goal for research is to identify why some people with MCI develop dementia while others don’t. If we can understand why some people have a greater risk for cognitive decline and dementia, we stand a better chance of being able to prevent the condition.

“With 820,000 people affected by dementia, and a rapidly ageing population, the need for research to find new ways to treat and prevent the condition has never been more urgent.”

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Do You Have a Health Goal for 2012?

When you retire have you ever thought about what you want to do. where you want to be and how you want to feel?

My life as a nurse in the NHS has found that most people who get ill never consider this until they are in a hospital bed. Often it’s too late by then. The damage is done.

If you want to increase your chances of vibrant health into retirement then it is important to do something now to increase your chances of that happening. Walking can add quality years to your life.

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Wine of The Month – February

After the January detox and ritual breaking of New Year’s resolutions, February brings the Romance of Valentine’s Day.

According to Wikipedia, the day is named after one or more early Christian martyrs named Saint Valentine, and was established by Pope Gelasius I in 496 AD, becoming first associated with romantic love in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer during the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished.

However, of far more importance, is how to woo that special person with something appropriately impressive and indulgent, so here are four wines, all suitable for some serious Valentine’s wooing.


Best with food – Angas Brut Rosé NV, £9.50 Cambridge Wine Merchants

This is a classy and elegant pink fizz from Australia, using the two main Champagne grapes, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Like Champagne, it undergoes secondary fermentation in the bottle, giving a rich, leesy depth of flavour.

Salmon pink in the glass, it foams with a fine mousse; there are aromas of red berries and a touch of yeastiness on the nose. The palate is extremely elegant and smooth with a hint of red-berry fruit sweetness, a creamy texture and a fresh acidity.

It finishes dry, crisp and savoury, so will work well as an aperitif or just a Romantic indulgence a deux. However, if you are planning to make an evening of it, it will also match with food such as salmon, meaty white fish or even roast chicken.

Best for sipping – Ameztoi Rubentis, £11.99 Joseph Barnes Wines

This month, we welcome a new-comer to Wine of The Month in the shape of Charles Hardcastle, proprietor of Joseph Barnes wines in the pretty and genteel village of Saffron Walden, just a short drive south of Cambridge.

This Ameztoi Rubentis is perhaps the most unusual wine here – made from the Hondarrabi Zuri and Hondarrabi Beltza grapes, it is from Spain’s Basque region.

With a petillant spritz, it is pale pink in the glass with aromas of red berries, watermelon and something aromatic.

On the palate, there is also a touch of minerality and just a hint of something bitter – either grapefruit or perhaps quinine, as FringeWine notes – but overall this is a light, easy quaffer with elegant red berries and fresh acidity balanced with a touch of fruit sweetness.

The delicate fruit here will be overpowered by most foods, so plan on sipping this in the most Romantic of circumstances – but if food is required, salmon or tuna sushi would be a good match for the fresh acidity.

Best with something sweet – Innocent Bystander Pink Moscato, £6.99 (37.5 cl) Noel Young Wines

Another wine from Oz in the European style, this Pink Moscato is a dead ringer for an Italian semi-sweet frizzante.

On the nose there are red berries and watermelon whilst the palate shows fresh strawberry fruit, a hint of red fruit gums, a touch of elderflower and a delightful sweetness and fresh acidity; it is almost a grown-up raspberry elderflower lemonade.

With a gentle mousse and a pleasingly balanced finish, this is an elegant and accomplished antipodean wine – think Nicole Kidman rather than Hugo Weaving in Priscilla.

Although light, this wine has enough weight on the palate to match with fruit-based desserts and rather incongruously (perhaps ironically ?), it’s sealed with a crown-top.

Best for making a statement – Piera Martellozzo Rosé Cuvéé, £9.99 Bacchanalia

The most immediately noticeable thing about this this Italian Spumante is the shocking pink / fuchsia foil and label, set against a blacked-out bottle.

Beneath lies a pink, charmat-method sparkler which foams enthusiastically on pouring – there are aromas of pink grapefruit and hoppiness, whilst the palate shows redcurrant fruit and sweet pears.


Clearly, with their pink hues, bubbles and even sweetness, none of these wines is intended to be particularly serious – but they all demonstrate that making a romantic and frivolous gesture does not mean having to dumb down on quality; they are all good wines in their own right and make for a gentle return to oenology after the traditional month of abstinence.

And as we are all so loved-up this month, it would be churlish to single out any individual wine as a winner – simply choose the one that best suits your occasion, mood and loved one’s preferences.

And don’t forget to buy her some flowers, as well – just preferably not from a garage forecourt.


Bacchanalia –

Cambridge Wine Merchants –

Joseph Barnes Wines –

Noel Young Wines –

Image Credit: The Art of Wooing –

Copyright Tom Lewis 2012

Outspoken Delivery Expands Bicycle Fleet

Innovative Cambridge cycle courier company Outspoken Delivery has expanded its fleet of delivery bicycles. The first of three new Cycles Maximus trikes capable of carrying up to 250kg of cargo will shortly be seen delivering to parts of Cambridge city centre which vans and lorries cannot easily access.

Outspoken are a lead partner in an EU sponsored initiative to develop and promote the movement of goods by bike and funding from the CYCLELogistics project have been used to finance the introduction of the new trikes. The three year, EU project, CYCLE Logistics, aims to achieve a significant reduction in energy use for urban freight transport through delivery of goods by bicycle rather than vans.

Deliveries to the inner Cambridge city area can be a problem for delivery companies who do not have a local depot, as the city centre is not accessible between 10am and 4pm.  Under the proposed initiative, delivery companies will be able to drop their items at the Outspoken depot, just off Newmarket Road, and the trikes will be used for the final mile delivery throughout the day.

Rob King, founder of Outspoken Delivery said: “The introduction of these high capacity trikes will enable us to expand the business into next day delivery and we are already in discussions with a number of national courier companies about final mile deliveries in Cambridge City centre.”

The first trike has already been tested helping with deliveries at the Mill Road Winter fair back in December and for ad hoc deliveries over the Christmas period including transporting 160 boxes of Chelsea buns from Fitzbillies in the city centre to the local post office. These test runs have enabled the trike to be tuned and modifications made to ensure optimum performance.

Rob added: “As well as delivering freight and cargo there is also potential for local companies and organisations to advertise on the sides of the aluminium box. We have seen some striking advertisements used on similar bikes in the USA and we are sure local companies will be queuing up to make use of the available space.”

The new Outspoken Delivery cargo trikes are set to become an established feature on the Cambridge streets.

More White Coats: Capacity Boost the Only Answer to Uk Dementia Crisis

Alzheimer’s Research UK has challenged Government to avoid flash in the pan tactics on dementia research and commit to a national dementia research strategy. In a new report – Defeating Dementia – the UK’s leading dementia research charity warns that the UK’s world-renowned dementia knowledge base could be lost unless scientists have better opportunities to enter and remain in the field.

The Defeating Dementia report will be launched at a House of Commons event, chaired by BBC 5 Live’s Shelagh Fogarty, on Wednesday 25th January. The event will also feature Alzheimer’s Research UK patron Sir Terry Pratchett, the Department of Health’s National Clinical Director for Dementia Prof Alistair Burns, and 50 leading dementia scientists. It is sponsored by Cambridge MP Julian Huppert.
Numbers of people living with dementia are spiralling towards one million as the population ages, costing the economy over £23billion. With the limited treatments available only alleviating some symptoms, pressure remains on research to deliver new drugs, preventions and improved diagnosis. However, a history of underinvestment has left dementia research undermanned and underfunded.

Recent initiatives from Government and other research funders have helped, with one-off themed calls for dementia research and some increases in investment. However, the field is still dwarfed by provision for research into cancer and heart disease both of which do not pose the same degree of challenge to society and the economy. For every dementia scientist, over six work in cancer.

The Defeating Dementia report outlines 14 recommendations to the Government and all research funders to help boost capacity and create a research environment better suited to the challenge posed by dementia.

Alzheimer’s Research UK believes a national dementia research strategy should encourage ring-fencing of funding for dementia research; greater flexibility and calculated risk taking to foster innovation; boost research to improve disease understanding and accelerate treatment development. The charity is also calling for a simplification of funding applications, and the removal of unnecessary bureaucracy which comes at the expense of productive research time.

Rebecca Wood, Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:

“It is right that we pay serious attention to the care challenge that dementia poses today and tomorrow, but we can’t just paper over the cracks. The only answer to dementia lies in research that will deliver new treatments and preventions.

“Government and other funders have taken some positive steps towards boosting research efforts in the UK, but we can’t rely on flash in the pan tactics. Through our recommendations, we are challenging all funders to take an essential long term view on dementia research. If we can’t boost the number of scientists working on dementia, then we will fail the 820,000 living with dementia today, and we will be powerless to avert the looming increases in prevalence.”

Prof Julie Williams, Chief Scientific Adviser to Alzheimer’s Research, said:

“Investing in our high-achieving UK scientists is the only answer to dementia: our brains depend on theirs. It is clear from this report that we do not have enough scientists working in the dementia field to meet the colossal challenge it poses to society.

“We must not only support our current world-leading scientists, but also encourage new brains into the field, with new ideas and expertise to add to our armoury. We have to remove bureaucratic barriers to research so we can foster the right environment for scientists to thrive.”

Jamie and Vicki Graham, who are Champions of Alzheimer’s Research UK, are heading to Westminster to support the charity. This is a subject very close to the Chippenham couple’s hearts as Jamie was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s five years ago at just 59.

Vicki said:

“Watching Jamie slowly deteriorate in front of me is incredibly painful. But he has tremendous courage and he’s never lost his sense of humour. Our whole world was ripped apart when he received the diagnosis and we were shocked to discover the lack of investment into research.

“We have to face what’s happened and we’ve made it our mission to do everything we can to help Alzheimer’s Research UK. More scientists and support for their work are desperately needed to make strides towards defeating dementia. It’s devastating to think that existing dementia knowledge could be lost. If we can encourage more people to get behind our dementia scientists, to help them find new treatments and one day a cure, then Jamie’s experience won’t have been for nothing.”

The full Alzheimer’s Research UK Defeating Dementia report is available on

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