Scientists Discover How Sugars Control Hallmark Alzheimer’s Protein

A study by scientists in Canada and the US has shown that a chemical change to a hallmark Alzheimer’s protein, tau, can stop it from forming toxic tangles – a characteristic of the disease. The findings, published online on 26 February in the journal Nature Chemical Biology, open up new avenues for research into treatments to slow the progression of the disease.

A defining feature of Alzheimer’s is the over activation of a protein called tau – causing it to form toxic tangles inside nerve cells. The researchers found that adding a sugar molecule called O-GlcNAc to tau could prevent it from sticking together.

The scientists tested the approach using mice which have high levels of a sticky form of tau. In these mice, tau builds up over time – killing nerve cells and causing movement and behaviour problems. These mice were treated for 36 weeks with a drug which increases the amount of O-GlcNAc on tau and researchers found that the mice had fewer tau tangles in the brain, including the parts of the brain involved in thinking and memory. While tau in these mice was still over activated, O-GlcNAc appeared to block the next step of tangle formation.

Problems with sugar metabolism have been seen in brain cells in the early stages of Alzheimer’s and the researchers suggest this may limit the amount of O-GlcNAc available to protect tau – driving the formation of toxic tangles.

Dr Marie Janson of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“We know that the toxic build up of tau is a key feature in Alzheimer’s and other dementias, but what is still unclear is exactly what causes it and how it can be stopped. This study provides some answers and encouragingly shows that small changes to tau can have a real effect on how it behaves inside cells.

“Understanding more about how hallmark proteins involved in Alzheimer’s are controlled at a molecular level will provide clues for disease prevention and help us develop ways of tackling this devastating disease. Over 820,000 people in the UK live with dementia, so the need for more research has never been greater.”

This material has been published with the kind permission of Alzheimer Research UK.

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Film Review: The Island President

In 2009 Copenhagen hosted one of the most important events in the battle against climate change. The Climate Conference was designed so then all the nations of the world could voice their opinion on what was happening, and come to some form of arrangement on how to deal with it. For President Mohamed Nasheed of The Maldives, it was more than just a negotiation. He was trying to save his country.

If current climate trends continues, The Maldives will disappear under the Indian Ocean, an event with startlingly could happen in our lifetime. At the moment, The Maldives is only one metre above sea level, and the sea levels are continuing to rise. The Island President documents Mohamed Nasheed’s first year in office, attempting to show to the big political powers in the world just what is happening to his country.

This is not your typical environmental documentary. First of all, it’s not presented a bleak vision of a future apocalypse. In fact it’s surprisingly optimistic. The beaming smile and general charisma of President Nasheed no doubt is the cause of this. He most certainly is a showman, hosting an underwater cabinet meeting is a prime example of that. Nasheed is more like a hero from an upbeat drama, about a young underdog attempting to take on the elite.

The pressing subject matter of course remains at the forefront, but director Jon Shenk knows that very little has changed since Copenhagen 2009, and he’s not afraid to show it. What was an international crisis and front page material in 2009 is now barely even mentioned. Nasheed’s attempts to save his country are also absent from most news outlets. Nasheed even points out during a radio interview that Manhattan is also only one metre above sea level, and that if things don’t change soon one of the world’s major cities could also become engulfed by the ocean. It’s startling, but in a way you expect Nasheed’s point to go unnoticed.

Despite its upbeat and optimistic outlook, the final scene is rather an emotional one. Nasheed looks directly into the camera and says, “We just can’t disappear. We just can’t.” The harsh reality of what’s going on hitting the audience in one final blow. You’ll leave hoping that the world leader’s have heard Nasheed’s cry and will do something. And if in the event, god forbid, that The Maldives does disappear under the Indian Ocean, you’ll hope that Nasheed’s words will echo through time. The final cry for help from a nation before its painful and tragic death.

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Video reproduced from YouTube / stokemoran

Lanc̫me РTeint Idole Ultra 24H

The new Lancôme foundation with an exceptional longwear formula featuring a unique heart-shaped flexible polymer for comfort.

18 shades to suit all skin tones from very pale to very dark

When it comes to foundation, women are constantly on the look out for the perfect formula. Lancôme is considered one of the world leading experts in foundation thanks to strong expertise in skin care and its constant innovation in colour technology. Since the launch of Teint Idole Hydra Compact in 1999, Lancôme Research has continued to draw from the very best of its scientific advances to push the frontiers of long-wear and comfort ever further and has now launched Teint Idole Ultra 24H.

Flawless yet comfortable from dawn till dusk, matte without looking powdery, high-coverage yet natural, Teint Idole Ultra 24H takes on every daily challenge.

After over 8 years of research, Lancôme introduce their new EternalSoft technology, for 24 hours of impeccable long-wear and 24 hours of tangible comfort. This patented technology gives rise to the one and only luxury foundation to offer 24-hour long-wear and comfort.

To date, the traditional polymers widely used in cosmetics have served to improve foundation long-wear, yet many have a negative impact on comfort. To ensure make-up stays true yet also light, Lancôme is incorporating a new type of polymer. At the heart of the new Teint Idole Ultra 24H formula is EternalSoft which is made up of a two-fold silicone and hydrocarbon structure. Composed of high-tech polymers, this specific structure offers enduring long-wear, and a make-up finish that leaves the skin feeling comfortable.

Lancôme has selected the most cutting-edge and high-efficacy active ingredients to support the effects of EternalSoft:

  • From 350 traditional ingredients, Lancôme picked Silica and Perlite for their absorbent properties and which are the basis of a velvety-matte complexion.
  • The formula’s colour is enriched with pigments whose coating demonstrates close affinity with skin, promoting perfect colour hold.
  • For the first time, the new polymer introduces non-volatile oils to the Teint Idole Ultra range, for even more comfort.


Tested by over 400 women in France and the United States, Teint Idole Ultra 24H has enjoyed unprecedented results. Never before has a long-wear foundation received such accolade.

98% feel the texture was comfortable all day long
95% find their complexion stayed perfect all day long
94% see a perfect matte finish
93% did not need to touch-up
Test carried out in France on 120 women.

Proven results, even after 24 hours:
Skin feels comfortable: 100% satisfaction
Complexion is perfect: 89% satisfaction
Stays flawless: 89% satisfaction
Tests carried out in USA on 109 women.

Teint Idole Ultra 24H, for a  flawless star complexion. Skin looks perfectly natural and feels fabulously comfortable for up to 24 hours.

Lanc̫me РVernis in Love

Lancôme’s new Vernis in Love range of striking nail colours reinvents nail polish application, making it simpler, faster and more stunning than ever. From chic neutrals to captivating brights – this wardrobe of colour can provide the ultimate accessory, the perfect finish to every look.

A patented brush with a grooved stem allows the nail polish to flow directly to the centre of the brush. An elongated and rounded base with extremely supple, flat bristles allows the nail contour to be perfectly followed and a uniform coat of varnish to be applied in just a single stroke. The fluid texture creates a smooth, streak-free finish and a flawless film of colour. Incredibly resistant for days on end, it is empowered with micro-mirrors which reflect light from every angle to create dazzling shine.

“The bottle is a fantastic shape and size which fits perfectly into the palm of your hand. The stem of the brush is the right length, which allows you enough time to place the brush into the bottle pick up your polish and apply it to the nail plate without it running down the stem causing drips and flooding the nail plate” 

Glenis Baptiste, Celebrity Manicurist

Available in 20 stunning shades, Vernis in Love is divided into three colour universes, capturing three different moments during the day:

All the beauty of an awakening dawn in Paris is captured in fresh and featherlight shades for luminous, natural colour.

Deep, vibrant and euphoric shades, perfect for early evening cocktails with friends.

A Parisian night, infused with promise, is mirrored by intense and magnetic shades.

Easy to apply and long lasting, Lancôme’s dazzling new nail colours are set to be this year’s most collectable items.

Debenhams Cambridge – Elizabeth Arden Makeover & Prize Draw

Attention all female readers of City Connect in the Cambridge area…

Debenhams Cambridge in the Grafton Centre will be hosting a special beauty event at the Elizabeth Arden counter on 9 & 10 May.

International Make Up Artist Joseph Hernandez will be on hand to offer a personal masterclass and will provide expert tips and techniques on Skincare and Makeup application showing you how to create the season’s hottest looks. You can secure your 1-to-1 appointment for a £10 booking fee redeemable against any Elizabeth Arden product purchased on the day.

Joseph Hernandez

Joseph will also show you how to experience more from your makeup using the newest innovations from Elizabeth Arden’s New Spring Color Collection Rose Aurora. This collection embodies what this exciting new season is all about, creating a fresh golden glow, accentuated eyes and soft shimmering lips.

The complete collection offers you the NEW Pure Finish Bronze Powder (£25) giving a touch of soft and warm radiance to your skin for a healthy, warm, beautiful bronzed look. NEW Pure Finish Highlighter (£23) illuminates the skin with a universally flattering radiant rose-gold shade for a soft shimmering look. Also available to you are the NEW All Over Face Powder Brush (£16) and NEW SHADE Ceramide Ultra Lipstick (£19) in Rose Aurora.

Book now to avoid disappoint. To reserve your place simply call 01223 443 540 and quote “City Connect” for your chance to win a fabulous goody bag packed full of gorgeous products from the Elizabeth Arden 8 Hour range in our exclusive Prize Draw.

Edinburgh Study Could Bring Early Alzheimer’s Diagnosis a Step Closer

Scientists in Edinburgh have found particles in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) that could be harnessed to identify changes in the brain that occur during Alzheimer’s disease. The study, which was part-funded by Alzheimer’s Research UK, could pave the way for a new test to diagnose the disease in its earliest stages.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh hope to be able to detect Alzheimer’s by measuring changes in exosomes – tiny particles that are released by cells into different bodily fluids. Because exosomes contain proteins and other materials from the cells that release them, they could offer a wealth of information about what is happening to those cells.

Although exosomes have already been shown to be present in fluids such as blood and saliva, the scientists set out to discover whether they could also be found in people’s cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). It’s hoped that changes in CSF will give a more accurate picture of any changes occurring in the brain.

The researchers used state-of-the-art techniques to study samples of CSF from five people who were undergoing surgery for aortic aneurism. They found not only that exosomes were present in CSF, but that these exosomes also contained a variety of different proteins. The results are published this month in the Journal of Translational Medicine, and the researchers now plan to develop new techniques to isolate the different proteins contained in these exosomes. It’s hoped this approach could ultimately be used to detect changes in people with Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, which currently affects 5,000 people in Edinburgh alone and 820,000 people across the UK.

Dr James Dear, who co-authored the study, said:
“This is an exciting development for us, but in order for these findings to help people with Alzheimer’s it’s vital that we now follow up this work. If we can refine our methods and get a detailed look at the proteins these particles contain, we hope this approach could help detect Alzheimer’s disease at an early stage. If this method proves successful, it could also help clinical trials by allowing researchers to monitor how patients are responding to potential new treatments.”

Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “We’re delighted to have supported this study, which has demonstrated that in principle, this method may be useful for detecting Alzheimer’s disease. We now need to see whether this approach will be able to pick up some of the early changes associated with Alzheimer’s.

“The ability to detect Alzheimer’s disease early is a key goal for research – such a test would allow new drugs to be trialled in the right people, as early as possible, when they are more likely to have a beneficial effect. These are promising results, and if they are to be translated into a test that could be used in the clinic, we must continue to invest in research.”

The study was funded by Alzheimer’s Research UK and the British Heart Foundation.

This material has been published with the kind permission of Alzheimer Research UK.

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Hedonist Wines‏ at Cambridge Food and Wine Society

I first came across Hedonist Wines when owner Anthony Jenkins got in touch after reading an article of mine in the local press in Cambridge.

We exchanged emails and I agreed to review a couple of his wines and was reasonably impressed, so I later arranged for him to give a presentation to the Cambridge Food and Wine Society.

The tasting took place this weekend and in the interim, Anthony has gone from being something of a hobbyist with a “real day-job” to having wine-retailing as his main activity, so clearly something has worked well.

Whilst Hedonist remains a small operation, perhaps what is most interesting about it commercially is that the business model involves buying directly from producers, by-passing the traditional importer-distributor networks; of itself, that is not especially innovative, but it does seem to be part of a growing trend of new, small-ish wine concerns working directly with producers from Europe.

Clearly, the rise of budget airlines, improved, lower-cost communications technology and a more developed logistics industry have a role to play in this, but Hedonist’s price range, mostly priced at a little over £10, says something about wine-drinking habits in the UK.

The wines themselves are sourced from individual producers, mainly in the better-value parts of classic European regions, and the limited list is essentially a reflection of Anthony’s palate and preferences; he describes his typical wine as the sort of wine you enjoyed on holiday from a small, local producer.

All the wines are exclusive to Hedonist and we started with a Cr̩mant de Bourgogne from Domaine Joussier; made from 100% Chardonnay from the C̫te Chalonnaise Рgeographically in the middle of Burgundy Рit had a crisp nose with yeasty brioche aromas.

The palate shows ripe apple and pear fruit with a fine mousse – it feels elegant and well-made if light and not overly complex. It would make a good aperitif or celebration wine and at £11 is reasonable value for a classic French wine with bubbles in.

Next was a 2009 Côte Chalonnaise “En Reviller” from the same producer which had spent three months in oak – with ripe orchard fruits on the nose, it felt rounded and creamy on the palate with fresh apple and pear fruit and a minerally finish with just a touch of oaky buzz.

This was followed by something more unusual – a white Rioja Caecus Verderón 2010 made from 100% Viura with 3 months in oak. Pale straw coloured in the glass, it had a similar profile to the previous wine with ripe pear fruit and a toasty creaminess on the palate, but felt bigger and fuller.

The first red was a Burgundy, a 2008 Mercurey from Joussier – I was a little bit blind-sided by this wine; it is quite dark in the glass for a Pinot and shows aromas of ripe berry fruit, but with none of the typical Burgundian mushroomy, truffley undergrowth I had hoped for.

With good, primary fruit and a depth of flavour it was perhaps more typical of a good Beaujolais than a Pinot – very balanced and enjoyable as a wine, but just not at all what I had expected.

The 2008 Rioja Crianza from Caecus was surprisingly oaky but had a soft, smooth texture with cherry fruit, spice and liquorice on the nose and a grippy finish.

The 2006 Reserva, also from Caecus, had a degree more alcohol and more intense aromas on the nose as a result, as well as more complexity – dark purple in the glass, it shows berry fruit, liquorice and spice and feels riper and more perfumed. On the finish, it feels to have a better balance of fruit and grip.

The two final reds were both from Panizzi, based in Tuscany – the first, a 100% Sangiovese Chianti Riserva 2008, was purple in the glass with a hint of aged brick red; the nose is ripe with dark berry fruit, whilst the palate shows plummy fruit with a distinct smokiness.

An easy-drinker, it feels soft, rounded and mellow.

The Folgore 2003 “Super Tuscan” was a noticeable step-up; with small amounts of Cab and Merlot in the blend, it is labelled as a humble rosso, but was the most complex wine of the night, albeit the priciest at £16.

Intended to be aged for up to 20 years, the 2003 has only just been released. Inkily dark in the glass with an aged brick red rim, the nose shows forest fruit aromas. On the palate it feels mellow, muscular and complex, with good juicy acidity and grip.

Recommended Wines

For me, all the wines were well-made and, as a minimum, pleasant and drinkable even if few were really impressive.

There was no clear consensus either on our table or at the event generally on which ones were most popular – which is perhaps a good sign – but there were plenty of orders made at the end of the event.

And whilst I would happily drink any or all of these wines again, for me, the best was the Panizzi Folgore 2003.


Cambridge Food and Wine Society –

Hedonist Wines –

Copyright Tom Lewis 2012

Film Review: Wild Bill

Even though the British film industry is going through a few seismic changes since the abolition of the UK Film Council, it still seems to be business as usual. Wild Bill is yet another addition to the East End gangster saga, and yet it feels like something much more fresh and engaging.

Charlie Creed-Miles plays Bill Hayward, a man just out of prison and desperate to leave his life of crime well and truly in the past. He arrives home and finds that his two young children, Dean (Will Poulter) and Jimmy (Sammy Williams) have been left to fend for themselves by their mother. Dean, desperately trying to avoid him and his brother being taken into custody, insists that his estranged father stay with them in the family’s East London flat.

Wild Bill comes across as more of a Western than a London based gangster movie. Charlie Creed-Miles’ Bill is like a lone wolf, fighting frantically to avoid being sucked into his former criminal world, even though it tries to beckon him back at every turn. And of course there is the inevitable showdown at the film’s conclusion. While the Western style is the driving force of the plot in terms of creating suspense, the real beauty lies in the central father son relationship. There is plenty of substance there, but it is handled with a rather easy going sense of humour that makes it surprisingly heart warming.

The young Will Poulter however is the one who has the breakthrough performance. He’s now in the process of moving up from child roles to adult roles, and if Wild Bill is anything to go by then he could become one of Britain’s next big acting talents. Given that he’s attempting to move from one acting class to something altogether different, playing the young teenager forced into responsibility is perfect for him. Plus he’s armed with menacing eyebrows, which gives him a look that could tee him up to be tomorrow’s big screen hard nut.

It’s a very impressive debut from Dexter Fletcher, the actor making his directorial debut, adding his own voice to the East End gangster sub-genre.  While there are a few moments that feel like they have been cut out of every gangster movie since the birth of celluloid, it continuously feels like something we’ve never seen before, and the central character relationships are what makes Fletcher’s debut so engaging. I think we can safely put him in the same actor-turned-director class of Gary Oldman and Paddy Considine, which is certainly good company to be keeping.

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Video reproduced from YouTube / movieclipsTRAILERS

Film Review: Gone

Spring is a fairly grim season for Hollywood. Apart from the occasional big budget blockbuster, spring is generally used as a dumping ground for the films Hollywood doesn’t have any faith in. Gone is certainly one of those films.

Gone was released in America last year, where it received very little press coverage. You would have had to try very hard to find any TV spots or trailers. It’s a similar story here in the UK, where Gone has a very limited release – showing in cinemas from Friday 20 April.

Amanda Seyfried plays Jill, a young woman who survived a kidnapping ordeal just over a year previous. After her experience she starts attending self-defence classes. Then one night she returns home, and finds her sister Molly (Emily Wickersham) has disappeared. Jill assumes that her sister has fallen victim to her own attacker, and goes to the police to file a missing person’s report. The police however dismiss Jill, believing her to be insane. This leaves Jill with no choice but to pick up a gun and go and search for Molly herself.

The main problem with Gone is that everyone involved seems to have given up on it from the get go. Amanda Seyfried is miscast once again as the self defence expert taking the law into her own hands, but she makes very little attempt to make her character believable. The plot moves along exactly the way you would expect it to, but just when things start to get interesting, we are left with a dead end. Either they were incapable of finding any originality, or they just couldn’t be bothered.

Brazilian director Heitor Dhalia soldiers on throughout this, not really demanding much from his cast. The few actions sequences we have are rather on the dull side too. However the shots of the more run down areas of Portland do have a certain brutal beauty about them, something that would have been far better exploring than the rather mundane plot. Allison Burnett’s script lacks any notable scenes, and most of the dialogue is rather flat and unemotional.

There is an underlining realism however, that does give Gone a slight edge. No attempt is made to make the kidnapper at the centre of the story some domineering or frightening character. He’s just a man at the end of it all, creating and edgy and realistic atmosphere. But the dire script, the dull set pieces, and the painfully formulaic plot means this one will be forgotten in a hurry.

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Video reproduced from YouTube / SummitScreeningRoom

Low Omega-3 Fatty Acid Levels Linked to Markers of Brain Ageing

Scientists in the US have linked low levels of the omega-3 fatty acid, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), to lower scores on cognitive tests and lower brain volume. The study is published in the journal Neurology.

Researchers at the University of California in Los Angeles studied blood samples from 1,575 cognitively healthy people, with an average age of 67. Participants were also given MRI scans to assess their total brain volume, and a series of cognitive tests were carried out.

The results showed that those with the lowest levels of DHA in their red blood cells tended to have lower brain volume compared to those with the highest levels of DHA. Those with less DHA also scored lower on some cognitive tests.

The researchers suggest that the lower brain volumes seen in their study were equivalent to approximately two years of ‘brain ageing’. They argue that further study is needed to confirm whether people with diets low in omega-3 fatty acids – which are mainly found in oily fish – are more likely to develop dementia.

Dr Marie Janson, Director of Development at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“There has been much research into the effects of omega-3, and this study will add to that debate. One strength of this study is that it used blood samples to measure people’s dietary intake of omega-3, rather than relying on answers to questionnaires to assess the link between omega-3 and cognition. However this research does not tell us whether the people studied got worse or better over time.

“We would need to see large-scale, long-term studies before we can know whether a diet high in omega-3 can protect against dementia, and people shouldn’t fill their freezers with oily fish just yet. The best evidence for reducing your risk of dementia is to eat a healthy, balanced diet, take regular exercise and keep your blood pressure and cholesterol in check.

“With 820,000 people affected by dementia in the UK, and a rapidly ageing population, we urgently need to find ways to prevent and treat the condition – that means we must invest in research.”

This material has been published with the kind permission of Alzheimer Research UK.

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Fall in Love with Lanc̫me РRouge in Love

Rouge in Love – An instant must-have, an irresistible ‘pret a pouter’ lipstick

‘Rouge in Love was probably the product I was most excited about when I came on board to work with Lancôme because I think it’s one of the youngest products that Lancôme has created. I love all the shades: there are 24 different colours of this lipstick, which I thought was amazing. I’ve only just recently started wearing lipstick, so it’s very nice that this is coming out just at this moment, it’s the perfect timing.

I chose the colour that I wore in the shoots, and it’s my favourite colour, Rouge In Love 159B, which is a really bright red. It’s great because it’s a new take on a classic red which I absolutely love. There is a pigment in it which makes it really bright, so it really stands out. This is why it was the one I chose for the ad campaign, and it was definitely my favourite.’

– Emma Watson, Lancôme Ambassadress and face of Rouge In Love

The Product

As comforting as a balm, as colourful as a lipstick, Rouge in Love achieves the perfect balance. Radiant shades in an ultra light texture. Endless tailor made looks.

The texture melts on application, leaving an essential concentrate of colour on the lips. At the heart of Rouge in Love lies an exclusive ‘colour catching’ formula that forms a fine film on the surface of the lips on which pigments and satiny agents are captured. With stunning colour, enduring hydration for up to 6 hours and with striking shine, lips feel smooth and soft thanks to the nourishing and repairing oils.

A wardrobe for the lips, Rouge in Love is available in 24 captivating shades. Inspired by three different moments during the day of a modern, stylish woman, the range is divided into three categories:-

Light, sheer shades for an ultra-simple, bee stung effect. Easy to wear colours, pure, fresh and natural shades with a hint of tone on tone particles.

Punchy shades, electrified by contrasting silvery and white pearl particles, for the ultimate sophisticated lip look.

Seductive and magnetic shades are infused with golden pearl particles, for vibrant colour and intense shine.

Strikingly packaged, it nestles perfectly in the palm of the hand. Like a love note written in lipstick, the case features a mirror inscribed with Rouge in Love. Inspired by the intricate weave of couture stockings, the back of the case is marked with red top stitching. More than just a lipstick it is a true fashion accessory.


"Lancôme", "Mario Testino", "Emma Watson", "Rouge in Love"

It was perfectly natural that, after lending her charm to Tresor Midnight Rose, Emma Watson would become the ambassadress of Rouge in Love, not only becoming the face of the collection but also working closely with Lancôme on the shade range.

Emma has chosen her favourite shades from each colour universe. A beautiful morning with ‘Corail in Love’, a ‘Rose Boudoir’ afternoon spent with friends and an evening full of promise thanks to ‘Rose Sulfureuse’.

For those who long for gorgeous, kissable lips, Rouge in Love is destined to become a coveted item! Lips will shine like never before.

Rouge in Love is available nationwide at Lancôme beauty counters from 1st April 2012 priced at £21.

Liverpool Scientist Starts Work on New Alzheimer’s Drugs

A dementia scientist at the University of Liverpool is about to embark on an innovative project to develop new drugs aimed at stopping Alzheimer’s disease. The work is funded by Alzheimer’s Research UK and is as part of our recent announcement of £5.5m for new research projects to tackle the devastating disease.

Alzheimer’s Research UK currently funds more than £20m of pioneering research across the UK to understand the causes of dementia, improve diagnosis and find new treatments and preventions. Prof Jeremy Turnbull, who works at the Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology at the University, has been awarded almost £30,000 for the six month project.

There are 820,000 people in the UK living with dementia, including over 4,500 in Liverpool alone. More than half of these people have Alzheimer’s disease, the most common cause of dementia. The cost of these diseases to the economy stands at £23bn, more than the cost of cancer and heart disease combined, yet research into dementia remains hugely underfunded.

Current treatments for dementia can help with symptoms, but there are no drugs available that can slow or stop the underlying disease. Finding targets for effective new treatments is a major goal for researchers across the world. Prof Turnbull and his team have discovered that complex sugars, found naturally in the body, can block a protein that causes damage in Alzheimer’s. They believe these sugars have the potential to be developed into a safe and effective treatment to slow the disease.

Prof Turnbull said:
“The protein that we are interested in is called BACE and is responsible for creating amyloid, which builds up in the brain in Alzheimer’s and causes damage. While BACE isn’t a new target for drug development, it has proved to be a difficult protein to block. We are using a new approach, harnessing the natural ability of sugars like the blood-thinning drug heparin to block the action of BACE.

“We have already shown that this method works in the test tube, but this funding boost will allow us to take it a step further. We plan to use chemical reactions to alter the heparin sugar, making new compounds that we can test for the best effects and fewest side effects. This will help us to narrow down those with the most potential to take on and test further. I am really grateful to Alzheimer’s Research UK for investing in this research, and giving me the opportunity to take my discoveries forward.”

Phill Cowley, a builder from St Helens knows all too well the desperate need for research into Alzheimer’s after his mum was diagnosed with the disease over seven years ago. He said:
“My mum, Margaret, has Alzheimer’s and it’s been heartbreaking to watch her slip away from us. She was such an independent and high-spirited lady, but the disease has robbed her of everything she loved. I can’t believe how little support there is for dementia research, which is why I have been raising funds to help. It’s great to see that my support is helping scientists here in Liverpool to find the answers.”

Eric Karran, Director of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity, said:
“We are proud to announce a record year for investment in research and to be able to fund Prof Turnbull’s work to investigate an exciting new approach for the treatment of Alzheimer’s. With so many people across the UK living with the disease, there is a desperate need for safe and effective treatments. We are dedicated to defeating dementia and pleased to be supporting such world-class research in Liverpool.

“Research is the only solution to the growing dementia crisis, but funding for research lags far behind that of other diseases. To make a real difference to people’s lives, we urgently need support to keep dementia a national priority.”

This material has been published with the kind permission of Alzheimer Research UK.

Councillor Tony Orgee Backs Alzheimer’s Research UK’s Big Walk

The Chairman of South Cambridgeshire District Council, Cllr Tony Orgee, is urging everyone to take part in Alzheimer’s Research UK’s Big Walk in the county on Sunday 13 May. The UK’s leading dementia research charity, based in Great Shelford, aims to raise £50,000 for pioneering dementia research.

Hundreds of people are expected to join in the nine mile circular Big Walk, which starts in the picturesque village of Comberton. Walkers will enjoy exploring peaceful country lanes and an off-road ramble, following tracks through fields and country paths, alongside beautiful woodland areas.

Cllr Orgee talked about his motivation for supporting Alzheimer’s Research UK’s Big Walk:
“This is a Big Walk with a very important focus – to raise desperately needed funds for research into Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Dementia is a devastating condition affecting not just the individual but their families and a far wider network of people.

“We are fortunate to have the UK’s leading dementia research charity based here in Cambridgeshire. It is essential that new treatments are found and Alzheimer’s Research UK is working hard to achieve that goal.

“The route for the Big Walk passes through beautiful countryside in South Cambridgeshire. I would encourage everyone to join in to help Alzheimer’s Research UK raise money to progress its crucial research.”

Miranda Mays, Community Fundraising Manager for Alzheimer’s Research UK, added:
“It’s brilliant to have Cllr Orgee’s backing for our Big Walk, helping us achieve our aim of raising £50,000. This amount will pay for an entire pilot research project, bringing us closer to finding ways to diagnose, prevent, treat and cure dementia.

“We’re delighted with the support we’ve received so far and there’s still time for people to sign up to take part or come along as a volunteer. We rely entirely on our wonderful supporters to fund our vital research and we hope everyone in Cambridgeshire and beyond will join us to help defeat dementia.

“There are 820,000 people across the UK living with dementia today, including over 6,000 people in Cambridgeshire alone. Numbers are forecast to rise substantially in the next generation and research is the only answer.”

Alzheimer’s Research UK’s Big Walk starts at 10am on Sunday 13 May, at Comberton Village College, West Street, Comberton CB23 7DU. To take up the challenge telephone 01223 843899 or email Registration is £15 for adults and £7.50 for under 18s. More information is also available online at

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Noel Young Wines at Annual Austrian Tasting‏

At the Annual Tasting of Austrian Wines in London last month, I caught up with Noel Young and tasted my way through the wines he had on show from various producers.


Based in Vienna, Fritz Wieninger cultivates 33ha of vines on either side of the river Danube – for 2011, conditions were warmer after the cool 2010, with an increase in both quality and quantity.

The Vienna Hills GV 2011 was fresh and light with peppery celery and lentils.

The Herrenholz GV 2011 was fuller, with a creamier texture and a minerally finish.

The Wiener Gemischter Satz Klassik 2011, a field blend of up to 13 grape varieties all grown, picked and fermented together, was fresh, lively and balanced, with prominent GV characteristics (the main grape in the blend).

The Wiener Gemischter Satz Nussberg Alte Reben 2011 was very different from the previous year’s style – now fermented only in stainless steel, it had an aromatic nose, lemon and lime fruit, good depth of flavour and a fresh acidity.

The Vienna Hills Riesling 2011, an unfiltered barrel sample, had a toasty, intense nose, an expressive palate with lemon and lome fruit, a creamy texture combined with a toastiness and a long mineral finish.

The Wiener Trilogie (70% Zweigelt, 15% Cab, 15% Merlot) had a perfumed nose of vanilla, sour cherry fruit and liquorice; the palate shows good bramble fruit and spice with a soft, mouthfilling texture, juicy acidity and some grip on the finish.

Kurt Angerer

Based in Lower Austria’s Kamptal, just outside the Wachau, Kurt Angerer names many of his wines after the soil type they are grown on. Whether any of the differing minerals in the soil actually end up in the finished wine is still the subject of debate, but there are certainly perceptible differences due to the effects of terroir.

Kies GV 2011; grown on mixed soils and not picked until December, this is ripe and rounded.

Spies (“shpeez”) GV 2010; grown on granite, there is lots of classic varietal white pepper, spice, celery and lentils with ripe peach fruit, balanced acidity and good minerality.

Loam GV 2010; flintsmoke, a fleshy feel with some spice, balanced savoury and full, a toasty flintiness develops on the palate.

Eichenstaude GV 2010; complex with ripe peach and nectarine fruit, spice, a mineral buzz and some toastiness, a soft texture.

Zweigelt “Barrique” 2009; sweet cherry and elderberry fruit, pepperiness, rounded moutfeel, intense with tannic grip.

St Laurent 2009 – bright and translucent in the glass, the nose is of berry fruit, coffee and spice. The palate shows ripe cherries, sweet bramble fruit and liquorice, grippy finish. Overall, feels rounded balanced and approachable.


Based in Illmitz in Burgenland near the Hungarian border on the Pannonian plain, Kracher is perhaps Austria’s greatest dessert wine maker.

With low hills, warming southerly winds and the shallow Lake Neusidl providing morning fogs, conditions in this region are perfect for reliable botrytis growth almost every year.

The additional warmth also provides suitable conditions for dry reds.

Klassik Illmitz Zweigelt – a perfumey elderberry and cherry nose with liquorice and earthiness; the palate shows sweet-sour cherry fruit, spicy mintiness and a grippy finish. Fleshy and approachable.

Auslese Cuvee 2009 (white blend), light and fresh, with simple fruit sweetness that is initially intense then fades. The savouriness lingers, however.

Beerenauslese Cuvee 2009 (white blend), a real step up, ripe, marmaladey and peachy with balanced fresh acidity and savouriness.

Eiswein Cuvee 2009 (white blend), botrytis on the nose, the palate is sweet-sour, intense and complex with aromas of peaches roasted in butter, more pungent botrytis notes and fresh acidity. Mouthfeel is weighty with glycerol and there is a savouriness on the finish – great depth of flavour and length.

TBA “No 2” Scheurebe 2009, intense aromas of mango and roasted peach skin, weighty glycerol on the palate, long on the palate and finish.

TBA “No 3” Welschriesling 2009, fresher and more fragrant with elderflower aromas, mouthfilling and long on the palate and finish.

Recommended Wines

All the wines here were good-to-superb, but here are my specific recommendations:

Wieninger’s Vienna Hills Riesling for its complexity and depth of flavour.

Angerer’s Eichenstaude GV for its complexity and depth of flavour.

Kracher’s Klassik Illmitz is a great entry-level introduction to Austrian reds, but the main event is the dessert wines, so the Eiswein Cuvee for its complexity and depth of flavour.


Noel Young Wines –

Weininger –

Angerer –

Kracher –

Copyright Tom Lewis 2012

Film Review: The Descendants

After taking a more supporting role in this year’s The Ides of March, which was his fifth stint in the director’s chair, George Clooney has shown, once again, that he is not quite done being the leading man, after starring in this year’s The Descendants. This is a bittersweet film is about a Hawaiian landowner, Matt King, who, after his wife’s coma-inducing accident, attempts to reconnect with his estranged daughters, whilst also negotiating a stressful million-dollar land-deal. Teaming up with Alexander Payne, writer and director of About Schmidt, The Descendants always looked to be an interesting, quirky look at a man’s life, as he nears the edge of a breakdown.

From the offset, the film’s ambivalent nature is put forward. Audience expectations of Hawaiian Islands with their tropical, sandy beaches and scorching hot sun are disposed of and replaced with overcast skies and frequent storms. The opening speech itself claims that King has not done any surfing for fifteen years, adding a depressive sense of unfulfilled desires that would be more suited to an urban inner-city. It is this odd, juxtaposing nature that remains constant throughout the film, through the characters, their situations and how they react to how their lives are changing. And it is this concept that gives the film a re-watchable charm.

The acting in the film is really the biggest asset the film has to offer. Clooney is, as always, endearing, as the troubled protagonist, but it is the supporting acts surrounding him that make this film truly wonderful. Shailene Woodley and Amara Miller play King’s two troubled daughters, and play them well. Robert Forster as King’s angry father-in-law adds elements of comedy, as well as fear for all those around him. But it is the King’s tag-along friend, Sid, played by Nick Krause, who should be remembered the most. His bumbling idiocy adds an awkward humour to depressing and upsetting situations, in one instance leading to him receiving a punch to the face.  The development of all of these characters, seen as the story progresses, adds an insight and reasoning to their actions and behaviours that makes the film an incredibly interesting watch, as the audience receives a much grander understanding of the characters that they are watching.

Without too much of the story being given away, it seems fair to say that all is not plain sailing for the King’s on their journey. Unexpected plot twists are inserted, which keep the film from being predictable, whilst also giving off a very realistic, somewhat humorous, approach to an otherwise dreary situation. Furthermore, the characterisation in the film is very well executed, much the same as with Payne’s previous outing, Sideways, adding a depth and realism that could have so easily have been missed.

Overall, there is not a lot bad to be said about the film. With a fantastic script, which rightfully received an Academy Award, and superb acting, it is a shame that it will never go down as one of the world’s greats. However, for anybody who has two hours to spare, The Descendants is a must-see, wonderfully written film that will keep you entertained as much as it will make you emotional.

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Specific Antipsychotic Drugs Increase Risk of Death in Elderly

US scientists have found certain antipsychotic drugs increase the risk of death in elderly nursing home patients, when compared with other antipsychotics. The study is published in the BMJ online.

Researchers at Harvard Medical School studied medical records from 75,445 people over 65 who were living in nursing homes. They assessed the risk of death in people taking different forms of antipsychotics over six months, using one particular drug – risperidone – as a comparison.

They found that one of the drugs, haloperidol, increased the risk of death when compared with risperidone. Three other treatments – aripiprazole, olanzapine and ziprasidone – showed no significant difference, while the risk of death was reduced in people taking a sixth drug, called quetiapine. The effect for haloperidol was strongest during the first 40 days of treatment, and higher doses increased the risks for all of the drugs except quetiapine.

Previous research has already shown that long-term use of antipsychotics can double the risk of death in patients with Alzhiemer’s disease, but the differences between different antipsychotic drugs have been less well studied. The researchers believe that where doctors feel they need to prescribe antipsychotics to people with dementia, these latest results could help inform their decisions about which drug to give, and what dose.

Rebecca Wood, Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “The risks associated with antipsychotics are well-established, and these findings underline the importance of ensuring that where these drugs are prescribed, their use must be carefully monitored. Antipsychotics should only be used for people with dementia where there is no alternative for dealing with challenging behaviour. Alzheimer’s Research UK has called for action to reduce the use of antipsychotics and develop alternatives, yet progress has been frustratingly slow.

“While we welcome research that can inform doctors’ decisions about prescribing existing medication, we urgently need to find safer, more effective treatments for people with dementia. These can only come through research, but funding for dementia research still lags far behind that of other serious diseases. If we are to improve the lives of people with dementia, we must invest in research.”

This material has been published with the kind permission of Alzheimer Research UK.

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Film Review: Into The Abyss

Into The Abyss: A Tale of Death, A Tale of Life to use its full title does stand out in the works of director Werner Herzog. It lacks the usual focus on the bizarre and unexpected, but the persistent exploration of the human condition makes this the best documentaries of the year so far.

Werner Herzog documents the final week in the life of Michael Perry, a man who’s been on death row since he committed a triple homicide in 2001 in order to steal a car. Herzog also documents Perry’s partner in crime Jason Burkett, who is serving a life sentence, and also the convict’s and victim’s family members who are still understandably traumatised by what happened over ten years ago.

What is quite startling is that while Perry and Burkett are murderers, and are laying bare to Herzog their motives behind what they did, they are still the least interesting people who are interviewed. The real and genuinely emotional insights come from the likes of one of the victim’s sister, who has suffered so much loss in her life that she fears getting too close to someone just in case she loses them too. The interview with the ex-death row guard who quit in the year 2000 despite losing his pension is a harrowing example of how death affects a person.

Herzog is certainly someone who doesn’t let little details pass by. He still enjoys listening to people’s odd anecdotes, but his passionate humanism is what wins the day. He looks and probes into areas of his interviewee’s lives that other people wouldn’t, and he gets better results from doing it. He makes it clear early on that he is opposed to the death penalty, but still doesn’t attempt to defend those who have been convicted. In fact during the first meeting with Michael Perry, Herzog honestly explains to him that while he doesn’t think he should die for what he did, under no circumstances will he like him. Herzog’s honesty does shock Perry ever so slightly, but it’s that honesty that woos people into being completely honest with him.

It certainly knows how to pack an emotional punch. The crime scene video which documents the bloody scene at the victim’s home, and the well edited shots of the dumped bodies are more powerful because of their subtlety, and the score from Mark Degli Antoni even adds a little hint of terror. This is not an investigative documentary in the sense we come to expect. It doesn’t focus on the crime itself or make some attempt to uncover some hidden truth. We know what the truth is, we don’t need it probed. But Herzog’s devotion and fascination with the human condition is the real driving force of this film, and what makes it so devastatingly compelling.

Accompanying the screening of Into The Abyss at the Cornerhouse in Manchester was a short film entitled MES, as part of the Virgin Media Shorts Competition. MES is a short documentary about a woman struggling to cope with suffering from musical ear syndrome. It was the perfect accompaniment to a Herzog documentary – unique, and incredibly personal.

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Sleep Disruption Linked to Early Alzheimer’s Markers

Scientists in the US have found cognitively healthy people with disrupted sleep patterns may be more likely to have markers associated with early Alzheimer’s disease. The study is due to be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 64th Annual Meeting in April.

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine, in St Louis, studied 100 people with no cognitive problems between the ages of 45 and 80. They used a monitoring device called an actigraph to measure the participants’ sleeping patterns for two weeks, and analysed sleep diaries and questionnaires.

The researchers took samples of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) to check for levels of amyloid, a protein that builds in the brain in Alzheimer’s. The participants also underwent PET scans to track the amount of amyloid in their brains.

A quarter of the group had increased amounts of amyloid in the brain or abnormal levels of the protein in their CSF – changes that are believed to be linked to the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s disease. The markers were more likely to be seen in people with disrupted sleep patterns, who woke more than five times an hour during the night.

Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“These results are yet to be published in full, but the study does raise new questions about the possible relationship between sleep patterns and the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease. It’s not clear whether any of the people in this study went on to develop Alzheimer’s, and we cannot conclude from this research that disrupted sleep causes the disease – but larger, long-term studies could help us to better understand how the two may be linked.

“Experts believe that Alzheimer’s begins to develop in mid-life, years before symptoms appear, but we still need to know much more about the changes that occur in the earliest stages of the disease. The better we can understand how Alzheimer’s develops, the greater our chance of finding an effective treatment for the disease – but that means it’s vital to invest in research.”

This material has been published with the kind permission of Alzheimer Research UK.

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Specific Antibodies Halt Alzheimer’s in Mice

Antibodies that block the process of synapse disintegration in Alzheimer’s disease have been identified, raising hopes for the development of a treatment to combat early cognitive decline in the disease.

During Alzheimer’s, a protein called amyloid-beta builds in the brain and causes the loss of synapses – the connections between brain cells.

Scientists at UCL, part-funded by Alzheimer’s Research UK, studied a second protein called Dkk1. They discovered that specific antibodies that block the function of Dkk1 completely suppressed amyloid-beta’s toxic effect on synapses. The findings are published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

Dr Patricia Salinas, from the UCL Department of Cell & Developmental Biology, who led the study, said:
“These novel findings raise the possibility that targeting this secreted Dkk1 protein could offer an effective treatment to protect synapses against the toxic effect of amyloid-beta.

“Importantly, these results raise the hope for a treatment and perhaps the prevention of cognitive decline early in Alzheimer’s disease.”

Research has shown high levels of Dkk1 in brain samples from people with Alzheimer’s disease, but the significance of these findings was previously unknown. Scientists at UCL have found that amyloid-beta causes the production of Dkk1, which in turn leads to the loss of synapses in the hippocampus, an area of the brain responsible for learning and memory.

The scientists studied the progression of synapse disintegration in the hippocampus after exposure to amyloid-beta, using brain slices from mice. They were able to monitor how many synapses survived in the presence of a specific antibody that targets Dkk1, compared to how many synapses survived without the antibody.

The results showed that brain cells that were exposed to the antibody remained healthy, and the synapses remained intact.

Dr Salinas said:
“Despite significant advances in understanding the molecular mechanisms involved in Alzheimer’s disease, no effective treatment is currently available to stop the progression of this devastating disease.”

She added:
“This research identifies Dkk1 as a potential therapeutic target for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.”

Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for about two-thirds of cases. Currently, dementia costs the UK economy £23 billion a year – more than cancer and heart disease combined – and the number of people with the condition is expected to double within a generation.

The research was funded by Alzheimer’s Research UK and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, UK.

Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“We’re delighted to have supported this study, which sheds new light on the processes that occur as Alzheimer’s develops. By understanding what happens in the brain during Alzheimer’s, we stand a better chance of developing new treatments that could make a real difference to people with the disease.

“Studies like this are an essential part of that process, but more work is needed if we are to take these results from the lab bench to the clinic. Dementia can only be defeated through research, and with the numbers of people affected by the condition soaring, we urgently need to invest in research now.”

This material has been published with the kind permission of Alzheimer Research UK.

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GingerLove – From Belgium With Love

At City Connect, we’re always looking for new and interesting food and drink from the UK and further afield which will tickle your tastebuds and please your palate. So when we heard about GingerLove drink from Belgium, we just had to share it with you. After all, if GingerLove is enjoyed by the likes of Sting and Jamie Cullum, then we think our City Connect readers in Belgium, France & Luxembourg should try it too. And for everyone else, watch this space… GingerLove deserves to go global!

Read the Press Release below for more information on the gorgeous GingerLove drink…

Next time someone asks you to name five famous Belgians, make sure to add spice to your list. Make sure to mention the coolest hot shot in town: a newcomer that is stirring quite a commotion among aficionados of good taste that gather from all corners of the world to savour its heartwarming sensations.

But guess what: this golden boy is a beverage. No, actually, it’s an experience. No, it’s what people who know what’s good for them are craving for in Antwerp these days. And in Paris, and soon, in the rest of the world. It’s called GingerLove and the only way to find out just how delightful it is, is by allowing your taste buds to soak in its golden aroma and indulging in its soothing playfulness.

Already awarded as MOST INNOVATIVE DRINK, GingerLove is “The New Hot Drink” never tasted before. Based on ginger & fruit juices, GingerLove revives you with the extra health kick to keep you going. This warm frothy drink is caffeine free.

GingerLove took its first zesty taste in Lombardia, the organic & vegetarian restaurant since 1972 in Antwerp. Lombardia’s food creator Alain Indria is the founder of GingerLove and has excited the world many times with his creative food & drink inventions.

Rock stars like Sting, Moby and Jamie Cullum adore GingerLove and even Sting says it’s good for your voice!

GingerLove is a way of living and has a strong marketing backbone. The concept exists out of extended marketing material for the food service and retail industry.

To enjoy the lively aroma of GingerLove, we’ve even designed the perfect cup. The only thing you need is a sachet of GingerLove, to which you add boiling water. Stir or shake, and your own GingerLove is ready to drink!

GingerLove is as comforting as it is enticing, as exhilarating as it is sexy. So be warned: when drunk hot, it is known to go straight to the heart. Lovingly made by a connoisseur of soulfood (Alain Indria of bio store Lombardia) and now ready to take on the world. Prepare yourself for a taste of what the future has in store for you!

For more information about GingerLove and where you can buy it in Belgium, France & Luxembourg, please check out their website:

Text taken from GingerLove 2012 Press Release
Images courtesy of GingerLove

Swarovski Adds Sparkle to Mirror Mirror

Swarovski once again adds depth and dimension on the big screen– this time, one of the most beloved stories of all time comes to life in Relativity Media’s live-action motion picture event for the whole family, Mirror Mirror – a fresh and funny retelling of the Snow White legend. Visionary director Tarsem Singh (Immortals, The Cell), who is known for featuring visually-stunning production design and intricate costumes on screen, reunited with the Oscar®-winning costume designer Eiko Ishioka (Immortals) and production designer Tom Foden (The Cell), who looked to Swarovski to add sparkle to the set.

Ishioka put her imagination to the test. “The Swarovski crystals were used in Eiko’s designs in creating three spectacular handmade costumes for the Queen, adorned with over one hundred thousand Swarovski elements in nearly twenty colours, including the outrageous golden costume ball and blood-red party dress, as well as the elaborate wedding gown,” said assistant costume designer, Martine Gagnon. Additionally, Foden used six Swarovski chandeliers from the existing Schonbek® collection to add illumination and drama.

Evil Queen's Party Dress

“It was such a natural partnership for Swarovski to support this reinterpretation of the classic film Snow White. We were excited to support the creative vision of the costume and production designers. Oscar®-winning costume designer Eiko Ishioka did an amazing job designing the spectacular costumes using Swarovski crystals while production designer Tom Foder creatively incorporated Swarovski chandeliers to add allure to the grand ballroom,” said Nadja Swarovski, Member of the Executive Board, Swarovski Crystal Business.

In theatres March 30, 2012. Mirror Mirror features breakout star Lily Collins (The Blind Side) as Snow White, a princess in exile, and Oscar®-winner Julia Roberts as the evil Queen who ruthlessly rules her captured kingdom. Seven courageous rebel dwarfs join forces with Snow White as she fights to reclaim her birthright and win her Prince (Armie Hammer) in this magical adventure comedy filled with jealousy, romance and betrayal that will capture the hearts and imaginations of audiences the world over. The film also stars Nathan Lane (The Birdcage) as the hapless and bungling servant to the Queen. Directed by Tarsem Singh (Immortals, The Cell) and produced by Bernie Goldmann (300), Relativity’s Ryan Kavanaugh (The Fighter) and Brett Ratner (Rush Hour franchise),  Mirror Mirror’s screen story was written by Melisa Wallack and the screenplay was written by Marc Klein and Jason Keller.

From the early days of Hollywood, Swarovski has worked hand in hand with costume and production designers, creating showstopping jewels, costumes and sets that capture the spotlight. The company’s reputation for the largest variety of the finest cut crystal is unchallenged on and off the silver screen, adorning classics including Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, The Wizard of Oz, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and more recently The Young Victoria, Nine, Burlesque and Black Swan.

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Text reproduced from Swarovski Press Release (March 2012)

Cancer Drug Clears Alzheimer’s Protein and Improves Cognition in Mice

US scientists have found that a skin cancer drug is able to clear a known Alzheimer’s protein, amyloid, from the brains of mice. The study, which also showed the mice had cognitive improvements, is published in the journal Science.

Researchers at Case Western University studied the effects of a drug called bexarotene, which is currently used as a cancer treatment, in mice generated to develop amyloid, a protein that builds in the brain in Alzheimer’s.

Bexarotene is known to increase the production of a protein called apoE, which is controlled by the APOE gene. One variant of the gene, APOE4, is a known risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, and the scientists wanted to find out whether increasing the amount of apoE could help clear amyloid from the brain.

They found that a single dose of the drug was able to reduce the amount of amyloid after six hours, although after 84 hours, the protein had returned to its initial levels. Daily doses of the drug led to a progressive reduction in amyloid levels over time, while the mice also showed improvements in a range of behavioural and cognitive tests.

The scientists believe their results suggest that bexarotene could be a useful treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“While this early study may look promising, success in mice unfortunately does not always guarantee success in people. We would need to see the results of clinical trials before we could know whether bexarotene could prove beneficial for people with Alzheimer’s – and it would also be important to weigh up the risks of any potential side effects.

“There are a number of drugs in development that aim to clear amyloid from the brain, and the jury is still out on whether this approach will be successful as a treatment for Alzheimer’s. It may be that these treatments could be more effective if given early, meaning early detection of the disease will be crucial. If we can fully understand the causes of the disease, we stand a better chance of finding a treatment that could benefit people.

“With 820,000 people affected by dementia, we urgently need new, effective treatments for the condition – that means it’s vital that we invest in research.”

This material has been published with the kind permission of Alzheimer Research UK.

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Cognitive Activity Throughout Life Linked to Lower Levels of Alzheimer’s Protein

Scientists in the US have found that healthy older people who have engaged in cognitive stimulation activities throughout their life have lower levels of the protein amyloid in their brains, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s. The study is published online today in the journal Archives of Neurology.

The researchers recruited 65 cognitively normal older people, alongside ten people with Alzheimer’s disease and 11 young people to act as controls. The healthy older volunteers were asked to report how often they took part in common cognitive activities such as writing emails or letters, reading books and newspapers, and playing games. They were also asked to report how often they took part in physical activity such as cycling or walking. The volunteers were then asked to take memory tests and brain scans to look at the amount of amyloid in their brains.

The study showed an association between the amount of cognitive activity reported in early to middle life and the amount of amyloid in the brains of the healthy elderly volunteers. Although large amounts of amyloid in the brain is a characteristic feature of Alzheimer’s disease, lower levels of amyloid can also be seen in the brains of older people with no reported cognitive problems. The study found that the more cognitive activity that the volunteers took part in throughout life, the less amyloid could be seen on their brain scans.

Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“The authors of this small study suggest that there may be benefits to keeping an active mind throughout life, not just in old age. Whilst the study found an association between cognitive activity and the levels of amyloid protein in the brain of healthy elderly volunteers, we cannot conclude that one directly causes the other.

“It would be important to follow these healthy participants and see whether those that reported higher cognitive activity were less likely to develop Alzheimer’s in the long run. With 820,000 people in the UK living with dementia, it is essential that we understand the factors that can lower our risk, so we must invest in more research.”

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Alpine Antics in Courcheval

What do you think when you hear the word ‘seasonnaire’?  Someone staggering around beach resorts trying to organise bar crawls and wet t-shirt competitions?  Posh girls named Isabella working in a chalet?  Jack Wills reps encouraging punters to get drunk and buy some, like, really cool stash?  All of the above might apply, but having worked as a seasonnaire in Courchevel for the last four months, I can safely say that these stereotypes are more often than not very far from the truth.

"seasonnaire", "France skiing", "skiing", "chalet girl", "piste", "apres ski"

Fair enough, we seasonnaires do party hard.  Après sessions that result in people skiing off bus stops or running down a red run in the dark are commonplace.  Our days off generally start at 9pm the day before: drinks, heavy night out, beer for breakfast, skiing, après bar, collapse.  But one of the main reasons for this play hard attitude is that, believe it or not, we do actually work hard for the rest of the week.  Before I came out to the Alps, all of my previous customer-facing roles had been ones where the customer leaves after a few hours.  If you have a tricky customer in a restaurant, it’s bearable because you know they’re going to leave at the end of the evening.  Out here, this is not the case.  These people are here for a full week, and when your job description dictates that you are ‘on call’ 24-7, the work takes on a new dimension.

My job title is ‘resort rep’, which in a nutshell means that I am the point of contact for my company’s customers in resort.  Our week starts on a Saturday, where we ship all outgoing customers to the airport, and bring the new ones back to resort.  Sounds fairly simple, you might say.  Now add in factors such as snow, fog, ice, missing skis, and an airport that is essentially a large shed and requires a special pilot’s license to land there.  You might begin to understand why out here we have a completely different kind of ‘Friday Feeling’.  Once everyone has finally got on the coach to go to resort, you then have just over an hour to speak to all fifty-plus of them, and sell them their lift passes and equipment hire, all the while trying not to be flung down the aisle as a crazy French driver barrels his way along mountain roads.  By the time everyone has finally been delivered to their hotel or chalet, the work is far from over.  The weekend continues with getting up at the crack of dawn on Sunday and delivering everyone’s lift passes, smoothing out and problems that may have arisen with rooms or similar, making sure everyone gets to ski school and basically running around resort like a headless chicken.  This is generally where one encounters the clientele that are going to make the next week something of a nightmare.  Rooms aren’t big enough, view isn’t good enough, speck of dust on the carpet…  These are particularly fun to deal with when it’s peak season and the whole of the resort is fully booked.

Admittedly, it’s not all stress and tantrums.  Once Sunday night’s accommodation visits are over, the rest of the week can go very smoothly.  One great part of my job is ski hosting – taking groups of guests skiing around the Three Valleys and getting a free lunch.  At this stage of the season, the sun shines all day every day, and life doesn’t get much better than sitting on a sun terrace on top of a mountain thinking ‘I’m getting paid to do this’.  And then there are the days where we’re not required to do anything until the evening, and can spend our days skiing some of the best runs in Europe.

So as with any job, the life of a seasonnaire has both highs and lows.  There have certainly been some weeks where a customer drives me to the edge of quitting, but then a blue-sky powder day turns it around again.  It’s certainly harder work than I was anticipating, and I’m not sure if I’d do this job again.  But for now, I’m living for days like the one I’ve just had – sunshine, snow and après.

Image courtesy of the author

Film Review: Contraband

You’ve all seen Contraband before. Granted, it probably wasn’t called Contraband, but you’ve seen it just the same. In fact you’ve probably seen it several times over your movie-going years, so much so that you’re probably getting a little tired of it.

Contraband tells the story of Chris Farraday (Mark Wahlberg), a former smuggler who decides to come out of retirement for one last job when his brother-in-law gets into trouble with a dangerous drug dealer (Giovanni Ribisi). Sound familiar? It should do. The criminal coming out of retirement for one final job storyline has been around for a very long time, and has probably been used so many times it must be out of copyright like an incredibly old song.

The predictable and overly used plot still isn’t this film’s biggest failing. Giovanni Ribisi, an actor we know is capable of great things, is boxed into the homicidal drug dealer category, something we’ve seen him do before and doesn’t do him any justice. Spare a thought for poor old Kate Beckinsale too. Here we have an actress who is capable of carrying an entire movie franchise on her shoulders, no matter how bad it may be, reduced to playing the perfect wife in danger role. Her character is so underwritten it is borderline lazy.

Let’s not overlook what this film gets right though. The action sequences are top notch and riveting, and let’s face, the action scenes are the reason this film exists. The heist at the centre of the story is incredibly planned out, right down to every little detail. It’s all rather ingenious, to the extent that it would make Danny Ocean scratch his head. It is hard to believe that these nitty gritty street-wise thieves are intelligent enough to plan something like this.

Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur does a good job considering this is his first Hollywood movie, and if this project is a test to see if he’s ready then he almost certainly is. Mark Wahlberg does a good job in the lead role, now being more selective about the film roles he takes on. After starring in absolute howlers such as The Happening, it would be understandable if he is slightly weary. It is thanks to Kormákur and Wahlberg that this film is able to lift itself out of the doldrums and make it credible, but when there is so much potential and very little delivered, other people may not be so forgiving.

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April Fools’ Day & Spaghetti Trees

April Fools’ Day is celebrated in many countries around the world on April 1 every year. Sometimes referred to as All Fools’ Day, April 1 is not a national holiday, but is widely recognized and celebrated as a day when many people play all kinds of jokes and foolishness. The day is marked by the commission of good-humoured or otherwise funny jokes, hoaxes, and other practical jokes of varying sophistication on friends, family members and people known to the prankster.

A typical example is sending the “victim” of the prank on a so-called fools’ errand… my personal favourite was told to me by an old friend whose father sent him to the ironmongors for a “long weight”. The ironmongor (who was in on the joke) told the boy to stand in the corner… after 30 minutes of being stuck in the corner twiddling his thumbs, the ironmongor told the boy he could go back to his father because he’d had his long wait!

Traditionally in the UK the jokes only last until noon. Elsewhere, such as in France, Italy, Germany and America, the jokes last all day. In France children and some jovial adults traditionally stick paper fish on each other’s back as a trick and shout “poisson d’avril!” (translated as April fish).

But where did it all begin? What are the origins of April Fools’ Day?

Precursors of April Fools’ Day include the Roman festival of Hilaria, held in March , and the Medieval Festival of Fools, on 28 December still a day on which pranks are played in Spanish-speaking countries.

In Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (1392), the “Nun’s Priest’s Tale” is set Syn March bigan thritty dayes and two. Modern scholars believe that there is a copying error in the extant manuscripts and that Chaucer actually wrote, Syn March was gon. Thus the passage originally meant 32 days after March, i.e. May 2, the anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia, which took place in 1381. Readers apparently misunderstood this line to mean “March 32”, i.e. April 1. In Chaucer’s tale, the vain cock Chauntecleer is tricked by a fox.

In 1508 French poet Eloy d’Amerval referred to a poisson d’avril (April fool, literally “April fish”), a possible reference to the holiday. In 1539, Flemish poet Eduard de Dene wrote of a nobleman who sent his servants on foolish errands on April 1. In 1686, John Aubrey referred to the holiday as “Fooles holy day”, the first British reference. On April 1, 1698, several people were tricked into going to the Tower of London to “see the Lions washed”.

In the Middle Ages, New Year’s Day was celebrated on March 25 in most European towns. In some areas of France, New Year’s was a week-long holiday ending on April 1. Many writers suggest that April Fools originated because those who celebrated on January 1 made fun of those who celebrated on other dates.

One of my all-time favourite April Fools’ Pranks was in 1957 when the BBC fooled the nation with a report on the current affairs programme Panorama about a family in southern Switzerland harvesting spaghetti from the fictitious spaghetti tree.

"April Fools Day", "spaghetti tree", "panorama hoax", "BBC hoax"

Woman harvesting the "spaghetti tree"

The 3 minute clip was broadcast at a time when this Italian dish was not widely eaten in the UK and some people were unaware that spaghetti was in fact a type of pasta. The broadcast of the Swiss Spagetti Tree hoax was described by CNN years later as “the biggest hoax that any reputable news establishment ever pulled.” See the clip below that fooled a nation!

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