UCL Research Roundup: April 2019

UCL Research Roundup: April 2019

Sex, drugs and black-holes: this and more in UCL’s monthly research roundup with Corlett Novis.


Cannabis research

Several new studies into one of the world most widely used drugs, marijuana, have been conducted at UCL over the past month. The first indicates that addiction to the drug is partly determined by three genetic markers, a clear indication that our genomes have an impact on marijuana addiction.

In the second study, researchers found that one of the active components in cannabis known as Cannabidiol (or CBD) reduces the cognitive impairment caused by using the drug. This isn’t the first time CBD has been reported to counter the negative effects of cannabis use, but it is the first time that fMRI was used to observe the effects of the drug.

Finally, a little known compound found in cannabis known as CBG could be used to reduce chemotherapy driven weight-loss after the drug was observed to protect against muscle loss. UCL neuroscientist Dan Brierly commented that “Our study also highlights that while most people focus on CBD and THC, there are many more compounds in Cannabis sativa that warrant investigation for their therapeutic potential.”


Survey into combining sex and drugs

A new piece of research from UCL and the Global Drug Survey has found that the combination of drugs and sex is common regardless of gender or sexuality. This runs against societal stereotypes that using drugs for sexual stimulation is only done in the homosexual community. The study found that alcohol, cannabis and MDMA were the most common drugs used and that the rate of combining sex with drugs is higher in the UK than in other places such as the US, Canada and Europe.


Photographing a black hole

UCL Researchers were part of the effort to take the first ever picture of a black hole which circulated around the internet earlier this month. This is a particularly impressive feat since, until very recently, the celestial objects were considered to be impossible to photograph due to the fact that their tremendous mass prevented all light from escaping their event horizon (hence the name, “black hole”). The hole itself, which is 55 million light years away, was predicted to be one of the biggest and most visible black holes from the Earth.

Image Credit: The Event Horizon Telescope


New study reveals that migrants brought farming to the UK

Researchers from UCL have collaborated with colleagues from Harvard and the Natural History Museum have discovered little resemblance between the genomes of early British farmers and the endemic hunter-gatherers who lived in the UK beforehand. According to Dr Tom Booth of the Natural History Museum, this study was the first of its kind to look into the possibility that early British hunter-gatherers may have adopted farming: “prior to our study, nobody had read the DNA of those British hunter-gatherers, to see if they had persisted and adopted farming practices themselves.” The difference between the genetic material found in the earliest farmers and British hunter-gatherers indicated to the researchers that the farmers must have migrated to the UK and brought their practices with them.

Image Credit: Pexels