It is almost impossible for an injured heart to fully mend itself. Within minutes of being deprived of oxygen – as happens during a heart attack when arteries to the heart are blocked – the heart’s muscle cells start to die. Sanjay Sinha wants to mend these hearts so that they work again.
Science is demanding as well as exciting. Dish Life, the final of four Cambridge Shorts films, compares the task of raising stem cells in the lab to the challenge of looking after a gang of unruly kids. In conversation with real-life children, scientists show how tricky it is to work with these ‘super cells’.
Scientists at the University of Cambridge have for the first time shown that it is possible to derive from a human embryo so-called ‘naïve’ pluripotent stem cells – one of the most flexible types of stem cell, which can develop into all human tissue other than the placenta.
Today, we commence a month-long focus on research on stem cells. To begin, Professors Austin Smith and Robin Franklin discuss how Cambridge scientists are helping to provide a stream of new knowledge about how our bodies are made and maintained, and how stem cells can fulfil the promise of being one of medical research’s great hopes.
Scientists have successfully ‘reset’ human pluripotent stem cells to the earliest developmental state – equivalent to cells found in an embryo before it implants in the womb (7-9 days old). These ‘pristine’ stem cells may mark the true starting point for human development, but have until now been impossible to replicate in the lab.
Researchers have shown it is possible to restore co-ordinated limb movement in dogs with severe spinal cord injury (SCI).
Fundraising is under way for a joint Cambridge University and Papworth Hospital Heart and Lung Research Institute – to sit alongside the anticipated new Papworth Hospital on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus – enabling a major expansion of cardiorespiratory research in Cambridge.
Much hyped by the media, stem cells have tremendous power to improve human health. As part of the Cambridge Stem Cell Initiative, Dr Ludovic Vallier’s research in the Anne McLaren Laboratory for Regenerative Medicine shows how stem cells can further our understanding of disease and help deliver much-needed new treatments.