20 May 2013

Newsflash #BEDM

Most of you are going to hate this. You think I'm joking. I'm not. In fact, most of you should just leave now. Why? Because this is going to be about science. Yup, see ya! *waves*

For those that have opted to stick around — and I realise I could just be talking to myself here now — I'm going to talk about something in the science news today. Why? Because I bloody love the stuff, that's why. In this context, today merely means current. Here's a pretty picture to keep you interested.

An embryo at the blastocyst stage. Credit: BBC News
I'm the first to castigate biology and how inferior it is to physics (all retorts welcome in the comments section) but actually, it's mostly in jest. Biology is too difficult for me; there are too many things to remember and it doesn't mix well with my fundamentally logical approach and mind. I do however, find both it and the continued research triumphs increasingly interesting.

This research published in the journal Cell [1] details the use of cloning to create human embryonic stem cells. I am all in favour of stem cells; their potential to create a variety of tissues to restore or even regrow those that are damaged is astounding. In addition, cloning circumnavigates the difficulties of donor rejection, since the cells and thus, tissue, are a perfect match.

There is however, a raging ethical debate about the use of stem cells, and the discourse about cloning has ensued for a long time. We all remember Dolly, surely? No? She was the first mammal (a sheep) to be cloned in 1996 using the same technique employed here; somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). There have previously been scientific achievements realised with the creation of embryonic-like cells using proteins to 'reset' the adult cells into induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells. [2,3] But this research is arguably more successful.

As a side note, do you know why else I'm so enthused by this research? They used a laser! Saying I'm a fan of lasers would be a significant understatement. But who doesn't love lasers?!

This research is a significant step in furthering regenerative medicine but a chasm still exists between this and creating the first cloned human. The ethical issues will continue to be hotly debated but this is, in its own right, some great science.

You can also read about this, and see a video of contracting heart cells, at ScienceNews.org. [2]

This month, I'm taking part in Blog Every Day in May (BEDM) and this is day 20.


[1] Masahito Tachibana et al. Human Embryonic Stem Cells Derived by Somatic Nuclear Transfer (2013) Cell doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2013.05.006
[2] Meghan Rosen "Cloning produces human embryonic stem cells" (15 May 2013) ScienceNews.org Link
[3] Hongyan Zhou et al. "Generation of Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells Using Recombinant Proteins" (2009) Cell Stem Cell 4 (5), 381-384 doi: 10.1016/j.stem.2009.04.005


  1. Biology is a lot of fun! Yes you have lots to remember but it can fascinate in way that sometimes physics can't - physics can sometimes just make you head hurt too much. However watching a protein walk hand over hand or a lysosome move along the microtuble network in real time is amazing the first time you see it. I too was once a physics is the best (still am in some ways) but biology can really test the mind too! Good post BTW!

    1. Oh yes, there is definitely a lot of fun to be had with biology, and I agree it can be incredibly fascinating. I'd love to see protein stepping or a 'walk' along a microtuble. Thanks. Good comment BTW! :D