- The perfect storm: Can disaster reduction occur in the face of climate change and population growth?
- Voicing Slavery: Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Mary Prince
- Osteoporosis: Bouncing babies to crumbling wrinklies - the need to own our bones
- What has the King’s Speech done to improve public awareness about stuttering?
- Photons, spacecraft, atomic clocks and Einstein – fundamental physics in the space environment
- London: the divorce capital of the world. ‘Big money’ divorce cases: fairness, gender and judicial discretion
- When technology design provokes errors
- Prometheus and I: building new body parts from stem cells
- Against nature? Homosexuality and evolution
- Child development in developing countries
- Did Democracy Cause the American Civil War?
- The highs and lows of our nearest star, the Sun
- From pathogen to ally: engineering viruses to treat disease
- Designing for students
- The price of the pouch: the evolutionary ramifications of mammalian reproductive strategies
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Prometheus and I: building new body parts from stem cells
18 November 2011
Tuesday 15 November 2011
Professor Martin Birchall (UCL Ear Institute)
Prometheus created life from clay, and within many biologists and surgeons there is a primal desire to do the same from the materials at hand, in an effort to stave off death and disease. Organ transplantation has been one Promethean solution, but a lack of donor organs, ethical and other issues limits the stretch of this technology. We performed the world's first stem cell based organ transplants in an adult and then in a child, and the results suggest a new future for organ replacement. The road will be a long one and raising the funds for the journey and managing expectations in the meantime are challenges. However, driven by such clinical successes, science is incrementally offering more and more opportunities to provide alternatives to and extend the scope of transplantation. A second Promethean myth has him punished for giving fire to man by being chained to a rock and having his liver pecked out by an eagle daily for eternity. In between, however, liver and man regenerate, and this reminds us that ultimately an understanding of the innate properties of tissues and organs to heal themselves may obviate the need for organ replacement altogether.
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