February 2016

4 TED talks to help you better understand Stem Cell Therapy

For years the TED organisation has provided a platform for great minds of science and technology to present to the world, in an understandable manner, the exciting prospects and innovations in their fields. Here I've selected four TED talks which can help you to better grasp the complexities of stem cell therapy. 


SUSAN SOLOMAN- 'The Promise of Research'

In this video, Susan Solomon of The New York Stem Cell Foundation explains the importance stem cell therapy holds for us all. She compares the current political and financial attitudes to stem cell therapy now, to the attitudes towards IVF treatment in the 1980s- which as we know today is wildly successful. Susan gives examples of how a team of scientists in the foundation aimed to use stem cell research to help understand motor neurons disease (ASL). She gives a lovely comparison to outline the importance of stem cell research in this area- like a black box in a plane is used to help investigators understand what went wrong in case of a crash, stem cell research helps scientists understand what is going wrong in the case of diseased cells . One of Susan's most pertinent messages in the video is the importance stem cell research holds for helping test drugs- whilst criticising the current business model and system for approving new drugs under clinical trial. Whilst Susan uses a lot technical language throughout the video, it paints an impressive argument for how important stem cells are in the future of medicine.




SUSAN LIM- 'Transplant Cells, Not Organs'

Pioneering transplant surgeon Susan Lim is incredibly well revered in her field. Her work in organ transplants and most recently in developing stem cell research, have been revolutionary. Susan begins by reciting a chilling anecdote about her time working in Singapore in the 90's. Whilst heavily pregnant, Susan was sent to prisons in her country to harvest the organs of executed prisoners. This harrowing ordeal began to raise ethical questions in her mind of organ transplants as a method of treatment. Her and her team began to question new methods that could replace this. Susan gives a good account in this talk of the moral dilemmas of using embryonic stem cells over regular adult stem cells. However she discusses in nice detail how adipose stem cells are providing the current breakthrough in stem cell research. Once taken from adult fat tissue, scientists are learning how to reprogram the cells into the same pluripotent (flexible can be used for many functions) state that embryonic ones are. Excellent talk, and very inspiring!



KEVIN STONE- 'The Bio Future of Joint Replacement'

Kevin stone is an orthopeadist whose arthritis leading injuries at a young age inspired him to develop research in this area. As is the current narrative trend of many doctors and scientists, Kevin veered away from thinking about traditional replacement solutions. Instead he asked how, and shows us, how stem cells from animals could be used to grow specific parts for joints- a particularly memorable example of how they created cartilage tissue from cows' achilles tendons. Kevin gives some examples of how these methods have helped world famous skiers (who suffer notoriously from knee injuries), who after surgery have gone on to win championships. He concludes by asking what the next question for this field is- How can they replace whole joints using these methods and not just parts?




MOLLY STEVENS- 'A New Way to Grow Bone'

Molly's discusses how her team are using stem cell advancements to help grow bone. She talks of how old medical practices thought materials being used for medical purposes should be 'bioinert' (not interacting with the body, no inflammatory effects for example). However she discusses how her team are developing bioactive materials, that interact with the human body. She explains very articulately the way in which the material structures they are developing can be injected between the bone and bone marrow to facilitate stem cell growth, and make the bone thicker. Her research gained a lot of medical attention at the time, and she gives an example of the types of organisations who asked for treatments- American football players asking to have there skull bone made thicker. Very insightful and interesting talk.