Archive for the ‘Cool science’ category

National Science Week

August 8, 2008

A big event in the Australian science calendar is National Science Week, supported by Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research (that’s its name this week anyway) and the CSIRO among others. This year, it’s held from the 16th to the 24th of August and features a multitude of events in each state.

Many scientists and educators give a lot of their time for this great event. I remember participating in one while I was working in a lab. I got to show possum sperm under the microscope to bunches of children and parents! It’s such a worthwhile event, really bringing science to the public and hopefully inspiring the next generation of research scientists.

Included in this years events are: lectures on astronomy, films of the underwater world, structured debates on the future of science, and a bit of CAM fun.

In addition there is a National Tour of a couple of speakers. One I would be especially interested in seeing is Dr. Michael Shermer, founding publisher of Skeptic Magazine (  Bizarrely and annoyingly, this part of the NATIONAL tour does not visit South Australia.

Anyway, check out some of the events.

Latest science news: Sperm as stem cells?

September 26, 2007

images-2.jpeg I have a bit of an interest in reproductive technology and stem cells, and this is quite an interesting story, although it sounds as if it’s still in the early stages. It seems that the researchers think a particular subset of spermatogonial cells can be manipulated to form other tissue types, such as blood vessel, brain and muscle cells.

This is great news for guys of course. A source of relatively easily accessible stem cells (but sorry guys, you can’t produce them the fun way, there needs to be a “small little sample of flesh from the testicles”) that could be used in later in life to treat a number of diseases. As long as there is genetic compatibility, the cells generated could also be transplanted into other people, including females.

The stem cells isolated are naturally multipotent (can generate many types of cells), and this is an advantage over other types of adult stem cells which have undergone genetic reprogramming (“induced pluripotency”), which seems to carry a risk of making them malignant. So far, the research has only been carried out on mouse models, and they have not yet discovered a way to produce desired cell types at will.

A lot of the press release is speculation of course, but the Nature paper shows that they now have the ability to isolate and purify these particular cells (due to the expression of a specific protein on the cell surface) and the efficient production of large numbers of cells which retain the ability to become multipotent adult spermatogonial-derived stem cells (MASC’s), but not, it should be pointed out, germline cells.

I wonder what the reaction of the religious community is going to say to this? After all, these are not embryonically derived cells. But, every sperm is sacred?
ABC science story
Weill Cornell Medical College – press release

Full Text version of the actual paper