I went a little bit link crazy a couple of days ago, after I listened to a lecture on stem cells (sometimes called progenitor cells) and cloning. Much of what the presenter discussed sounded like science fiction: healing spinal injuries, reversing retinal damage, replacing damaged cardiac or brain tissue following heart attacks or strokes…
But it turns out this is all current science. Happening right now. Mostly in trials using mice and the like, but in a few noteworthy cases, in actual clinical human trials.
Anyway, if you are comfortable with the basics of embryology and cloning, you might find the links interesting. Otherwise, read up on the basics of stem cells – what they are, how they were found, what they can do – and then get ready to have your mind blown away.
Spinal Cord Injury – Dana Foundation
Regenerative benefit demonstrated in spinal cord injury
Reconstructing neural circuits using transplanted neural stem cells
Retina created from embryonic stem cells
Repairing the optic nerve using stem cells
This week sees the observation of farming by Dictyostelium discoideum, a species of amoeba.
This amoeba is well-known for another curious behaviour: colonies of these organisms will form a fruiting body to produce spores when conditions become hostile. The spores are released to spread the organisms’ chances of survival further afield. In this instance, the amoeba was shown to ‘farm’ the bacteria that constitutes their food. This is agriculture! By microbes!!! Amazing.
More explanation at the BBC Science & Tech site.