Stories about the people, science and research of the Medical Research Council.
23 Dec 2019
Over the past year, the University of Edinburgh MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine has been celebrating a significant milestone: 10 years as an MRC Centre. Robin Morton, the centre’s Science Communication Manager, guides us through the celebrations.
Image credit: Douglas-Robertson
Birthdays are a time of celebration, a time to reflect and to look forward to the future. When I joined the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine (CRM) in 2016, I marvelled at its successes, excellent facilities and sense of community. [...]
Continue reading: Celebrating ten years of the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine
4 Jan 2017
In her commended 2016 Max Perutz Science Writing Award article, PhD student Edie Crosse, from the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine, describes her research aiming to generate healthy stem cells from patients to treat leukaemia.
Blood, both vital and sinister, is tied so closely to our ideas of what it is to be human, warm and alive.
Throughout history people have felt connected to their families, tribes and countrymen imagining that the same blood flows through their veins – as if more than just cells but spirit is circulated. Nordic people often allude to their Viking blood making them hardier and stoic; the ancient Mayans believed blood was given by the Gods to bestow them with life, and frequently gave ritualistic blood-letting ceremonies to return it to them. [...]
Continue reading: Back to blood’s beginning
24 Nov 2016
In her runner-up article for the 2016 Max Perutz Science Writing Award, Katie Ember, a PhD student at the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine, explains how she is using light to improve detection of a rare cancer.
It’s just as vital to our survival as our hearts. But the first time I watched a human liver being dissected, I realised how little I knew about this incredible organ. [...]
Continue reading: Cholangiocarcinoma: The cancer you’ve never heard of
7 Apr 2016
A study published today in Stem Cells Translational Medicine shows that microRNAs could be used to treat paracetamol overdose. Lead researcher Dr David Hay from the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Edinburgh spoke to Sylvie Kruiniger about his findings, made possible by growing and testing their own stem cell-derived liver cells.
Why is it important to study paracetamol overdose?
Taken at recommended levels, paracetamol is usually safe, effective and is used widely in adults and children, either alone or in combination with other drugs.
However, it can damage the liver and the risk of liver damage increases with doses over the recommended levels. Each year we see around 200 deaths involving paracetamol (National Office for Statistics).
What happens in your liver when you take paracetamol?
When the liver processes a recommended dose of paracetamol, most of the drug is broken down by acid into water-soluble forms that can be passed in the urine or exported to the bile: this is called the sulfation pathway.
Around five per cent is turned into a toxin called N Acetyl-p-Benzo Quinone Imine (NAPQI). At this low level, the liver can clear the toxin with an antioxidant that reacts with NAPQI so it can be excreted in urine and bile. [...]
Continue reading: Giving the liver a new way to deal with paracetamol overdose
20 Jul 2015
Today researchers at the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine announced that they have regrown damaged livers in mice. It’s just one example of scientists growing tiny versions of organs in animals and in the lab to study development and disease, and test potential treatments. Many of these organs also represent the first steps towards growing whole organs – or parts of organs – for transplant. MRC Science Writer Cara Steger rounds up progress.
Why might you want to grow a tiny organ? Small organs, or parts of them, are useful for studying both development and disease, and for toxicity testing or testing new treatments. In some cases, mini organs will be able to replace research using animals.
But they also offer a tantalising glimpse of a world in which we can grow complex solid organs for transplant. These tiny organs – often more like proto-organs with just some of an organ’s functions – are quite literally ‘starting small’, first seeing if it’s even possible.
Here we list eight tiny organs that have been grown so far.
Transplanted hepatic progenitor cells can self-renew (yellow) and differentiate into hepatocytes (green) to repair the damaged liver (Image: Wei-Yu Lu, MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine, The University of Edinburgh’)
The MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine researchers used liver stem cells, called hepatic progenitor cells, to regrow damaged livers in mice. After extracting the stem cells from healthy adult mice and maturing them in the lab, the researchers transplanted the cells into mice with liver failure.
In three months the cells had grown enough to partly restore the structure and function of the animals’ livers, providing hope that this technique could one day replace the need for liver transplants in humans.  [...]
Continue reading: Eight tiny organs grown by scientists
15 Jan 2015
The lessons in action (Copyright: EuroStemCell)
Not many researchers go directly into schools to teach science lessons, but that’s what Professor Ian Chambers from the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine did when he teamed up with EuroStemCell science communicator Emma Kemp. They have just published an academic paper on their experience of bringing stem cell research into schools. Here’s what they learned.
Not all schoolchildren want to grow up to be scientists, but they can be enthused about science, and equipped with the knowledge and skills to understand the relevance of science to their lives and decision-making.
Lots of adults can remember a particular time when they got the science bug. For Ian, this was a visit to a university lab aged 13. For Emma, it was her first physics teacher’s enthusiastic introduction to fundamental questions about the universe. We wanted to provide some moments like these to high school students, and we started with Ian’s old high school, the very one that had taken him on that early university visit. [...]
Continue reading: Stem cells in the classroom
29 Oct 2013
Members of the public at T in the Park: the festival atmosphere lent itself to open discussions about stem cell research (Image copyright: Hope Beyond Hype)
Often communicating science is about going where people are, rather than expecting them to come to you. The people behind Hope Beyond Hype, a project based at the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine, took that advice to heart this summer, touring Scottish festivals with their tales of stem cell biology and medicine. Here Public Engagement Manager Cathy Southworth reports back.
Some time ago, while working during the summer as a play leader, I became quite adept at painting butterflies and tigers on the faces of young Liverpudlians. Who would have thought that two decades later an opportunity would arise to hone these latent skills on the festival-going Scottish public? It turns out that face painting was ideal for setting up a relaxed context for some interesting chat about stem cell biology.
Engaging people with stem cell research was our aim this summer as we embarked on a five-festival run across Scotland, taking in The Royal Highland Show, T in the Park, Tiree Music Festival, The Wickerman Festival and The Cowal Highland Games. [...]
Continue reading: Stem cells, face paints, and Highland shows
13 Sep 2012
Ian Wilmut (Copyright: MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine)
Professor Sir Ian Wilmut was formerly Director of the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Edinburgh. Famously, he led the research group that first cloned a mammal from an adult body cell — Dolly the sheep — in 1996. Sarah Harrop spoke to him about how far regenerative medicine has come and what the future might hold.
What are some of the different approaches to regenerative medicine currently being undertaken by scientists?
Very broadly, there are two main approaches at the moment. We’re using stem cells to understand the mechanisms that cause some degenerative diseases so that it’s possible then to identify drugs that are able to prevent the development of symptoms. The second strategy is to produce cells that can replace those that have died or ceased to function normally in degenerative diseases.
What benefits and insights might the first approach offer?
To identify the molecular mechanisms that lead to disease it’s important to be able to study cells that are affected by the disease in the lab. A key innovation that makes this possible is our ability to treat skin cells so that they are changed and become very similar to embryo stem cells. These cells — induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells — are able to form all of the different cell types and grow in culture for very long periods. This makes it possible to produce the large number of cells required for research. [...]
Continue reading: Regeneration: Taking stock
29 May 2012
Cathy Southworth explains why, when faced with the challenge of opening up stem cell science to the public, she turned to comic book artist Edward Ross and science fiction writer Ken Macleod. She is the Public Engagement Manager of OptiStem, an EU-funded stem cell research project based at the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine in Edinburgh.
When I was tasked last year with developing a resource to open up the world of stem cell science to the public, I must admit my heart groaned a little at the thought of another leaflet or information page that would be lost among the mass of information on the web. We needed something eye-catching and enticing; something that would stand out, all the while ensuring that the science was portrayed accurately.
There was obviously a story to tell; a very human story about how contemporary medical treatments are brought to the clinic. How do ideas develop? How do these ideas become possibilities? How do they get tested? How do we know they are as safe as they can be? How do we decide what ‘safe’ means and who decides? These were among the many questions I wanted to address, along with including an array of characters: scientists, clinicians, regulators, ethicists and patients, to name a few. [...]
Continue reading: Hope beyond hype