A Japanese team of researchers have turned embryonic mouse stem cells into a very basic eye, or ‘optic cup’. This video shows a time-lapse of the cells self-organising into the structure:
As you watch the video and read the article, think about the following curriculum links:
- How do cells ‘organise’ and how do stem cells become differentiated?
- What might be the therapeutic uses of this in the future?
- What functionality does this ‘eye’ have compared to ours?
“Remarkably, the rudimentary eye and the different types of cells it contained took shape spontaneously from a floating cluster of embryonic stem cells the scientists had cultured.”
Thanks, once again, to Ed Yong for his fantastic NotExactlyRocketScience blog. This video is a must-watch for students, especially those taking HL and the Neurobiology option. Once you’ve seen it, go over to Ed’s blog and read the article “Shedding light on sex and violence in the brain“, which is a really interesting look at the balance between sex and aggression in mouse brains, using this method.
You can see why it is the winner of Nature Methods’ 2010 Method of the Year (click for lots of articles).
Although it is way ahead of the syllabus, there are links to:
- membrane proteins, channels and ions
- depolarisation and hyperpoloarisation of nerves
- transgenics (using viruses as a vector for delivering new genes)
- transcription and translation
- regions of the brain
Here is Craig Venter announcing the successful self-replication of a cell with an entirely synthetic genome:
This is one of the biggest news stories of the year, and time will tell what its implications are. It has been extensively covered in the media, and will surely be a part of school ethics discussions for years to come.The full Science paper is online here.
Search for news stories and resources to help you answer these questions:
1. In what ways is this the first synthetic organism?
2. What were the success criteria for this organism?
3. What failsafes were put in place should the bacterium become widespread?
4. What are some of the potential applications of this new technology?
5. What are some of the ethical implications of synthetic biology? Identify stakeholders in the debate and outline their point of view.
This is a moving clip from the StemCellFoundation, and their channel has lots of decent, informative video clips. Check it out.