Dealing with the dilemmas
A Cardiff University scientist will give this year’s main science lecture at the National Eisteddfod.
Stem cells from embryos need to be used to fully understand some of the causes of infertility and pave the way for the use of stem cells to treat many diseases such as diabetes and cancer. But stem cells from adults could be alternatives to having to use embryonic stem cells for these procedures.
This will be the argument put forward by Dr Arwyn Tomos Jones from the Welsh School of Pharmacy as he gives the Eisteddfod’s most prestigious science lecture.
Supported by the Wellcome Trust, he will discuss some of the fascinating secrets of cells in general, and stem cells in particular, and will also discuss the huge ethical questions that have been raised in the wake of new developments in stem cell research, in particular the status given to an embryo consisting of only a few cells.
“This kind of research is needed if we are to move the technology forward to deal with other conditions.” Dr Jones explains. “I want people to understand more fully what is taking place and to dispel some of their fears.”
Dr Jones will also discuss the contribution of Professor Sir Martin Evans of Cardiff University to this field of research and how it won him the Nobel Prize for Medicine 2007.
Matters of life and death – Pharmacy tackles the big issues
From designing medicines to harnessing the potential of stem cells, Cardiff University’s Welsh School of Pharmacy is ready to tackle some of the great issues of modern medicine at this year’s National Eisteddfod.
With a range of activities at the Science and Technology Pavilion, the Welsh School of Pharmacy hopes to help people understand some of the great issues affecting their health and see cutting edge science at first hand - they can even join in a few experiments.
- One exhibition will deal with designing, manufacturing and taking a medicinal drug.
- Another will show how new micro-needles will help frightened patients receive injections.
- A third will tackle the building blocks of life – from DNA to the fascinating world of stem cells.
“It is all linked to work taking place at the University today,” said one of the organisers, Dr Arwyn Tomos Jones, senior lecturer in Molecular and Cell Biology. “Undergraduate students from the School will be on hand to demonstrate and explain.”
Children – and adults too – can become medicine designers as they try to create a drug to help cure asthma.
With computer equipment and virtual technology from the Welsh School of Pharmacy there is a chance to fit drug molecules to specific sites on cells – if they fail, the console will vibrate.
Also there is a opportunity to create molecular structures, see a machine which makes medicines and hear more about Asthma Cymru and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society.
Anyone who is afraid of injections will be pleased to meet Dr James Birchall.
The Cardiff University researcher is working on micro-needles that are 200 times smaller than regular ones. Once again there will be a DIY opportunity for visitors to look at the needles under a microscope, insert them into a potato and see how a dye is injected into the tiny holes.
How stem cells work
In the depths of Llantrisant, retired scientist Guto Roberts has been working on a six-foot model of a cell, ready for the Science and Technology Pavilion.
With financial support from the Wellcome Trust, he is building the model to show how under different circumstances cells can divide and change themselves for particular purposes, including the replacement of damaged cells.
“Using stem cells from adults could help tackle debilitating conditions like Alzheimer’s,” says Dr Arwyn Tomos Jones.
Another model will use lights and a soundtrack to explain how stem cells have the capacity to divide and change themselves to form the hundreds of different types of cells we have in our bodies.
At this exhibit children will use a special kind of clay to make models of stem cells and other types of cells.
DNA – the wonderful kiwi fruit
Children will leave the Eisteddfod field this year with more than prizes – a tube of kiwi fruit DNA.
The common kiwi is packed with DNA cells and anyone can have a go at extracting the DNA and taking it home.