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Lunch Hour Lecture: Reproduction without sex — what does technology have to offer?

Ella Richards15 March 2016

Professor Joyce Harper’s (UCL Institute for Women’s Health) International Women’s Day Lunch Hour Lecture discussed the often taboo subject of scientific involvement in reproduction, why people choose to reproduce without sex and how science can solve reproductive issues.

joyce-harper

Professor Joyce Harper

Why is there an increased focus on reproduction without sex?

Professor Harper was blunt: “Unfortunately, as women, we aren’t well designed. As you sit here, in this lecture theatre, you are becoming more and more infertile with every minute that slips by, and after 35 years your fertility decreases significantly. By 42, it is very difficult to get pregnant, by 45 it is almost impossible.”

“Evolution has not kept up with feminism.” Across the world, and especially in developed countries such as the UK, women are delaying having children until their 30s. Twenty-first century opportunities mean that women are busy doing other things in their 20s, such as travelling and enjoying their career, rather than settling down and having children at the age that their mothers or grandmothers did.

This means that when women try to get pregnant in their 30s they are often surprised by reproductive issues and they come to IVF clinics at an average age of 38. (more…)

Lunch Hour Lecture: The state, science and Humphry Davy

Thomas Hughes4 February 2016

“Science, gentlemen, is of infinitely more importance to a state than may at first sight appear possible”. While few scientists would disagree with this today, it was the 19th-century chemist Humphry Davy who made the observation. In a recent Lunch Hour Lecture Professor Frank James (UCL Science & Technology Studies) took us on a whistle stop tour of Davy’s colourful life, his science and his relationship with the state. Humphry Davy. From: Sarah K. Bolton: Famous Men of Science. (New York, 1889)

A poet of Penzance

Born in Penzance on December 17, 1778, Davy initially showed a passion for poetry. This was largely descriptive poetry, such as this extract about St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall: “Beat by the storms of ages, stands unmov’d, Amidst the wreck of things—the change of time.”

However after his schooling, his godfather apprenticed him to a surgeon and it was in the apothecary there where he discovered what would become a life-long interest in chemistry.

While living in Penzance he met distinguished natural philosophers including the engineer Davies Giddy who encouraged Davy and offered him the use of his library.

(more…)

Could this be the way to get your research into the public eye?

ucyow3c15 December 2015

pencil-icon  Written by Olivia Stevenson & Greg Tinker with Michael Kenny, Catherine Miller & Graeme Reid

Scientists and researchers from across academia are engaged in research that could make a difference to the world, but until you take it beyond the university doors its impact and reach will remain low.

Select Committee noticeUCL and the Mile End Institute at Queen Mary, University of London, teamed up to host a public event with parliamentary insiders and evidence experts, exploring how academia could engage the world of government, particularly through select committees.

The question on everyone’s mind was ‘can this type of academic-government engagement generate real world impacts?’ Here is what our speakers told us:

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From tadpole guts to Nobel Prize: John Gurdon’s UCL Prize Lecture in Clinical Science

ucyow3c19 November 2015

Written by James Arrich and Isobel Weinberg, both UCL PhD students

Do all the cells of the body possess the same set of genes? This was the question facing a young John Gurdon as he embarked upon his PhD 60 years ago. His research has transformed the way we understand biology in a way that holds promise for the treatment of many common diseases. He received the Nobel Prize in 2012 and on 10 November he visited UCL to give the UCL Prize Lecture in Clinical Science and receive the accompanying medal.

John Gurdon made an unpromising start to his scientific career: at school, he was ranked last out of 250 students for Biology, and was required to give up science and study Classics. Nevertheless, he later chose to switch his degree from Classics to Zoology and then embark on a PhD in cell development.

Professor Sir John Gurdon, UCL Nobel Prize winner

Nobel Prize winner Professor Sir John Gurdon

Ground-breaking work soon followed. His PhD centred upon the technique of nuclear transplantation.

That is, he would transplant the nucleus of one cell into an egg cell whose own nucleus had been removed (it had been ‘enucleated’) and then watch to see how this egg (with its transplanted nucleus) developed.

In a famous set of experiments, he took a specialised gut cell from a tadpole and transplanted the cell’s nucleus into an enucleated egg. Astonishingly, he demonstrated that such eggs (with their transplanted ‘gut’ nuclei) could develop into healthy frogs. That is, the nucleus of a gut cell that was wholly specialised to absorb nutrients still possessed all the genes required to make an entire new frog.

The implications were huge. Not only did all the cells of an organism possess the same genes, but clearly some factors in the egg cell could revert an adult, specialised cell into a stem cell capable of generating any other cell type. The phenomenon was termed nuclear reprogramming and Gurdon has spent the rest of his career unravelling the mechanisms that underlie it.

(more…)