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Regenerative medicine: is the grow-your-own organ era just around the corner?

newseditor10 June 2013

pencil-iconWritten by Emily Burns, who attended a lecture by Professor Martin Birchall (UCL Ear Institute) at the Cheltenham Science Festival, entitled ‘Regenerative Medicine: Where will we be in 50 years?’

Mouse heart showing position of coronary arteries

Mouse heart showing position of coronary arteries.

What happens if a newt’s leg is cut off? Or a gecko’s tail auto-amputated?

The cells simply multiply to grow back into exactly what was missing. If a flatworm were cut in two, the two halves would both become new flatworms.

Unfortunately for humans, this incredible ability to self-regenerate was lost several branches ago on the evolutionary tree. As such, we definitely don’t have the ability to grow a new leg, or a new heart.

We have to rely on skin grafts and organ transplants, with common risks of rejection, infection and multiple complications. However, according to Professor Mark Birchall and Dr Felicity Mehendale, our regenerative future is just around the corner.

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Innovations in Cardiovascular Science: ‘The more I learn, the more I learn how little I know’

newseditor8 May 2013

Front cover photo

pencil-iconWritten by Dr. Sherbano Ali Khan (UCL Institute of Cardiovascular Science MSc student)

Despite significant medical and therapeutic advances in cardiology in recent years, cardiovascular disease remains the biggest killer in the UK and a major cause of mortality and morbidity worldwide.

On Monday 22 April 2013 the UCL Cardiometabolic Science Domain hosted the Innovations in Cardiovascular Science Symposium with the aim of encouraging new interdisciplinary links and collaborations to help tackle this pressing global health issue.

The symposium (which focused on hypertension, heart failure and therapeutic innovation) brought together more than 150 doctors, surgeons and scientists to showcase and discuss some of the cutting-edge research that is currently taking place across UCL, Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) and UCL’s partner hospitals.

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Prometheus and I: building new body parts from stem cells

RuthHowells21 November 2011

Stem cells and their use in transplant surgery is the focus of a great deal of hope, and a great deal of hype. Professor Martin Birchall (UCL Ear Institute) has been involved in some very high profile patient operations over the last few years, which have pushed the boundaries of stem cell medicine and modern surgical methods, attracting a huge amount of publicity in the process.


At a Lunch Hour Lecture on 15 November, a large audience came to hear Martin talk about the work he has been involved in, the advances that have been made in regenerative medicine and the current challenges.

At the heart of Martin’s lecture is the Greek myth of Prometheus and man’s age-old desire to emulate the gods and create man. He shows illustrations of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and an alchemist creating a homunculus (a little human – something he likens himself to).

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Biology Wednesday at the Fest

JamesHeather9 June 2011

Day two of the Festival had a distinctly biological flavour for me, as the talks I attended touched on many of the hot topics from recent years.

I started the day hearing about the Race for the $1,000 Genome. Since the completion of the Human Genome Project, being able to sequence an individual’s entire genetic make-up for under $1,000 has been the target that those working in the genomic field have been aiming for. To hear the experts talk about it, we’re almost there.

Getting there isn’t the challenge; at this point it’s practically inevitable. What happens when we get there is the problem. The experts picked over tricky questions, such as: who gets their genomes sequenced, what is done with the data, and will it be worthwhile to get it?
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