Body tissue regeneration

In the Guardian, an article about a UK biotech firm that has new procedures to help regrow significant amounts of lost bone. They believe they can make it work for other tissues, as well.

The key to this technique lies with the fact that our bones are covered in a layer of stem cells. We inject our material under that layer and that wakes up those stem cells. They start to multiply and produce lots of new bone. Then you can take that bone and move it somewhere else in a person’s body, a place where they have suffered a severe loss of bone – where they suffered an injury suffered after a car accident, for example…And when you think about it, that makes sense. The best place to grow tissue for yourself is in your own body, after all.

So far, we have been able to generate huge amounts of bone in our experiments using these techniques. In addition, the bone that was made this way was well organised. It had blood vessels and a proper architecture. That allows it to be really strong.

We also have developed other materials [to] use this directly at the affected site…There would be no transplant involved. Essentially, it would help a person grow a new jawbone if theirs had been removed after a cancer operation.

Both these techniques involve the regeneration of bone, but we are also working heart muscle and cartilage cells…We envisage making gels that you could inject into the miocardium which is damaged after a person has had a heart attack. This could help the heart to repair itself.

PM Gordon Brown to address link between science and the economy at Oxford today

I heard about this on Radio 4 on the way in today:

Prime Minister Gordon Brown is to give the prestigious Romanes Lecture at Oxford University. The speech focuses on the connection between science and economics and comes as debate rages within the science community over what kinds of scientific work should get public funding. Professor Don Braben, a physicist at University College London and Lord Krebs, principal of Jesus College, Oxford, discuss if the government should increase funding for science.

If you go to the Listen Again page today and scroll down to the 07:38 mark you can listen to the short segment.

Cold

I’m on holiday in Ottawa, Canada, one of the coldest capital cities in the world. It’s sunny here and not snowing, but the temperature is staying under -5C (and well under -10C at night).

What makes it cold here? Well, the biggest reason is that it’s in the northern hemisphere, where it’s winter now. The Earth is tilted at an angle that means that right now the light from the Sun is hitting the northern hemisphere at an angle, not straight on. A lot of it reflects away rather than being absorbed and turned to heat. Ottawa is relatively far from the equator, so it doesn’t get much sun heat.

The other reason is that the shape of Canadian landscape and prevailing wind patterns mean Ottawa gets a direct funnel of cold arctic air. London, for instance, is much farther north but isn’t nearly as cold as Ottawa in winter because the former gets warm air carried by the warm current from the Gulf of Mexico.