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Students gain unique insight into stem cell science

15 December 2014
The stem cell experts from UQ and Stem Cells Australia

Students from across Brisbane and the Gold Coast became stem cell scientists for the day at a special event held at The University of Queensland.

Not only did the students get into the lab and learn more about how stem cells are being used in medical research, they also got the chance to discuss ethical issues posed by stem cell science with UQ experts.

There is no doubt that stem cells have captured the community’s imagination. But what are they, how are they used in medical research and how close are scientists to being about to treat currently incurable conditions and diseases?

AIBN welcomed 100 students for a special screening of the award winning documentary: Stem Cells Revolutions, a free programme designed for students to gain a deeper understanding about the history and ‘real science’ of stem cell research and what it holds for the future.

The film from Stem Cell Australia features interviews with 2012 Nobel Prize winners - Shinya Yamanaka and John Gurdon – and Sir Ian Wilmut, creator of Dolly the sheep. It took the students on a journey from the earliest experiments that first revealed stem cells in the body, to the latest scientific and clinical development.

After the screening the students were given an opportunity to have their questions answered by a panel of Australian stem cell experts including Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB) Professor Melissa Little, AIBN Professor Ernst Wolvetang and Stem Cell Australia’s Associate Professor Megan Munsie.

The Years 9 & 10 students met a number of UQ researchers from IMB, AIBN and Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) during a ‘meet the stem cell scientist’ session and experienced an interactive stem cell lab tour at AIBN.

Associate Professor Megan Munsie said the program complimented the Australian curriculum as a way of exploring the many facets of science as a human endeavour in the practical and fascinating forum of stem cell research.

“The film and panel conversation addressed many aspects of how stem cell science has developed and how stem cells may affect people’s lives,” Associate Professor Munsie said.

“We discussed the realities behind the hopes and fears associated with stem cell science.”

Ms Natasha Parsons from Citipointe Christian College said the event was extremely educational.

“StemCells@UQ was thoroughly enjoyed by our students and staff. The opportunity to speak to scientists and visit the labs was invaluable - the passion the scientists have for their research was evident as they engaged with us,” Ms Parsons said.

Stem Cell Revolutions was the winner of the Best Documentary Award at the Vedere La Scienza Festival 2012.

This event was sponsored by Stem Cell Australia, an Australian Research Council Special Research Initiative.

This story featured in the AIBN Q4 2014 Quarterly Newsletter.