News From Frogs to Humans: Talk from Dr Jim Smith on using stem cells for restorative medicine 30.06.2022

On the first day of Challenge Your Limits 2022, we were delighted to welcome Dr Jim Smith, former Director of Science at the Wellcome Trust and visiting Group Leader at the Francis Crick Institute, who spoke to us about his group’s research into using stem cells for restorative medicine.

He outlined the complexity of the human body in terms of the staggering numbers and types of cells, as well as revealing the truly incredible fact that we each contain sufficient DNA within us, that, were it to be unravelled and laid end to end, would reach to the Sun and back eighty times. Jim went on to describe how their study of frog embryos had led them to a point where, through a variety of stages that involve switching on genes in cells and then controlling them, they have been able to engineer heart tissue, capable of slow steady beating in a dish outside the human body. In keeping with our CYL theme ‘Believe, Imagine, Create a better tomorrow’, Jim explained how in the future these grown cells could be used to treat Type 1 diabetes and replace dead heart tissue in humans.

The Hall was filled with guests from West London Free School, Kensington Aldridge Academy, St Paul’s School, our students, their parents and members of our staff, who listened enthralled and then peppered Jim with questions, eager in their quest to learn more.