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Summer Science Exhibition 2016 | Monday 4 July - Sunday 10 July | London

Giving stem cells a good (nano)kicking

Hands-on at the exhibit

  • Stand on vibrating plates to sense various vibrations with your body.
  • Play interactive games to explore how stem cells found in the bone can form different tissue types.    
  • Manipulate a large-scale model of a cell structure to see how cells sense the mechanical environment.

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Stem cells – which can turn into many different types of specialised cells – have the potential to revolutionise the treatment of many diseases and injuries. However, persuading stem cells to specialise into the tissue type we desire is a real challenge. Our exhibit reveals a new technique that is helping to overcome this problem; using nanoscale vibrations to control cell behaviour.

Our technique, called nanokicking, has been developed by a team of biologists and physicists to apply tiny vibrations to cell samples in the lab. Different cells respond to this mechanical force in different ways, including converting stem cells into bone-building cells. Bone is the second most transplanted tissue after blood, and traditionally it has to be removed from the patient’s own hip – often causing pain. In future, nanokicking could help to grow a transplantable bone graft in the lab from a patient’s stem cells. Other applications are being explored, including development of possible treatments for bone cancer.

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Presented by: University of the West of Scotland, University of Glasgow