If you have struggled to understand what stem cells are all about, take comfort: you are not alone. I wrote the book on them and I can still stumble over concepts like self-renewal and differentiation and plasticity.
Fortunately there is now an excellent resource to help those of us with less than keen scientific minds to quickly get the picture – quite literally.
Ben Paylor, a PhD candidate at the University of British Columbia, and Dr. Mike Long, a post-doctoral fellow have produced StemCellShorts, three short animated videos that manage to explain tricky science concepts clearly without dumbing things down.
The series is being released this fall, with the “world screening premiere” during the Till & McCulloch Meetings (the annual gathering of Canada’s best and brightest stem cell scientists) in Banff Oct. 23-25. But you can view the first in the series here. It answers the question, What is a stem cell?
Dr. James Till narrates the minute-long, action-packed piece and is the perfect person to do it. In the early 1960s, he and his research partner Dr. Ernest McCulloch set out the core principles of stem cell science.
The other two videos in Phase 1 of the project include ‘What is an embryonic stem cell?’ narrated by Dr. Janet Rossant, Chief of Research at SickKids Hospital, and ‘What is an induced pluripotent stem cell?’ voiced by Dr. Mick Bhatia, Director of the McMaster Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute.
Production was funded through a Public Outreach Award provided by our sister organization, the Stem Cell Network. The Foundation is partnering with the Network on Phase 2, which will see five more animated shorts that should be ready by the spring.
In the meantime, enjoy the first instalment. A minute later, you’ll feel scientifically smarter.