For this first entry, I decided (for a variety of reasons) that it would be appropriate to cover the basics of embryonic stem cells. Firstly, stem cell research is at the forefront of the developmental field, and has incredible applications in many areas of biology and medicine.
Secondly, I confess that while stem cells have always been a hot issue in popular science, I know very little about their applications in research. I decided to look up a few preliminary sources to orient myself to the concept of stems cells, both from a cellular and utilitarian perspective.
It was interesting to be able to tie the information I found into concepts learned in other courses. For example, much of embryology centers around gene expression and regulation. The activation or suppression of certain genes during development is in large what dictates normal progression through the developmental process. Furthermore, interruption of these normal regulatory processes can result in strange effects. However, it is the examination of these regulatory mechanisms that will lead us to further advancements to possibly eliminate many developmental defects.
Specifically, I found it interesting that so many of the same cellular signaling pathways involved in development are also found in the suppression of cancer. However, when I thought about these similarities a little more, the commonalities made perfect sense. If you understand cancer to be an over-proliferation of cells due to broken cellular regulation (among other factors), embryology is essentially the intended proliferation of cells to form the organs and tissue of a developing organism. This concept greatly intrigues me, noting that a subset of cellular mechanisms have the power to both create the beginnings of all life, as well as propagate one of the most deadly and rampant disease we know today, cancer. It is the similarities between these various facets of biology that continue to drive research and create new solutions to previously insurmountable problems.
In the coming entries of this blog, I will be discussing both weekly concepts, as well as other topics in developmental and evolutionary biology that I find interesting or novel. Additionally, I may post images from lab work on this blog. Stay tuned for more!
Lastly, I have included a link to some preliminary material on stem cells, what they are, and their various applications.