I had the opportunity to attend this year’s Yale Splash where college students, professors and researchers from Yale University and nearby institutions lecture on various topics. While I didn’t get a chance to walk through the hallowed halls of Yale due to the COVID-19 pandemic to attend these lectures, they provided the same quality of lecture online using Learning Unlimited. I learnt a lot of interesting topics and hope to learn more in the near future.
The “Introduction to Regenerative Medicine” lecture explained about how the human body heals itself by regenerating cells and tissue to a certain extent under certain conditions. For example, liver cells are replaced with new cells every 300 to 500 days, skin cells are replaced every 39 days, etc. Modern techniques like tissue engineering, stem cells and articifical organs are improving the outcomes of patients. Tissue engineering uses scaffolds or structures on which cells are attached and grown to form tissues to replace damaged tissues or organs. For example, bio-engineered skins are made by embedding cells onto a matrix like scaffold and growing the cells to form a skin substitute. This can be used in place of skin grafts of burn victims (Ranaweera, 2011). Stem cells are cells that can be developed into any cell in the human body. Though stem cells are often taken from embryos, there are other stem cells found in adults that can be developed into other cells. CRISPR gene editing technology is used to edit a patient’s stem cells to target cells and then infused into the patient as personalized medicine, for example in treating sickle cell anemia (Synthego | Full Stack Genome Engineering, n.d.). Stem cells and tissue engineering approaches can be combined to create damaged organs like rebuilding a person’s damaged trachea using the patient’s stem cells on a polymer based scaffold shaped like trachea (Coghlan, 2011). Artificial organs are manmade structures that do the same functions as original organs. For example, the first successful heart transplant was done in 2015 using the SynCardia Total Artificial Heart. This will help with the donor organ shortages.
I was introduced to the workings of the brain, the nervous system and neuroscience in genernal in the “Intro to Brains and Neuroscience!” lecture, which is a fascinating subject. We learned about the different parts of the brain – frontal lobe, temporal lobe, brain stem, parietal lobe, optical lobe, cerebellum – and their features. The basic unit in the brain and in the nervous system is the neuron. A neuron is a specialized cell that transmit information to other parts of the body. Neurons use molecules known as neurotransmitters to transmit information. Different neurotransmitters (type of harmones) are used to send different types of messages. for example, adrenaline is secreted during a fight-or-flight situation, noradrenaline is a concentration neurotransmitter etc. Other neurotransmitters are dopamine, serotonin, gaba, acetylcholine, glutamate, endorphins, etc. We even learned about the peripheral nervous system – the nerves that are outside the brain and spinal cord – which are responsible for our reflexes (autonomic or involuntary) and our senses and voluntary movements (somatic or voluntary). We also learned about injuries to the brain and the nervous system and current ways to restore their functionality. It was very fascinating!
Yale Splash provided many lectures and discussions which were an eye-opener for me and introduced me to new fields and ideas. Hopefully, one day I may be able to volunteer my knowledge as a teacher to this wonderful teaching plaform.
Ranaweera, A. (2011). Bioengineered skin | DermNet NZ. DermNet NZ. https://dermnetnz.org/topics/bioengineered-skin/
Synthego | Full Stack Genome Engineering. (n.d.). Synthego. https://www.synthego.com/crispr-stem-cells
Coghlan, A. (2011). Man receives world’s first synthetic windpipe. New Scientist. https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn20671-man-receives-worlds-first-synthetic-windpipe/