New A-Level Study Day – The Hard Cell: Considerations for Stem Cell Treatments

Stem cells offer massive potential to revolutionise medicine and treat diseases which are currently incurable. As a result there is growing public interest in stem cells and regenerative medicine and their use is regularly reported by the media. However, since in many cases a proven treatment is many years away from reality there is also a growing trade in ‘stem cell tourism’ with people travelling around the world for unproved treatments.

On Wednesday 6th October and Wednesday 10th November, we ran the new addition to our Engage with the Experts series of A-Level Study days that focussed on stem cell research that aimed to engage students with this current ‘hot’ scientific topic.  70 students from Manchester Grammar School, Holy Cross College, Mid-Cheshire College and Salford City College attended the Stem Cell Debate Day over the two dates to meet and work with research scientists from The University of Manchester’s’ Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences (FMHS)and Faculty of Life Sciences (FLS).  During the workshop, they explored the many different topics related to stem cell research, including the possibilities that they offer for treatments in the future and some of the surrounding moral and ethical issues through a series of talks, case studies, poster presentations, debates and discussion.

The day itself was the brain child of Stephen Richardson, a stem cell researcher  from FMHS who approached me and wanted to put on an event for students that would involve them in the current research and issues that surround stem cells.  We worked together to create a fantastic range of fun, interactive and thought-provoking activities that enable the students to find out more and form an opinion on stem cells research.  Here are Stephens’s thoughts of the day:

I was keen to put together an A-level study/debate day to highlight the potential of stem cells to repair damaged tissues and cure disease, as well as the risks and ethics associated with their use. By using real-world case studies, I wanted to help the students understand the science behind stem cell biology, to think about what was required to develop new treatments and to discuss the risks associated with untested therapies.

I really enjoyed the day and am delighted with how it went. The students seemed to enjoy interacting with the stem cell scientists who were present and we had some lively debates on a number of current issues with people being free to express their own opinions and challenge each others ideas. I was impressed with the way the students tackled some complex issues and hope that they will have gone away with a better understanding of stem cell therapies and an enthusiasm for stem cell biology.

Below is some feedback from the students and teachers who attended with their thoughts of the day:

“I think the introduction of real scientists and working with them is greatly beneficial for the students as it gives them a wider and more informed idea about future careers and development” Teacher

“The idea of different views and debating really got the students to think ‘out of the box’” Teacher

“The scientists were very friendly. Had good discussions and made me think of other people’s opinions and learned new things” Student

“I thought that today was really interesting and it got me interested in things that i never use to even have an opinion on” Student

“The day allowed me to apply what i learnt and formulate an opinion.  The activities were informative and to have scientists of the field with us was a good experience” Student

I just want to say a huge thank you to Stephen, Ceri, Kim, Becki, Jayne, Alex, Jo, Fran, Karen and Cathy for volunteering to be involved with the day and making it such a huge success.  We hope to announce and run a couple more dates in the New Year.

Some pictures of the Stem Cell Debate Days can be seen below:

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