Explore the health and wellbeing issues concerning stem cell research and virtual radiotherapy.
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Learn about Stem Cell Research and Virtual Radiotherapy Host: A load of people are waiting calmly for stem cell medicine to come of age. Hoping it will be the cure for a host of confounding diseases. It all looks extremely promising except for one aspect; scientists are having problems creating extensive blood supply systems for the new flesh they are engineering. A technique is being trialed wearing the persons own flesh is used as a bio scaffold upon which to grow new tissue. This is a slice of rat’s tissue which will be seeded with rat stem cells. Male: We’ve developed a way to overcome one of the big problems in tissue ensuing which is how do you get blood vessels get into big blocks of tissues so that you can potentially make things like hearts or livers or very solid organs and we’ve done it in a somewhat unique way because we’re surgeons. We’re used to moving around big blocks of tissue that contains micro muscular beds and this paper that we’ve published we’ve actually taken those micro vascular beds out and then used them as a scaffold to seed stem cells and then put them back into an animal. Host: In order to keep the flesh sample alive while it's being seeded with stem cells, it's hooked into a mini circulatory unit which pumps a blood like solution through it. Without this life support system the flesh would die off before the stem cells have the chance to take. It only needs to last 24 hours to get the job done; using animals existing tissue to create the scaffold for new cells greatly reduces the risk of rejection. It's hoped the same will apply to human samples. Male: What I do is I move around big blocks of tissue to reconstruct cancer patients and in the process of doing that I realized that I was actually moving not just the tissue but the blood vessels. The way we keep those pieces of tissue alive is by sowing together a single artery and a single vein and so I thought well if we’re able to do this routinely clinically now, maybe we could use this micro vascular bed essay as a way to transport very large volumes of stem cells. Host: The team use multi potent stem cells taken from bone marrow and fat cells in the research. This does not have the unlimited potential to take on any cellular role like embryonic stem cells. They’re somewhat more restricted in their capabilities; the first disease to be tackled with this technique would be hemophilia. It's hoped that missing blood clotting component can be reconstructed and introduced to the animal. The shortage in expert teachers and clinic time has led to the invention of an innovative virtual teaching experience for radiotherapy students. The virtual environment for radiotherapy training or VRT is a 3D interactive experience where students get to use an actual radiotherapy handset on a virtual patient. The $200,000.00 system takes students through the experience from meeting and greeting a patient lying to the couch to the wave goodbye at the end. Of course the main lesson is in the correct application of radiotherapy to tumors and this trip is enhanced by taking the student on a virtual tour of the inside of the patient’s body to view the 3D tumor. Male: What we can do is if you may project a cloud of effects of high radiation around the tumor and show that a particular dose level where the radiation will be deposited where the energy from the radiation will be deposited. So the flip side is we can show all that are in risk say the kidney or the spinal column lies close to the tumor. Host: The VRT system gives students experiences in the classroom that they would only have received on clinical placement on the past. They can learn at their own pace in a stress free environment, free to make mistakes without ramifications. From here they progress to a real radiography room with anatomical correct dummies. The first human based embryonic stem cell trials have commenced on patients suffering from spinal chord injuries, a huge leap for stem cell research.