Stem Cells and Fare-wells

Today was our last official day on the study tour. Our first visit was to the AStar Institute for Medical Biology (IMB) in Biopolis which is basically a small section where most of the biological focused AStar buildings are located. We were given a brief tour of the labs, focused mainly on seeing the different microscopes they had, including a super-resolution microscope, afterwards we met with an Australian professor Victor Nucombe who works there who gave us a presentation about Singapore, the history of how it became so wealthy, how business is done in Singapore and then he moved on to telling us about the research he is doing which is focused on stem-cells, and how they had managed to figure out how to produce on a large scale the natural sugars that the growth factors bind to that determine the fate of stem-cells, with it they were able to get much greater control over the growth of stem cells into specialised cells, so they surgically removed a piece of a main limb bone from a rabbit, inserted a “sponge” soaked in the sugar bound to the growth factor, and in a short period of time the bone had completely grown back!!! After leaving IMB we went back to NUS to visit their surface science laboratories where we saw a couple of scanning tunnelling microscopes, a secondary ion mass spectroscope, an X-ray and UV photoelectron spectroscope. Afterwards we visited the Singapore Synchrotron Light Source (SSLS) which was the first Synchrotron I have ever seen in person before, finally we returned to IMRE just to sit down and have abit of a chat with a couple of the scientists there before bringing the tour to an official close.
Definitely today gave me an insight into what the future of medicine may be, one where we can treat almost any injury with stem-cells to regrow tissue in a very short time, meaning that this will be truly revolutionary in every field of medicine, and particularly promising for helping amputees one day. As always it was cool to see the lab equipment that NUS had. Was very fascinated and excited to see the Synchrotron as I had never seen one before.
Today I felt was a very valuable experience, seeing what I believe may be the future of most medicines in the stem-cell research that is being carried out today. Seeing the surface science laboratory will prove valuable to me as surface science plays an important role in understanding nanotechnology and nanostructured materials.
The presentation we had at IMB perhaps wasn’t particularly related to nanotechnology as some of the other visits we had, but nanotechnology may become relevant to it in the future, perhaps in more precise control and delivery of stem cells to target locations in living tissue, or in improving the efficiency of the production of the binding sugars. The visit to the surface science laboratory is certainly relevant as many of the machines/equipment we saw in the labs there we will one day have to use ourselves to analyse nanomaterials and nanostructures, the same goes for the analytical uses of synchrotron light like that from the synchrotron we visited today.

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