Science Society – Making Replacement Body Parts in the Lab


On Tuesday 12th November, Dr Nick Evans from the University of Southampton spoke to a group of interested Sixth Formers about his biological research. As we grow older or become injured, our tissues and organs may need to be replaced. Surgeons may attempt to transplant tissue from one person to another, but it is widely known that there are not enough replacement organs to meet demand. Dr Evans leads a team investigating how materials, compounds and stem cells can be used to promote tissue regeneration in bone and skin disease and injury, avoiding or minimising the chances of rejection.

This research was fascinating and naturally touched on the role that embryonic stem cells (and iPS cells) play. Nick also discussed ways that scientists try to ‘trick’ the body into accepting foreign cells. He showed us some of the materials used to change the environment of cells and considered whether these can direct cells how to behave, for example in the earliest stages of differentiation in the developing embryo, in cancer progression, and in processes involved in wound healing and tissue regeneration.

It was interesting to learn something of his career pathway: he began with a straight biology degree, followed by a PhD at King's College to research techniques for using fluorescence to track metabolism in cells, then as a postdoctoral fellow at Imperial College researching the effects of extracellular matrix on the differentiation of embryonic stem cells. He then took a postdoctoral position at Stanford University to study how a molecular signalling pathway could be used to promote wound healing, before his appointment at Southampton.

Dr Nick Evans

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