Guest post by Hannah Davies
The Neuroblastology project run with UTC Life Sciences School and funded by the Biochemical society has finished! Billions of cells grown, 25+ students participated, tens of compounds tested, 9.5/10 scored – overall, we all had a (neuro)blast!!
Here is Dr John Dyer, teacher at LLS-UTC:
This has been an incredibly successful project that has proved to be very popular with students from across the year groups. The students have gained valuable skills in cell culture and aseptic technique as well as a range of transferrable skills such as leadership, time management (in order to care for the cells), experimental design and evaluating and improving upon techniques and procedures. The level of enthusiasm and engagement that students have shown has been incredible and many students have happily given up time at lunchtime breaks and after school in order to tend to the cells or collect data. This enthusiasm and engagement has certainly been increased by the fact that Hannah spent time training the students at the start as well as coming in on a number of occasions to provide technical expertise and support with experimental design. Students regularly commented that they have enjoyed these sessions and found it useful to have direct contact with active researchers. Perhaps the most striking thing for me was how disappointed the students were when some of their cells got infected. However, they responded brilliantly by developing their procedures in order to minimise the risk of further contamination. This sort of resilience, coupled with the level of care, accuracy and precision required during this project will prove invaluable to students at the start of their scientific careers.
Although the project has come to and end for this year, we are delighted to report that it will continue next year as part of UTC’s enrichment curriculum! We are also in the process of moving aspects of the project online so more schools will be able to interact and participate so watch this space!!
If you would like to read more about the project, please see the following link for the Biochemical Society final report…
Guest post by Hannah Davies
A bit about the project…
We are living longer – which is great – however this also increases the incidence of diseases associated with aging. One such condition is Alzheimer’s disease. It is estimated that the cost of dementia to the UK economy is expected to be £59.4 billion by 2050. As such there is a drive to improve diagnosis and generate therapeutic agents that will tackle this devastating disease.
This project (supported by a Biochemical society outreach grant) will raise awareness of the societal implications of an ageing population and dementia alongside demonstration and explanation of some of the types of research that is currently ongoing to increase our understanding of the processes of ageing. A key area of research into understanding the ageing brain is development of in vitro model systems to provide an environment to test new diagnostic and therapeutic agents prior to clinical trials. The emphasis of this project is to give students an understanding of the important role that these cell systems can play in understanding the ageing brain.
This project will have two stages. The first stage will involve collaboration with John Dyer at Liverpool life sciences UTC to develop methodology and teaching materials around cell culture models in the context of the ageing brain. The second stage of the project will be to deliver the workshops/plenaries/practical sessions on the ageing brain to other local schools in the area.
Liverpool life sciences UTC is a specialist school for life sciences and has many students aspiring to work in health and science disciplines. Students are assigned to a selected ‘pathways’ that enables them to tailor their school activities to their future aspirations. One aspect of this is the innovation factory where students can design and test research questions. Currently, they are still developing their labs to accommodate the experiments dreamt up by the students using old instrumentation donated from industry and academia. At present, they have equipment suitable for cell culture (CO2 incubators and laminar flow hoods) but they do not have the expertise or reagents to enable experiments with live cells despite interest from many of their students.
Where we are up to…
Cell culture demo at the UTC
Checking on cells
On Monday 18th January 2016 after several months of discussions and preparation we took proliferating SHSY-5Y (a neuronal cell-line) cells into UTC. Armed with protocols, risk assessments and lab coats we taught some keen and able representatives from years 11, 12 and 13 how to care for the cells in our absence. The students will culture the cells until they have sufficient for their ambitious experiments. With so many students from several years interested they will need to passage the cells several times to get the volume/number required. Just before February half term they will harvest the cells and perform their experiments. The students were excellent and I have every faith they will do a great job! Wish them luck!!
Look out for updates (#Neuroblastology) to see how they get on and what exciting experiments they have planned…