Pluripotent stem cells. Even if you think that these six syllables mean nothing to you, the chances are that you have spent the past decade or so hearing them spoken on the TV and radio, or scanning over them in the newspaper or on the internet.
Since George W. Bush banned funding into research on human stem cells, effectively politicising a cutting edge field of research, interest in these cells amongst the mainstream media has been voracious. But what exactly these cells do and why they might be so useful to science and ultimately all those affected by chronic diseases such as diabetes, Parkinson’s and heart failure has been increasingly obfuscated by so much conflicting rhetoric.
The image above by Dr M. Zernicka-Goetz, of the Gurdon Institute at Cambridge University, shows a mouse embryo in the blastocyst stage, when all the cells are pluripotent. The image was one of the winners of the Wellcome Image Awards and may, by sheer beauty alone, encourage us all to focus on the science and not the rhetoric.