Right Turn: Counting stem cells for a restful sleep

Author: Stacey Johnson, 02/19/16

I had the pleasure of talking about my career to my daughter’s class when she was in grade 5. In an effort to keep the kids awake, I avoided a potentially sleep-inducing talk about corporate communications and instead focused most of my presentation on giving a simple explanation of stem cell biology and the work conducted at CCRM.

Trust me on this: it is hard to follow how a 10-year-old mind works. It was obvious that the students were interested and paying attention, but some of the questions – and the ensuing rambling that followed – can only be described as odd.

Which brings me to StemCellTalks 2016. In three weeks, hundreds of high school students from across Toronto will arrive at MaRS to spend the entire school day learning about stem cell research and ethics. Over the next few months, this will be repeated in Vancouver, Ottawa, Calgary, Hamilton and Edmonton. This program, led by hundreds of volunteer university students, is run under the auspices of Let’s Talk Science, “an award-winning, national, charitable organization focused on education and outreach to support youth development.” (Visit their website for more information.)

At StemCellTalks, hundreds of kids, not that much older than my daughter’s classmates, will learn about stem cells, work on case studies together, and get to ask questions to world-renowned scientists and others related to the community (industry, ethicists and patients). The students are even encouraged to live Tweet and Instagram the day. If my previous experience holds true, hilarity will ensue.

This year’s Toronto talk will debate the likelihood of using stem cells to cure blindness and restore vision. Confirmed speakers include Drs. Penney Gilbert, Andras Nagy, Vincent Tropepe, Molly Shoichet and Zubin Master.

CCRM has been supporting StemCellTalks for several years now and we’re usually invited to give the industry perspective during the afternoon knowledge-sharing panel. Dr. Jen Moody will attend on CCRM’s behalf with Dr. Sowmya Viswanathan giving the regulatory perspective, Dr. Brian Ballios giving the clinician/scientist perspective and a patient from the Foundation Fighting Blindness will round out the panel.

I recently learned that hydrogels can put stem cells to sleep. Let’s hope a talk on stem cell science won’t do the same for the students.

Our regular feature, Right Turn, appears every Friday and we invite you to submit your own blog to info(at)ccrm.ca. We encourage you to be creative and use the right (!) side of your brain. We dare you to make us laugh! Right Turn features cartoons, photos, videos and other content to amuse, educate and encourage discussion.

As always, we welcome your feedback in the comment section.

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Stacey Johnson

Stacey Johnson

Stacey has been providing strategic communications counsel to government, corporate, technology and health organizations since completing a MSc in Public Relations in 1997. Prior to that, Stacey was at the CTV Television Network, first as a researcher, then as a story producer for “Goldhawk Fights Back,” a special ombudsman segment that aired weekly on the National News and Canada AM. Before joining CCRM as the Director, Communications and Marketing, Stacey was the Director of Communications for the Canadian Arthritis Network. Stacey is editor of Signals. You can follow Stacey on Twitter @msstaceyerin.
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