Signals Blog

Many of us only become acutely aware of our brain when it’s not working quite right. Like, say, if we have a migraine, or are diagnosed with a mental illness. Or we fall on the ice and give ourself a concussion that affects our vision, motor skills and other cognitive functions (as was my experience last year). Or, in more extreme cases, when we or our loved ones experience severe brain illness, disease or injury, such as stroke, Huntington’s or dementia. At other times, when our brains are firing just fine, we rarely think about what a complex and remarkable organ it is.

Maybe it’s because of my concussion that I spent some time reading and learning about the brain, but there seems to be a huge interest right now in the mysteries of grey matter (i.e., one quarter of the images in the Wellcome Trust’s 2015 Image Awards are of the brain). This week is Brain Awareness Week, making it a perfect time to find all sorts of articles about brain injuries, neuroscience and its history, fun facts and a lot of other stuff to feed your mind for days and months to come.

On the stem cell side of things, this week is special, and not merely because stem cells have an important role in brain development, therapeutic approaches to brain illnesses and in modelling and drug development. No, not just that. It’s also the release of our final StemCellShort video, fittingly, on neural stem cells.

Since this the last of the series that the Stem Cell Network has supported — there are eight in all — this is a good time to acknowledge the amazing team of Ben Paylor and Mike Long at InfoShots as well as David Murawsky and James Wallace, who have done such an amazing job on this series. Our equally amazing scientists — Jim Till, Janet Rossant, Mick Bhatia, Tim Caulfield, John Dick, Connie Eaves, Derek van der Kooy and Sam Weiss — all gave their time, expertise, and most importantly, their voices to narrate the videos. And we are also grateful for the support of the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation, whose belief in this project allowed to encompass five new videos in the second phase of this project. 

Collectively, there have been more than 56,000 views of the videos via the distribution channels we know of. Further, if you were to Google “What is a stem cell?” or “What are embryonic stem cells?” for example, six of the videos (except for the two most recent additions) come up as the top hit in the video category. These are achievements worth being proud of.

As always, we encourage you to share this and the other videos in this series in schools, presentations and elsewhere.


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Lisa Willemse

Lisa Willemse

Lisa is a science communicator with 15+ years' experience in the fields of regenerative medicine, child development and technology. She launched this blog (first as the Stem Cell Network Blog) in 2009, and served as co-editor until April 2015. She is currently the Senior Communications Advisor for the Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine and has recently contributed to Motherboard, Science Borealis and the Genome Alberta and Canadian Blood Services blogs. Follow her on Twitter and Medium @WillemseLA.