Why I love science and coding
Why I love science 🧬
I have loved science ever since I was a kid. For me, it’s the only way to understand the world that makes sense, really. That is not to say that science is perfect because it has does have its flaws. In fact, one of the things I hate most about science is the way the academic world is set up. All the prestige, all the rush to publish academic papers. Yikes!
I just love when scientists are curious about something and just decide to start asking questions. One of my favourite researchers goes by the name of Shinya Yamanaka and embodies this philosophy perfectly. In 2006, Yamanaka published a paper that changed the field of biology. Yamanaka discovered how to make iPS cells (induced pluripotent stem cells).
In a nutshell, cells can have different types of potency. Potency is the ability of a cell to become another more specialized cell. For example, a cell with pluripotency might be able to become a neuron, a skin cell, an immune cell or a sperm cell (the list goes on). All these examples of cells are very specialized and they can only do one job.
The beauty of pluripotent cells is that they can become almost any type of cell they want. This is very useful because once you become an adult, most of your cells are very specialized (with a few exceptions of course).
So, if you ever lose some type of tissue, pluripotent cells could be differentiated (or converted) into that tissue. Ideally then, you would inject them to replace the lost tissue.
I say ideally because this is still a work in progress. As of 2022, you can’t just inject pluripotent cells and hope they fix everything. Actually, if you do that, it’s very likely that a type of cancer tissue will form called teratocarcinoma¹.
What Shinya Yamanaka discovered was a way to take a skin cell and convert it to a pluripotent cell. This might seem trivial, but it’s extremely hard to do. Remember, skin cells are very specialized and they only do one job. The human equivalent would be taking a lawyer and teaching it to become a Nobel-prize winning physicist in a matter of weeks!