Demystifying Stem Cells, with Geoff Hunt, PhD

When Science Speaks
When Science Speaks
Demystifying Stem Cells, with Geoff Hunt, PhD

The topic of stem cells can elicit a variety of responses from controversy to indifference. These widely misunderstood cells are usually thought to be the product of infants or something taken from the fetuses. The fact is that these amazing cells are a part of all of us, and could possibly lead to great advances in medicine. 

If they are misunderstood, what are the best ways to educate the public on the benefits and uses of stem cells? That is a question that this week’s guest wants to answer.

Dr. Geoff Hunt is the Director at LabX which is presented by the National Academy of Sciences. His focus is on public engagement, utilizing his scientific background and communication skills to help share science with the public at large. Dr. Hunt has also served as Manager of Public Outreach with the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

Dr. Hunt was a Post-doctoral fellow at Princeton University. He earned his PhD in Molecular Biology at Princeton, as well. Prior to that, Dr. Hunt received his Bachelor’s in Biochemistry from Cornell University. 

What You’ll Hear On This Episode of When Science Speaks

[2:15] Background on the LabX and Dr. Hunt’s work there

[6:10] Knowing your audience and the importance of connection

[10:03] How Dr. Hunt develops ideas when building a presentation

[12:18] Describing the field of stem cell research to non-scientists

[16:28] How Dr. Hunt became interested in his field

[21:38] The disaster simulation game that LabX has developed

[24:25] What the future holds, and what Dr. Hunt is excited for right now

Connect with Dr. Geoff Hunt

LabX Website

Bio for Dr. Geoff Hunt

Extreme Event Game

LinkedIn for Dr. Hunt

What is Stem Cell research?

As with many scientific endeavors, an accurate understanding of the subject of stem cell research requires an intense education, which is the precise reason degrees like a PhD exist. It is a subject that is not often in the public eye. Most of the beliefs about stem cells, as Dr. Hunt points out, are that they come from babies or from fetuses. But what exactly is stem cell research, and what can we learn or benefit from it?

Dr. Hunt explains this beautifully in the episode. The reality is that stem cells are basic cells that can grow into any cell in the body. There are many diseases that can cause damage or even failure to one or more organs in the body. Organ transplants are possible, but the process is complicated and the supply is limited by available donors. Stem cells could theoretically be used to “grow” the organ needed and replace the one that has failed. 

The Extreme Event game by LabX

Disaster can strike anywhere in the globe at almost any time. When a crisis event happens, knowing what to do and how to react can save lives. Once it happens, the opportunity for planning and preparation has already passed. Events such as these are, by nature, sudden and unexpected, so what can people do to prepare for the worst?

The National Research Council, which is the research wing of the National Academy, released a report that contained valuable lessons on how to prepare for a disaster. A game was developed to get these lessons out to the general public. Three different disaster scenarios are available: a hurricane, an earthquake, and a flood. The use of a game makes these important lessons more enjoyable to learn and gives the benefit of a role-playing scenario as a practice run for an actual event.

Learn more about Dr. Geoff Hunt and his research into stem cells on this week’s episode of When Science Speaks.

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