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Sensory

Sweet cell of success

14 years, 1 month ago

1399  0
Posted on Mar 23, 2005, 10 a.m. By Bill Freeman

ALAN Mackay-Sim and his small team of researchers investigating the human sense of smell have tended to get up the noses, pardon the pun, of the serious scientists working in the field of stem-cell exploration. Most of the real players were to be found studying embryonic stem cells at such long-established research centres as Monash University and the University of Queensland, although the work of those other Australian scientists targeting bone marrow and neural stem cells was also highly regarded.
ALAN Mackay-Sim and his small team of researchers investigating the human sense of smell have tended to get up the noses, pardon the pun, of the serious scientists working in the field of stem-cell exploration.

Most of the real players were to be found studying embryonic stem cells at such long-established research centres as Monash University and the University of Queensland, although the work of those other Australian scientists targeting bone marrow and neural stem cells was also highly regarded.

But no one quite knew what to make of Mackay-Sim's Griffith University team that somehow had taken an odd turn into the murky tributary that is the olfactory mucosa - the organ of smell in the human nose - and begun rowing against the tide by studying adult stem cells taken from the nose.

The prevailing science was that where embryonic stem cells had multi-potentiality and could give rise to all cell types in the body, adult stem cells were old dogs that couldn't be taught new tricks. Even those stem cells in tissues that do regenerate, such as skin, blood and olfactory mucosa, can only give rise to, respectively, more skin, blood and olfactory mucosa, so the accepted wisdom went.

Moreover, there was also the suspicion that adult stem cells were the last refuge of the religious Right, that after 40 years of intensive fossicking in this stream the only scientists still stubbornly panning for gold were those whose ethical beliefs wouldn't allow them to experiment with embryos left over from fertility treatment.

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