Science Interviews


Sat, 12th May 2012

Children of the 90s

Nell Barrie

Listen Now    Download as mp3 from the show Developmental genetics - from one cell to many

Kat - And finally, there's a story that I saw basically that starts talking about 9,000 placentas floating in plastic buckets of formaldehyde...

Nell - Yeah, who wouldn’t read on after that. I think that's great.

Kat - This really got me and this is about the Bristol cohort. What is this here?

Nell - So there's a slightly more kind of evocative name which is ‘The children of the ‘90s’ and this was loads and loads of children, more than 4,000 that were kind of selected to be part of this massive cohort study. And they basically wanted to find out every possible thing they could about how these children started off in life, about their mothers, about their development as they grew up. So they've got all kinds of crazy information and tissue samples and stuff stored away that they're now finding exciting new ways to use.

Kat - So they've got like placentas and hair, and they've got all sorts of data, and some of these kids are now – 20 years later, they're now having children themselves, but what I think is really pioneering about this is that they were collecting samples and placentas, all those kind of things, before they really knew what they could do with it. Because back then we didn’t have the kind of genome sequencing technology we have.

Nell - Yeah and I mean, there were some quite nice old stories within this about, “what kind of things should we ask the parents about” and it was just like, “Let’s ask them everything. Have you got a tumble drier, have you got a dog, do you use pesticides in the garden?” It was just kind of anything that might possibly be relevant even in ways that they couldn’t imagine at that time. So I think yeah, it’s really kind of forward-looking research because they just didn’t know how they're going to use this stuff, but now, there's lots of different ways that they could.

Kat - It’s really blue skies. I love the idea of someone going, “This will be useful one day.” It’s like your mum going, “Just take that and put it in a safe place.” You know, 9,000 placentas, keep an eye on that. Sure it would be useful one day. You haven’t got any placentas at home?

Nell - No, although I am a bit of a hoarder so you know, you'd never know when things might come in handy and I think that's what science is all about.



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I would think it would be best to characterize the placentas, perhaps weigh and photograph, then discard.

However, a few years ago, Cord Blood was all the rage for stem cells.

I see by the Wikipedia article thatautologous cord blood donations for treatment of Leukemia is contraindicated for a couple of reasons including the potential for precancerous cells, as well as the benefits of mild graft vs host disease with bone marrow replacement.  However, there have been suggestions of many future uses of stem cells from the cord blood. CliffordK, Tue, 15th May 2012

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