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15 y/o innovator at TKS trying to uncover the secrets of stem cells everyday 🧬

Have you ever wondered about the future of medicine? We’ve advanced so far but there are still diseases like Alzheimer’s that are without a cure! The answer to these problems may be stem cells.

Credit: Lukiyanova Natalia/frenta/Shutterstock

1, 440,000

That’s one of the most conservative estimates for the number of people that could have their life changed with the help of stem cells, in the US alone. Just for context, that’s more than the population of Estonia!

This is because stem cells are incredibly helpful in studying human development, modelling diseases, developing drugs, transplanting cells (such as for cancer patients), regeneration of cells and organs, and even mental disease diagnosis. I could write another whole article about this but for now just know that stem cells are super duper important for the future of medicine!

Even though more and…

You know those Google answer boxes? This is that. But for stem cells.

For this article, I crowdsourced a bunch of questions around stem cells and then attempted to answer them in as simple as possible. No jargon, no fluff, just explaining topics as simply as possible.

I got quite a few questions so without further ado, let’s get into it!

1. What are stem cells? — Aarna, Frank, Michela

My favourite and simplest way to describe stem cells is by introducing the two criteria they need to fulfill.

❏ They must be able to self-renew/make copies of themselves indefinitely.
❏ They must be able to differentiate.

Being able to differentiate means that stem cells initially don’t have an “identity” and can…

Team Management

And they’re not “be nice.”

Photo by fauxels from Pexels

Over the past 6 or 7 months at The Knowledge Society, I’ve had the chance to be the project manager or PM on three different projects, ranging from one focusing on recognizing stem cell exhaustion to another on increasing women’s digital employment in Senegal through e-commerce.

It’s fair to say that along the way I’ve learned a thing or two and I’m going to share them with you today.

1. You Need to Keep Morale High. Here’s How.

When working on a hard, real-world problem for weeks on end, morale’s bound to take a hit. It’s your job to hype the team up. An unmotivated team produces crappy content…

Stem cells are magical ✨ Ok, maybe not 𝙢𝙖𝙜𝙞𝙘𝙖𝙡 but the field has made some huge advancements in the last few decades. By adding just four factors to normal cells, we can turn back time.

Background image from Elite Healthcare. Designed by me :)

And by that I mean we can make regular adult stem cells into cells that can turn into any cell type in the entire body. That’s great and all but we’ve only been able to do this in vitro, in a lab. Now, what if I told you that a process like this already exists in the body?
🤯 ← That’s you when you heard that.

But let’s start at the beginning, back when we used to think that differentiation of stem cells was a one-way street, and talk about what stem cells even are. …

You’ve probably heard of mitosis and meiosis but what if I told you that a specific type of cell division has been hidden from you all this time? Cells DON’T always divide into two identical cells and it’s the reason why we’re still alive.

Let’s first imagine a crazy scenario. We’re usually taught that mitosis or cell division is when a mother or parent cell divides into two identical daughter cells, right?

But [then how come] instead of being a hundred or so pounds of cells in a bucket, we’re functioning human beings?
– Dr. Yukiko Yamashita, Associate Professor at the University of Michigan

It’s because that’s only a part of the story! What I just described–one cell dividing into two identical ones–is called symmetric cell division. But there’s another mechanism called asymmetric cell division or ACD where both cells don’t have the same…

You will never be satisfied. You have never been satisfied. And if you think I’m exaggerating, you’re wrong.

A bit of an intense subtitle but don’t worry I’ll explain!

The fact that humans are never truly satisfied is not a new idea at all. Just take a look at Abd Al-Rahman III, a caliph of Córdoba in Spain in the 10th century who viewed his life like this:

I have now reigned above 50 years in victory or peace; beloved by my subjects, dreaded by my enemies, and respected by my allies.
I have diligently numbered the days of pure and genuine happiness which have fallen to my lot: They amount to 14

But what exactly is it…

The word gene editing scares many. Combine that with stem cells (especially embryonic ones) and you’ve got yourself a very controversial conversation. But before we can talk about ethics, we need to educate ourselves about what’s possible. So join me on this journey as we become informed on the intersection of both topics!

Background Image Courtesy of Hacker Noon. Designed By Me :)

Imagine this. One of your loved ones has a serious genetic disease, cystic fibrosis. If this was still 2020, they would only have a 50% chance of living beyond their 40s.

But it’s actually 2040. Like a flip of a switch, scientists are able to replace the gene causing cystic fibrosis, granting your loved one a normal life expectancy. It’s beautiful, it’s amazing, it’s a true feat of science!

But we’re getting carried away. …

Imagine this. You’re sitting under a tree when all of a sudden an apple hits you on the head. Then something strikes you; why is it that apples fall from trees. It’s gravity! You’re brilliant, and you’ve just figured *all* there is to physics. Hmmm, not quite.

Completely accurate depiction of how Newton discovered gravity. Also, I need to clarify that obviously gravity does exist! All I’m trying to say is that there’s just so much more to it than what we often think!

Ok, maybe not everything you know is a lie! But when we think about physics, it’s usually classical physics, which is able describe everything around us fairly well. But when we get into quantum physics, which studies things even smaller than atoms, things become super interesting, and I think more of us should learn about this!

But before we start, I want to show you a quote:

I think I can safely say that nobody really understands quantum mechanics. –Richard Feynman, famous physicist and Nobel laureate

It’s a bit of a discouraging quote, especially coming from someone who’s dedicated their…

What if I told you that phrase could actually entirely change up the layout and furniture of your room. Welcome to the future of robotic furniture!

Close your eyes. Imagine you’re moving to Boston to pursue a path of innovation. But when you get there, reality hits you like a brick wall and you realize just how expensive living spaces are. You rent a tiny, shoebox studio and get to work, changing the world.
Now open your eyes. And get excited because you may not have to live like that anymore!


What Is Robotic Furniture?

Great question! It’s exactly what it sounds like. It’s furniture that can move and conform to your needs.

Let me give you an example. One of the front-runners in this space, Ori, has…

Did you know that the problem itself can be just as important as the solution in a hackathon, if not more so? Or that as the team leader, “why” questions can do more harm than good?

Well, neither did I until I participated in my 2 first-ever hackathons (one in AI by TKS and soon after another one called the Digital Inclusion Challenge). So prepare yourself because I’m about to drop some knowledge 🎤

Photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash

Communication is 🔑

During one of the hackathons, my team and I didn’t have great communication at the beginning. We had about a week and a half to solve a problem and we landed on human longevity, or more specifically stem cell exhaustion which is one factor that causes ageing 🧓

We vaguely split up some roles and “got to work”. All was well except for the fact that none of us had any clue what we were doing and we all relied on the fact that someone else on the team knew what was going on. Spoiler alert: no one did. …

Parmin Sedigh

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