Barbara – Imagine the universe made of galaxies, which in turn are made of various numbers of stars and planets. In the same way, the human body is made of organs, tissues and a huge number of cells with different functions. Among all of these cells, stem cells are characterised by their ability to self-renew, which means they can divide and keep their original number. What is also fascinating about stem cells is that they can become specialised cells, and therefore be responsible for the function of the tissues. But what if something goes wrong and these cells start dividing out of control? Well, the outcome can be devastating and can lead to disease.
Glioblastoma in fact is the most dangerous brain tumour in adulthood and it is thought to arise from the stem cells located in our brain. Despite the use of very strong medications and surgery, today it is still hard to fight it. My aim is to understand what makes the strictly controlled and uncontrolled dividing stem cells different and how to reverse their negative effect in order to improve the glioblastoma treatment.
Rita – I’ve always been interested in science and how the human body works. From a very young age, I sat staring at the TV watching one of my favourite cartoons which took place inside the human body and showed cells as characters, each one had a specific job and together they made sure the “human machine” was kept in good working condition. I’ve recently watched a BBC documentary called “The hidden life of the cell” which was pretty much the same, just as amazing but with cutting edge CGI. Again, I sat glued to the TV screen in awe.
I wanted to show Barbara’s work in a similar way, charting the progression and possible remission of the tumour, both as a whole and in stages. One can see the actual cells up close whilst learning how the tumour develops, the feelings it inspires and also the hope that the research Barbara is conducting can bring if it’s able to revert the process.