Best talk at Cambridge today, Austin Smith: self-renewal is default

Is is easy to realize on a conference when you are hearing a good talk. The audience starts to take notes and gets focused. That happened today during Austin Smith‘s talk (look at Day 1 picture). Straightforward, not overcomplicated line of thought presented by easily conceivable, step by step slides, and hardcore science (facts). These are the elements of a compelling scientific argument. Starting with a dogma, which is that the default in vitro state of embryonic stem cells without any additional factor is neural differentiation, attacking this dogma through carefully executed independent experiments, and proposing a replacement claim: in the case of culture grown hESCs self-renewal is the default state. The “neural commitment by default” is a constructive dogma anyway, it can give rise to nice hypotheses because it captures the imagination with its counterintuitive offer: undifferentiated, pluripotent, self-renewing cells become neural type of cells in normal simple medium by themselves, although neurons are one of the most specialized cell type of the human body, and the nerve system is a young organ system measured on the scale of philogenesis.

Another fruit of the talk for me was meeting with the term “stiff upper lip“. Thanks, Hannah.