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Life and Death of a Cell

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Each of us starts life as a single cell, a fertilized egg, which divides repeatedly to form the hundred trillion cells that make up the adult human body. This poses extraordinary logistical problems. How do we produce the right numbers of blood cells and nerve cells, to give just two examples from many? More remarkably, how do we maintain the right number when blood cells are continuously replaced, yet nerve cells are not? This lecture will look at the delicate balance of cell production and cell death and will consider the consequences of errors in these processes, including cancer from over-production of some cells, or neurodegenerative diseases from excessive cell death and failure to replace dead cells.


Ron Laskey recently retired from the Charles Darwin Chair of Animal Embryology in the University and the Directorship of the MRC Cancer Cell Unit in the Hutchison/MRC Research Centre at Addenbrooke’s. He has been a Fellow of Darwin College since 1982 and has organised two of the College’s Lecture Series.

His main interest has been the control of cell proliferation and why it goes wrong in cancer. Some of the proteins studied in his work are in advanced clinical trials of new screening tests for some of the common cancers.

Ron Laskey is a Fellow of the Royal Society, a Member of Academia Europaea, Vice President of the Academy of Medical Sciences and a former President of the British Society for Cell Biology. He is President of the Biochemical Society from January 2012. His work has been recognised by several awards, including the Louis Jeantet Prize for Medicine, the Royal Medal of the Royal Society and a CBE . On a lighter note he has written and recorded albums of Songs for Cynical Scientists and More Songs for Cynical Scientists, now combined as Selected Songs for Cynical Scientists.

This talk is part of the Darwin College Lecture Series series.

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