Road to the Neuropharmacology Debate: Week 4

Yes, Yes. Things are starting to get very interested. I am really starting to look forward to the debate. I am really, really in the mood to debate. This has been such an exciting assignment so far. It was a pretty good work in terms of team work and progress. My team and I literally just had an online group meeting and we sorted some things out. We delegated some roles to one another and each member was given a certain research task in regards to our first and MAIN argument. I would love to say what that is exactly, however I am a wee bit concerned that an opponent of ours may be following this blog.

Anyway, we’ve been delegated some researching roles and I’ve also delegated myself to start writing my speech (the script that is), since I am going to be the speaker for our team. I feel as if our team is finally uniting and becoming an actual team rather than an assortment of random individuals who study science and don’t really know each other. We’ve also made the decision to have some written work completed by the end of the week. That way we can gather all of our resources and learn from one another. It’s also going to be really important because I will use the information found by each member to continue writing and elongating my speech.

There are still a couple things we need to do however. Firstly (and most obviously) we need to continue our research to cover our second and third point (we have determined that we will probably have three main arguments). However, if we plan a team meeting rationally (similar to the way in which we did this week), we should have no problem organising our second and third arguments. Furthermore, I should soon send my speech script to the team so we can collectively construct a power point presentation to accompany the speech. This will add to and enhance our side of the debate as it will create a more professional feel (although I am sure that our opposition will also be doing this).

Finally, I am very excited to announce that we have developed our team line for the debate. Again I would love to share this, but the aforementioned eavesdropping on account of our opposition is making me nervous. So I guess we’ll have to wait until the debate to hear. Also, there was a little bit of an issue in regards to organising a team meeting this week as everyone was free at different times. However, we all managed to quickly and efficiently come up with an time to meet online and this problem quickly evaporated (which is great). Hopefully, if this problem arises again we can surely solve it the way we did this week (that is, we can all say a time that we are free and compromise for one another).

So that’s about it for this week. I’m feeling very excited and so far all i can say is… I can’t wait for the debate. See ya next week 😀

Road to the Neuropharmacology Debate: Week 3

Hi Everyone. It has been a little bit of a slow week, only because there have been some other things my group members and I have had to complete. However, we still got through some work and managed to gather some important information and organise some important things. Firstly, my team and I have agreed that our first argument will reflect the overall therapeutic relevance of stem cell use. This means that have spent some time this week looking at different kinds of stem cells and focusing on the negative side effects that would arise (or that have arose) from clinical trials. For example, embryonic stem cells (these are the stem cells that bring a hoard of ethical issues with the) are derived from the wall of the blastocyst and they are capable of differentiating into any type of cell. However, clinical trials have shown that because of this ability to differentiate, the use of embryonic stem cells can encourage he development of tumors (more specifically teratomas and teratocarcinoma).

Furthermore, induced pluripotent stem cells are normal somatic cells that are treated with cellular growth factors in order to reconvert the cells into pluripotent stem cells. Although this type of stem cell may dodge the ethical consideration debate, the process involving the conversion of the somatic cells is very slow and does not produce many stem cells (is inefficient). Furthermore, there is also evidence of the development of tumors with their use. I also learnt about many other type of stem cells such as Neural Stem cells and Mesenchymal stem cells as well as the disadvantages these cells have. So for now I am pretty sure that this will reflect my first and main argument. I will try to show that the stem cells are not viable mainly due to the fact that their disadvantages and side effects are too severe and thus they are not worth replacing current stroke treatment. And thus this brings me to what still needs to be done. I have to take a look and do some research in order to find out about current stroke treatment. I then need to focus on the efficacy of both the regular treatment and stem cell treatment and determine whether or not stem cells could replace contemporary drugs.

Thus my team and I will start to develop and finish off this first argument and we should also simultaneously construct some power point slides to suit this argument. Additionally, a couple members of my group have started looking at arguments that the ‘FOR’ team could use and so this will be quite beneficial. Also, one of our group members (Eileen) has really started to turn the wheels on the team wagon as she started a Google Drive and uploaded 4 different (but relevant) articles involving stem cells as a means of stroke treatment.

So all in all we are progressing, perhaps quite slowly this week but we are moving and that’s the important. I’m aiming to construct and finish my first argument soon and that will push us along even further. All the best, until next week. See ya 😀

P.S – Nicole and Jonathon have a great time in Cairns 😀

Road to the Neuropharmacology Debate: Week 2

Well, well, well, here we are again. I would like to begin by first saying that the mouse handling practical today was both extremely informative and adorable. The lab was also a short one and this allowed for a fantastic opportunity for an initial and short group meeting! The first thing my team and I decided to do, involved gaining a brief overview of our topics content (our topic is ‘Are stem cell based strategies a viable option for treating stroke? Against). This involved a rather simple search for ‘stem cells and stroke’ on the UNSW Library website. One of the first articles to appear had some clear, concise and overall (and most importantly) useful information regarding our debate topic.

Thus, after only a few minutes spent searching, some definitions related to the topic and the process of stem cell therapy started to become clear. This week I became aware of the fact that stem cells and their effects are currently being tested as a means of neuroregeneration for stroke patients. Animal models have indeed shown that stem cells (from a variety of sources) are able to migrate to the area of ischemic injury, many are able to survive and differentiate into neurons and finally, evidence of electrical activity from these newly developed neurons has also been detected.

Furthermore, the article also neatly summarised a variety of stem cell types, the derivation of each cell type and the ways in which each type of stem cell is advantageous. At this point I was starting to worry and I had almost completely convinced myself that my team and I were beginning our journey on the more difficult side of the debate (as stem cells seemed beneficial in a multitude of ways). However, after some further skimming I realised that the article also listed a great number of disadvantages involved with stem cell therapy and these disadvantages had been the core reason as to why human trials had so far been seriously limited. It would be this information that my team and I would need to tackle and know inside and out. Most of these include the fact that stem cell therapy takes a great deal of time, the pathological side effects and whether or not the therapy really has any beneficial characteristics when compared to regular (non-stem cell) based treatment.

Today my team and I allocated some roles and made some decisions in regards to the debate and presentation. Firstly, we acknowledged the fact that I was going to be speaking (and i was absolutely more than happy to do this). We also decided that it was probably best to create a power point presentation to accompany the debate, as both graphs and diagrams could clarify the arguments of our team. Finally, Eileen (group member) suggested that it was perhaps a strong idea for one of the group members to focus on the ‘FOR’ arguments related to our stem cell topic in order to gather a sound understanding of any arguments our opponents could possibly bring forward during the debate. The rest of us thought that this was a fantastic idea and it will be an essential move for the group assignment. As far as the first week goes, it’s safe to say that we’ve definitely made some progress and we collaborated well to gather some crucial information. The next few weeks are going to require a lot more though, as our team will need to start writing points down as well as arguments, diagrams for the presentation and even possible ‘FOR’ arguments. I also believe that we’re going to need to decide whether or not to include the ethics involved with stem cell research as the debate topic used the word ‘viable’ and to me this refers to its effectiveness rather than its ethical implications. So how will we do this… It’s quite simple. More group meetings, more research, more chatting online and more sharing of anything and everything that we come across (as long as it’s relevant to the debate topic of course).

Finally, It has only been a week and so therefore no problems have surfaced. The weeks to come will surely bring complex arguments and the stress of the threat of our opposite ‘FOR’ team. Therefore, when these group based problems do arise, rationality, open-mindedness and calm discussion will prevail. That is, if anyone in the group has a problem, the problem will be solved as quickly and as efficiently as possible if the group members discuss the issue with respect and rationality. Anger and pessimistic frustration will only add to the pile of problems and thus I truly believe that effective and calm conversation, discussion and communication will allow us to achiever our team goals and allow us to avoid or solve problems.

I’m getting pretty excited and I can’t wait to start writing and practicing my arguments. All the best 😀

Road to the Neuropharmacology Debate: Week 1

Hello all!

My name is Kosta Kotsidis, I am a third year Medical Science student and I am majoring in Neuroscience. I must firstly say that my reasoning for taking up a course like Neuropharmacology is certainly mainly influenced by my love for Neuroscience. As a neuroscience major I personally find the human nervous system to simultaneously be the most complex and fascinating thing in the universe. It has interested me for as long as I can remember and I have wanted to study Neuroscience for just as long. However, I also dream of becoming a Neurosurgeon one day (pray with me) and thus my interest has shifted to treating neurological diseases and to drugs used in the contemporary era. Thus, my decision to study Neuropharmacology was a simple one.

After a couple of glances at the Neuropharm course manual I must admit that I am really, really, really looking forward to the study of various Neurological diseases and their treatments. As I mentioned earlier this really does seem to be the fundamental core of my interests and I am definitely glad to see that a large chunk of the course is dedicated to Neurological diseases and their associated pharmacology. Since I am expecting such a captivating series of lectures and practicals I can hopefully enhance the course via the addition of my knowledge of neuropathology and neuroanatomy. Many of the students in enrolled this course have yet to study any neuroscience and I could hopefully assist this students with some general (and in some cases specific) neuroanatomy as it will help with the understanding of drug mechanisms of action. Analogously, I’m sure that these students would certainly assist me with their pharmacological skills if it is their major. Finally, hopefully and I really do mean HOPEFULLY, after I complete medical science I will make it into a postgraduate medicine and surgery degree. It’s what I’ve wanted to be since I was able to talk and I really can’t think of anything I’d love as much. Neuropharmacology is just one more subject assisting me and pushing me towards my goal.

Now, a recent and successful team experience that comes to mind happens to be the last group assignment I had for another Neuroscience subject last semester. The subject was Muscle and Motor Control and the task was to form a group of 4 and make an educational video about a topic of our choosing. Our group formed immediately (we happened to be four friends doing the course) and we chose to make a video explaining the physiology behind the patellar reflex. I truly believe that we split up our work load perfectly. One member focused on all of the images used in the film (she collected them, drew them and labelled them). Another member created the text and explanations to company the images and a third edited the video. She placed images and videos with text and cut and pasted her way to a clear, concise and overall well-made video. Finally, I was the narrator and presenter and I wrote my own scripts. I’m also very proud of coming up with the idea of editing my face on a knee and having a talking knee explain the patellar reflex. I also spoke in a foreign accent and made the knee Scottish just to try and make it funny. We did amazingly well and our course convenor commented that our video was one of the best ten made. He also embarrassed me by showing our video to all students and thus my face on a knee was seen as I yelled vigorously in a Scottish accent. And to be honest, that is really the role I love to play. I love to brainstorm idea, I love to help anyone with whatever it is they’ve been allocated, but I really, really love to talk and present. I am so excited for the debate and my first task is to convince my group to allow me to talk (because when I do, I don’t shut up). The debate is approximately 6 weeks away and as I said I’m really looking forward to presenting. I shall see you all next week!