Classical subject underpins new biomedical advances

The ancient art of physiology -- the study of how the body works and how to repair it when things go wrong--has seen an upsurge in importance as it now plays a key role in the understanding of how genes work to support the human body.

At his inaugural lecture on Thursday (17 March), University of Edinburgh Professor Michael J. Shipston will say that our ability to isolate, manipulate and visualise gene products in cells and whole animals has revolutionized the understanding of the body and its functions. This in turn has caused a rise in demand for scientists with physiological training, to fully exploit these advances.

He will say: "This classical subject was described by Aristotle as the study of the whole organism and its component parts. It is now at the forefront of current biomedical advances as it seeks to understand how the catalogue of our genes, the human genome, is exploited to generate and maintain the human body."

Michael J. Shipston, Professor of Physiology and Director of the Centre for Integrative Physiology at the University, will discuss the importance of communication within and between cells of the body, in order to keep its 30kg of cells warm, fed and able to reproduce in 20 litres of water. To achieve this, cells need to overcome a major paradox -- the transfer of information, nutrients and waste products across fatty cell membranes which are designed to limit the transfer of these important molecules in order to keep the cell's environment separate from that of its neighbours.

He will say that art influences his approach to science, as by visualising the body's life processes, such as cells releasing hormones or single molecules in motion, he is able to obtain new insights into the basic processes which make the body work.

Physiology and the Art of Communication by Professor Michael Shipston, College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, University of Edinburgh: Thursday, 17 March 2005 in the Anatomy Lec

Contact: Linda Menzies
University of Edinburgh

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