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I Want More and Better Cells! - An Outreach Project about Stem Cells and Its Impact on the General Population.

Varela Amaral S, Forte T, Ramalho-Santos J, Girão da Cruz MT - PLoS ONE (2015)

Bottom Line: The study of the outreach materials in a heterogeneous sample of the population suggests that they are valuable tools to disseminate scientific messages, and that this is especially true for the comic-book format.Additionally, these materials can influence political, social and personal attitudes toward science.These results, together with the importance attributed to scientific research in stem cells by the population sampled, validates the diffusion of such materials as a significant contribution towards an overall public understanding and engagement in contemporary science, and this strategy should thus be considered in future projects.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Life Sciences, University of Coimbra, Coimbra, Portugal; CNC - center for Neuroscience and Cell Biology, University of Coimbra, Coimbra, Portugal.

ABSTRACT
Although science and technology impact every aspect of modern societies, there is still an extensive gap between science and society, which impairs the full exercise of citizenship. In the particular case of biomedical research increased investment should be accompanied by parallel efforts in terms of public information and engagement. We have carried out a project involving the production and evaluation of educational contents focused on stem cells - illustrated newspaper chronicles, radio interviews, a comic book, and animated videos - and monitored their impact on the Portuguese population. The study of the outreach materials in a heterogeneous sample of the population suggests that they are valuable tools to disseminate scientific messages, and that this is especially true for the comic-book format. Furthermore, the data showed that clear and stimulating outreach materials, that are able to teach new concepts and to promote critical thinking, increase engagement in science at different levels, depending on the depth of the concepts involved. Additionally, these materials can influence political, social and personal attitudes toward science. These results, together with the importance attributed to scientific research in stem cells by the population sampled, validates the diffusion of such materials as a significant contribution towards an overall public understanding and engagement in contemporary science, and this strategy should thus be considered in future projects. Regardless, stringent quality control must be implemented in order to efficiently communicate accurate scientific developments, and the public stimulated in terms of finding additional sources of reliable information.

No MeSH data available.


Related in: MedlinePlus

Outreach materials.Illustration of the materials produced in the project evaluated in this study: animated videos, newspaper illustrated chronicles, and comics. Reprinted from “Uma Aventura Estaminal” [28] and “Células Estaminais [29] with permission from André Caetano and Fernando Correia.
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pone.0133753.g001: Outreach materials.Illustration of the materials produced in the project evaluated in this study: animated videos, newspaper illustrated chronicles, and comics. Reprinted from “Uma Aventura Estaminal” [28] and “Células Estaminais [29] with permission from André Caetano and Fernando Correia.

Mentions: In the last decade, stem cell research has taken an important place in contemporary science and biomedicine, which makes this subject exceptionally suited for science communication. On that basis, researchers from the Center for Neuroscience and Cell Biology (University of Coimbra, Portugal) developed the science communication project “I want more and better cells! Stem cells: What are they? Where are they? What can they be used for?” for the production of outreach materials (Fig 1). Several aspects of stem cell biology and stem cell research were presented and discussed in these outreach materials namely: 1) origin and differentiation characteristics of different types of stem cells, 2) milestones in stem cell research, and 3) current and potential applications. Stem cells are considered particularly promising due to their unique characteristics of self-renewal and the ability to give rise to multiple specialized cell types [22,23,24]. Regarding stem cell differentiation characteristics, the fundamental concepts of pluripotency, multipotency and unipotency were presented. The establishment and development of this particular research field was discussed in term of key events, such as i) the establishment that cell differentiation is reversible [25]; ii) the development of the first human embryonic stem cell lines [24] and the beginning of extensive experimentation with these cells; and iii) the development of new methods to reprogram cells, i.e. to induce mature cells to reverse their developmental commitment [26]. Currently stem cells are a powerful tool to tackle unsolved problems, and can be potentially used to screen drugs and toxins, to test molecular targets of disease, as a model to study human development, and to develop new therapeutic approaches involving the replacement of damaged cells by new, stem-cell derived, counterparts. However, while the potential of stem cell-based technologies is immense [23], and thus attracts public attention, some aspects also raise ethical issues, somewhat mitigated by the lower reliance on human embryos [22,27]. However, the public must also be made aware that stem cells in no way represent a miraculous source of possible therapies for a number of ailments, but a challenging and demanding research area. In that regard the only uncontroversial and well-established clinical applications are bone marrow/cord blood transplants involving hematopoietic stem cells, notably to replenish blood formation following an oncological intervention.


I Want More and Better Cells! - An Outreach Project about Stem Cells and Its Impact on the General Population.

Varela Amaral S, Forte T, Ramalho-Santos J, Girão da Cruz MT - PLoS ONE (2015)

Outreach materials.Illustration of the materials produced in the project evaluated in this study: animated videos, newspaper illustrated chronicles, and comics. Reprinted from “Uma Aventura Estaminal” [28] and “Células Estaminais [29] with permission from André Caetano and Fernando Correia.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4519251&req=5

pone.0133753.g001: Outreach materials.Illustration of the materials produced in the project evaluated in this study: animated videos, newspaper illustrated chronicles, and comics. Reprinted from “Uma Aventura Estaminal” [28] and “Células Estaminais [29] with permission from André Caetano and Fernando Correia.
Mentions: In the last decade, stem cell research has taken an important place in contemporary science and biomedicine, which makes this subject exceptionally suited for science communication. On that basis, researchers from the Center for Neuroscience and Cell Biology (University of Coimbra, Portugal) developed the science communication project “I want more and better cells! Stem cells: What are they? Where are they? What can they be used for?” for the production of outreach materials (Fig 1). Several aspects of stem cell biology and stem cell research were presented and discussed in these outreach materials namely: 1) origin and differentiation characteristics of different types of stem cells, 2) milestones in stem cell research, and 3) current and potential applications. Stem cells are considered particularly promising due to their unique characteristics of self-renewal and the ability to give rise to multiple specialized cell types [22,23,24]. Regarding stem cell differentiation characteristics, the fundamental concepts of pluripotency, multipotency and unipotency were presented. The establishment and development of this particular research field was discussed in term of key events, such as i) the establishment that cell differentiation is reversible [25]; ii) the development of the first human embryonic stem cell lines [24] and the beginning of extensive experimentation with these cells; and iii) the development of new methods to reprogram cells, i.e. to induce mature cells to reverse their developmental commitment [26]. Currently stem cells are a powerful tool to tackle unsolved problems, and can be potentially used to screen drugs and toxins, to test molecular targets of disease, as a model to study human development, and to develop new therapeutic approaches involving the replacement of damaged cells by new, stem-cell derived, counterparts. However, while the potential of stem cell-based technologies is immense [23], and thus attracts public attention, some aspects also raise ethical issues, somewhat mitigated by the lower reliance on human embryos [22,27]. However, the public must also be made aware that stem cells in no way represent a miraculous source of possible therapies for a number of ailments, but a challenging and demanding research area. In that regard the only uncontroversial and well-established clinical applications are bone marrow/cord blood transplants involving hematopoietic stem cells, notably to replenish blood formation following an oncological intervention.

Bottom Line: The study of the outreach materials in a heterogeneous sample of the population suggests that they are valuable tools to disseminate scientific messages, and that this is especially true for the comic-book format.Additionally, these materials can influence political, social and personal attitudes toward science.These results, together with the importance attributed to scientific research in stem cells by the population sampled, validates the diffusion of such materials as a significant contribution towards an overall public understanding and engagement in contemporary science, and this strategy should thus be considered in future projects.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Life Sciences, University of Coimbra, Coimbra, Portugal; CNC - center for Neuroscience and Cell Biology, University of Coimbra, Coimbra, Portugal.

ABSTRACT
Although science and technology impact every aspect of modern societies, there is still an extensive gap between science and society, which impairs the full exercise of citizenship. In the particular case of biomedical research increased investment should be accompanied by parallel efforts in terms of public information and engagement. We have carried out a project involving the production and evaluation of educational contents focused on stem cells - illustrated newspaper chronicles, radio interviews, a comic book, and animated videos - and monitored their impact on the Portuguese population. The study of the outreach materials in a heterogeneous sample of the population suggests that they are valuable tools to disseminate scientific messages, and that this is especially true for the comic-book format. Furthermore, the data showed that clear and stimulating outreach materials, that are able to teach new concepts and to promote critical thinking, increase engagement in science at different levels, depending on the depth of the concepts involved. Additionally, these materials can influence political, social and personal attitudes toward science. These results, together with the importance attributed to scientific research in stem cells by the population sampled, validates the diffusion of such materials as a significant contribution towards an overall public understanding and engagement in contemporary science, and this strategy should thus be considered in future projects. Regardless, stringent quality control must be implemented in order to efficiently communicate accurate scientific developments, and the public stimulated in terms of finding additional sources of reliable information.

No MeSH data available.


Related in: MedlinePlus