The University of Cambridge Division of Trauma and Orthopedics Surgery Away Day was held on June 27, 2019, at Homerton College Cambridge. There, STARSTEM PhD student Will Hotham was awarded a prize for the best 3-minute presentation pitched for a lay audience. Will’s talk which was titled: “What did the stem cell say to the chondrocyte…..” where he discussed how extracellular vesicles (EVs) can allow communication between stem cells and chondrocytes. Will, pictured below, reports on the experience:

Pictured: Will Hotham, University of Cambridge PhD student

You have three minutes to present your work to a Lay audience and we want originality. On your marks, get set, go!

Well, that is how it seemed. Presenting in a lay format to a room full of esteemed surgeons and researchers seemed very daunting however I decided to use my poor sense of humour and go with it.

After the first session of talks using a variety of different talks all using a range of different techniques from the traditional PowerPoint to improvised poems and how Cambridge research is helping them win the boat race vs. Oxford.

After the break, it was my talk. As a fan of the theatrics, I decided to do a small play using three volunteers from the audience.  The play was called “What did the stem cell say to the chondrocyte….”. The parts in the play were; a stem cell, an extracellular vesicle produced by a stem cell or a chondrocyte.

To begin with, the chondrocyte demonstrated they work at a continual but low rate by walking on the spot. However, they are very poor at self-renewal and repair. We then showed that if the stem cell releases one of its extracellular vesicles, with a stem cell message in it, this could increase the chondrocyte output. To show this, the chondrocyte began jogging on the spot. It was then demonstrated that if multiple vesicles go to the chondrocyte, its work might continue to increase until the cell is working at its maximal rate. Here the chondrocyte was running on the spot.

So we can either look at the chondrocyte output or, what we want to do, which is to investigate what the message is that the vesicle is passing from the stem cell to the chondrocyte.

Receiving the prize from Professor Andrew McCaskie was a fantastic experience and one that I hope to emulate with my future work.

Thanks must go to Dr Sarah Lindsay, Mr Matthew Seah, Miss Luisa Garcia and my supervisor Dr Frances Henson.