Wednesday, December 15, 2010

New Ellipse, December edition!

The new edition of the PRBB newspaper, El·lipse, is out.

Find out which 50 countries do the PRBB residents come from, what has Patarroyo to say about his new malaria vaccine, how some scientists found the blood from Louis XVI or a new therapeutic option to combat obesity. Also, in the current-affairs debate, 5 researchers tell us about what they think will be the scientific breakthroughs for the next decade.

Do not miss it!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

How to get your research published in the Financial Times

Today I attended a course for Press Officers on how to improve our communication style, specifically when writing press releases. The objective: to get coverage of our research in the international press.

The course was organized by AlphaGalileo and CERCA (the Catalan network of research centers), and the tutor was Myc Riggulsford. He was great, very insightful, and the workshop was fun and interesting. I learned plenty of things, but will write here just a few of the most important tips:

- The first 25 words is all most journalist will get to read from the press release: make them sexy enough, and make sure all the basic info (what, who, why, when, where, who) is in the 1st paragraph
- Make short sentences (less than 25 words) and short words (less than 7 letters)
- Simplify (a lot!) the language. A 9 to 12 year-old reader should be able to understand everything you write (ejem… wishful thinking!!)
- Avoid jargon (and my definition of what is considered jargon has been greatly expanded today!), acronyms, words in capital letters.
- Give examples
- Tell stories
- Use words of which people can make a mental image
- Use quotes (to make it more personal, not impersonal)
- Use active language, not passive
- Use short titles (less than one line) with sexy words on it
- Make sure all the info is in the text (repeat what’s said in the title/subheadings, since they might be separated from the main text)
- Repeat key words (don’t be ashamed of using the same word over and over; it helps people to follow what you are saying)
- Think of the timing when you send the press release: there’s times of the year (summer, Xmas) when it’s easier to get published
- Think where to target your press release: perhaps you might be able to have it in the business section!

There were many more, but I’ll leave it there for now. Let’s see if some of these get put into practice!!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Comunicar Ciencia en Red (1)

Este jueves y viernes (25 y 26 de noviembre) hemos estado en la conferencia ComCiRed en Valencia. He aquí un ‘executive summary’. Perdonad por la falta de algunos acentos...

La conferencia inaugural de Carlos Elias (UCIIIM) nos la saltamos porque el tren llego con retraso :(

Cesar Lopez (FECYT) comento los resultados de la Encuesta Percepción social de la ciencia 2010. Aquí algunos datos interesantes:
- parece que el interés por la ciencia y la tecnología ha aumentado (9,6 a 13,1% en últimos 2 años). Aunque seguramente el valor real de estas encuestas era limitado (la mayoría de la gente miente cuando se le pregunta si prefiere ver un documental científico o un programa del corazón…!)
- el 60% ven más beneficios que perjuicios en la ciencia
- los científicos son el tipo de profesional mejor vistos por los encuestados (junto con los médicos), y la ciencia es una de las áreas en las que se debería invertir más – de nuevo, habría que ver si la gente ha sido sincera…
- la TV es todavía el medio más usado para informarse sobre ciencia (80%), aunque internet se ha duplicado en los últimos años, y sigue creciendo, sobretodo en la población joven (menor de 34). De hecho casi el 70% de los encuestados creen que internet es el único medio que ofrece ‘suficiente’ información científica.

Gonzalo Remiro (tambien FECYT), como punto nacional de contacto del VII Programa Marco de la UE, explicó un poco las áreas que cubre el programa de “Science in Society” y que tipo de proyectos entrarían, y Gemma Revuelta (OCC-UPF) nos contó su experiencia de participación y/o liderazgo en varios de estos proyectos, como eknownet o escity.

Laura Corcuera nos recordó que la plataforma SINC, en la que trabajan 8 periodistas y en la que están registrados más de 500 periodistas, es una de nuestras mejores aliadas a la hora de divulgar los resultados científicos, y nos paso algunos datos de una reciente encuesta sobre el uso que se hace de SINC.

La última conferencia fue del consultor Marc Cortes (RocaSalvatella), quien dió una charla de lo más interesante sobre las herramientas web 2.0, redes sociales, etc. Nada (o no mucho) que no supiéramos o que no fuera lógico, pero que expuso de forma muy clara. Algunas de las ideas claves para mí:

- Lo que se dice de ti en internet, es parte de tu identidad. Importante monitorear que se dice de ti en la web, que dicen tus ‘usuarios’ (o publico objetivo)
- Las páginas web corporativas se visitan cada vez menos. La gente esta más interesada en lo que dicen otros usuarios que en lo que dice la empresa
- Internet es transparente: por eso es esencial ser honesto
- Hay que contarle a la gente lo que quiere oir cuando lo quiere oir. Hay que ir a buscar a tu publico objetivo (e.g. en redes sociales de intereses específicos)

En definitiva, para una buena estrategia de web 2.0 hay que:
1)-identificar tu publico objetivo, saber cuál es su índice de digitalización, donde se mueven, que les interesa. Analizar tu entorno (quien hace que donde).
2)-definir tus objetivos, escoger unos indicadores, diseñar tu plan de acción - que quieres generar y donde (en grupos propios o ajenos?)
3)-revisar tus resultados.

Aparte de todas estas conferencias, hubo los grupos de trabajo de las UCC+i (Unidades de comunicación científica e innovación), que fueron quizás la parte más fructífera de las jornadas. Entre otras cosas, se decidieron algunos pasos para asegurar una mayor colaboración entre las diferentes UCCs de España, se concreto mejor lo que define a una UCC (muchas son departamentos de comunicación de centros de investigación, pero hay otros formatos) y se comentaron cosas a mejorar en la comunicación de los resultados de la investigación y la divulgación de la ciencia en general.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


In a couple of days we are going to the Comcired meeting in Valencia to meet with people from other UCC (scientific communication units, or something of the sort) from all over Spain. I think some interesting ideas and projects might come up from this... will try to post them when we are back!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

November edition of El·lipse now out!

From today, the November edition of the PRBB newspaper, El.lipse, a monthly bilingual publication, is available. To download a PDF version please click here.

To see all the issues of El·lipse click here.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Success of Open Day

The initiative set in motion by Science Meets Society in 2008 continues. The third Open Day attracted a very diverse, motivated and interested public to the Charles Darwin square and the PRBB building.

The public queued patiently to get into the multimedia installations and to sign up to guided tours. Meanwhile, the volunteers were rushed off their feet dealing with questions, drawing up lists for tours or doing experiments and playing games with the children. The inside of the building was a hive of activity with groups of the public, accompanied by guides, following routes during which researchers explained how their labs work, their research projects or how to use a piece of equipment.

Upon realising that all these people were volunteers, one attendee said to us “I’m jealous, people who work here seem so excited and happy about their work”, and the truth is that, at the end of the day, we volunteers were exhausted but very pleased. And for good reason, according to the data: the approximate number of attendees was 3850, of which 2090 visited the building. 2300 participated in the experiments and activities: 672 in the multimedia facilities, 150 in the scientific cafe and 90 in the reading corner.

All of this was only possible thanks to the 181 volunteers from the PRBB centres. Many thanks to all!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Check out some pics of the day in our flickr account!

European Science Journalists at the PRBB

A group of science journalists from the European Union of Science Journalists Associations (EUSJA) visited the PRBB last Wednesday October 27. They came from Belgium, Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Russia, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

During a couple of hours the journalists visited the building and some of the facilities, like the CRG advanced microscopy unit, presented by Timo Zimmerman. They also had a chance to talk to some researchers, such as en Manolis Kogevinas (CREAL), Anna Bigas (IMIM) or Maria José Barrero (CMRB) about the research taking place in their centres.

The group of journalists were accompanied by representatives of the University ofGirona and of the Catalan Association of Scientific Communication (ACCC), who hosted them. During their 3-day "Study Trip" in Catalonia, the EUSJA journalists sisited several research institutions in Girona and Barcelona.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Jornada de Portes Obertes al PRBB - Us esperem el 2 d'octubre!

Jornada de portes obertes al PRBB “Diversitat genètica: iguals i diferents”
2 d'octubre de 2010

Com cada any, el primer dissabte d'octubre, el PRBB obre les seves portes al públic i organitza diverses i interessants activitats relacionades amb la ciència i la biomedicina. Uns 150 voluntaris, entre investigadors i personal de gestió hi dediquen el dia. L'objectiu és establir un contacte directe entre científics i ciutadans. El públic pot accedir a una gran instal•lació de la ciutat i parlar directament amb els experts de tot allò que l'interessa. D'altra banda el científic es posa a prova explicant conceptes complexos amb un llenguatge entenedor i mostrant quina és la seva feina, perquè serveix, quins equips necessita per dur-la a terme, etc.

Les jornades tenen sempre un eix central. Així, l'edició de 2009 va estar dedicada a la figura de Charles Darwin, aprofitant que se celebrava el 150 aniversari de la teoria de l'evolució. Va tenir molt bona acollida doncs van participar unes 3500 persones.

Aquest any la celebració de l'Any Internacional de la Biodiversitat i l'Any Internacional de l'Apropament de les Cultures, ens permet parlar de diversitat genètica i com som d'iguals i alhora com som de diferents els humans.

Es podrà participar en exposicions multimèdia interactives realitzades en col•laboració amb el centre HANGAR, centre per a la producció i investigació artística de l'Associació d'Artistes Visuals de Catalunya (AAVC). En aquest sentit s'ha fet un treball conjunt d'investigadors i artistes, per tal d'obtenir productes multimèdia avançats molt atractius pel públic i elaborats amb criteris didàctics i divulgatius. La "captura" de rostres utilitzant la tècnica dels microarrays, un joc de diversitat amb realitat augmentada i una composició musical utilitzant la diversitat de presències, son les propostes que es presenten.

A la plaça Charles Darwin, just davant de l'edifici del PRBB hi haurà tallers i experiments per a tots els públics i sobre tot per a nens i nenes. També es realitzaran visites guiades a l'edifici i als laboratoris.

Hi haurà també un espai de llibre infantil, el racó del lector, amb interpretacions de conta-contes, a càrrec de la Companyia de teatre PeRaBaBaus. Disposarem d'una sala per a visualitzar vídeos científics i a la tarda es farà un cafè científic al voltant de la medicina personalitzada.

Es lliurarà també el II Premi El•lipse de divulgació científica, i hi hauran actuacions de la coral del PRBB.

Tot això en un ambient festiu, i amb una batucada final a càrrec del grup The Band Sambant.


Tema: Jornada de Portes Obertes del PRBB.
Diversitat genètica: iguals i diferents
Data: Dissabte 2 d'octubre de 2010
Inici: 10h
Final: 20h
Preu: Gratuït
Lloc: Parc de Recerca Biomèdica de Barcelona (PRBB)
Adreça: Plaça Charles Darwin / Doctor Aiguader 88, 08003 Barcelona
Tel: 93 316 0000
Càtering: Servei de bar i entrepans

10.00 -18.00 h
Tallers i experiments
Amb senzills experiments et divertiràs fent ciència!
Fes polseres amb codis genètics. Troba el missatge que s'amaga en una seqüència d'ADN. Aprèn com funciona l'herència genètica. Fabrica ADN amb "xuxes". Enduu-te a casa l'ADN del kiwi. Observa pel microscopi...

Visites guiades als laboratoris
Coneixes per dins l'edifici del PRBB?
Has vist mai una proteïna o la seqüència d'un gen? Segueix-nos a través dels passadissos i laboratoris , de la mà dels investigadors del PRBB que et mostraran i t'explicaran quina és la seva feina.
Cal inscriure's el mateix dia. Els grups s'organitzaran per ordre d'arribada.

Exposició multimèdia interactiva (HANGAR)

Realitat augmentada.
Crea la teva pròpia "criatura" i acompanya-la en les seves emocionants aventures. La diversitat genètica serà l'eix del joc i entendràs quin paper tenen les diferències genètiques en la supervivència de les espècies.

Microarrays de rostres diferents.
Cada cara és diferent. Això és pot representar utilitzant la tecnologia dels microarrays i comprovar quines són aquestes diferències.

Instal•lació sonora amb càmera visió.
"Som iguals, som diferents". Aquesta frase, gravada en 30 idiomes diferents i 30 veus diferents es converteix en música i el moviment de les persones a la Plaça Darwin intervé en la simfonia. Pots formar part de l'orquestra!

Video Room
La diversitat genètica en imatges!
Relaxa't i gaudeix de documentals per a totes les edats, triats pels joves científics del PRBB.

Racó del lector i conte contes
Ciència per llegir, diversitat per escoltar.
Gaudeix d'un espai de lectura amb llibres de ciència per a totes les edats, cedits per la Biblioteca Sagrada Família. De tant en tant hi ha algú que fa de conta-contes, o uns actors interrompen la lectura per fer-nos gaudir d'alguna activitat teatral. I és que al PRBB comptem amb el grup de teatre PeRaBaBaus ..

17.00 h
II Premi El•lipse de divulgació científica

El tema d'enguany ha estat la diversitat genètica humana: obra escrita i obra gràfica. Es farà el lliurament de premis d'aquesta segona edició.

18.00 h
Cafè científic

Diversitat genètica i medicina personalitzada.
La genètica té totes les respostes? Fins a on la genètica millorarà la nostra salut? Podem preveure-ho tot? Parlarem de tot això prenent un cafè amb pastes.

Durant tot el dia hi haurà servei de bar.

Open Day at the PRBB - October 2, 2010!!!

The date is October 2, and the place is the PRBB. Don't miss it! You will be able to learn about human genetic diversity with interactive multimedia exhibitions, experiments, a scientific cafe, etc. As usual, you will also be able to visit the labs and talk to the scientists. All in a festive environment.

See you there!

more info:

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Beach volley party at PRBB


I wasn't there (off on maternity leave at the moment! - that's why I haven't been writing much...) but here you can check some pics and a video of the PRBB beach volley championship party - looks it was fun!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

II El·lipse Award for Science Popularization - it's now open!

For the second consecutive year, the PRBB organizes the El·lipse Award for Science Popularization which aims to promote life sciences popularization.
As it was done in the first edition, the works should be focused on a specific aspect of biomedicine, which this year will be Human genetic diversity.

The award is open to any person over 18, regardless of their training, although it will assess the scientific rigor of the work.

Works can be submitted in Catalan, Spanish or English and in one of two categories:
a)Written works b) Graphic works

The deadline ends on July 15, and the prize is €1000 for each category.

So if you feel like participating, start now! Good luck!
For more information please see:

Friday, March 19, 2010

You can now follow us from twitter, too!

You can follow news from the PRBB and from this blog, as well as watch cool videos from the PRBB or its centres, from twitter. Just check us out at

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The interview (premi ellipse)

Here's another of the winners (well, a runner-up for the written works) of the El·lipse Award. It was written in English orginally by Joana Domingues Ribeiro.

Born in Lisbon in the 1st of November 1980, Joana has a degree in Microbian Biology and Genetics, and since 2005 she is a student of the GABBA PhD program, at the university of Oporto, Portugal. In 2006 she joined the CRG, one of the centres at the PRBB, and currently she is doing her PhD at the laboratory of Luciano Di Croce, in the field of Epigenetics and Chromatin. Last summer she did a short workshop on creative writing and since then she is testing new language tools and developing new ideas to experience the scientific world and herself.

Hope you enjoy it!


Looking forward to shave some heads, he laid the nervous scissors when suddenly the bell rang. It was the last client of that feminine suffocating night of summer. Faster than a train, a dancer perfume flooded the little hair salon, crossed one of his sighs, and sat in the destiny chair. The request was easy and followed a simple mathematic equation, a short and round fringe and a slight adjustment in the length. What really was impossible was to forget her. Her face was like a soft light that could put him to sleep, the long hair invented a thousand drawings, and the sweet mouth threatened the singing of his favourite song.

Farewell came when his skeletal pale moon hand found her hand, warm and vibrating and he could notice her excitation for the new haircut including some rush to flaunt it. Afterwards not even the luscious liquor could calm him down when his dangerous eyes were chasing, from a remote third floor, the last steps of the mysterious client disappearing happily in the corner of the night. The most beautiful being of the last five hundred years had left his salon and entered his heart. He mechanically washed the small bat face and stilled the weak body that inside was noisy as a Carnival timbrel. Then he closed the daily hairsalon and like a Christmas illumination dazzled the entire subway on the way back home.

At the house entrance Igor, the cat, would wait for him, hungry for tenderness. A subtle hairspray smell dispersed the feline and he took opportunity to conquer his favourite chair half destroyed by the cat’s tedious claws. Several chaotic diplomas in the front wall teletransported him to the past.

His six false identities have allowed him the most diverse jobs in the last five centuries. He started as a pastry cook at the court of king Louis the XIV, and then he travelled to South America and established one-man show at the city of Buenos Aires. In unknown year he accepted a position as a dealer of books and wigs and latter, back to Europe, he attended several university night classes. Nowadays he was a manager of a karaoke bar and a hair salon. However his infinite secret would chase him like the smell of coffin. He was a vampire and since that night he was madly in love with no bite intentions.

Not attractively dark or young looking as count Dracula, he had never hypnotized the victims with gothic chaos. His extremely bad luck dictated that he would be bitten at the age of sixty two.

But how could he, Bruno of Drac, invite that mysterious woman for a duo at his karaoke bar? A grandpa singing “Forever Young” from Alphaville would never interest her. Meanwhile he used the internet and googled “How to become young in one week”. The results redirected him to a myriad of homemade rejuvenation receipts, talismans, hair tonics, medicinal spas, illegal witches, auto-help manuals, and immense authentic virtual maize.

In the last second of despair, mental neons lighted on reading, “American Scientists discovered in induced pluripotent cells the source of eternal youth”. The following words excited him more than a paparazzi shooting a new scandal. Rejuvenation was possible, he scream inside himself like a shrilling megaphone of youth. After two days he flew to the distant California.

Disguised as a journalist, he could enter the building where the American scientists worked, managing an exclusive hour interview with the group leader that had made the amazing discovery.

Surrounded by a hypnotizing white colour he was carried to an unknown dimension. He observed machines working advanced units, and fellows in scientific uniform manipulating invisible ideas. Strangely that underground world of mystery and possibilities mirrored his one. A loud voice coming from the end of an aseptic corridor woke him. A waiting fellow without a lab coat and gloves invited him for a coffee without even questioning why he was wearing sunglasses. This was how he met Dr.W., famous group leader and his first interview experience.

He had prepared the essential questions which together with a small notebook and pocket voice recorder added credibility to his true scientific curiosity. Accepting a hot nervous coffee he stirred the sugar with the first question,

-Dr.W. the international press acclaims you as the father of regenerative medicine but is this in fact revolution?

-Mr. of Drac, you and your fellow journalist have to understand that we are only at the beginning of a process. We could call it revolution if all scientific knowledge would have direct medical applications. Our mission is to unravel the entire potential of stem cells.

-But what exactly are these mysterious stem cells? Where do they come from? And, is it possible to buy them through internet?

-The stem cells are undifferentiated cells that give rise to all kind of cells that you can find in our organs and tissues. All human beings have stem cells so this is something that brings us together. Stem cells can be found in the fertilized egg and in some tissues of the fetal and adult body. Of course they are not for sale and not available for non scientific manipulation.

-But I have heard that your group developed a special kind of reprogrammed cells. Is that right?

-Dear Mr. of Drac we work with a particular kind of stem cells, so called induced pluripotent cells. These are special since they come from a specialized cell, such as a skin cell. What others and we did was to reprogram them to an undifferentiated status similar to that of embryonic stem cells. These latter ones are pluripotents that means that in certain conditions they can give rise to any kind of cell in the body.

-Does that mean that this biological material you expect to sell human youth?

-Mr.of Drac our laboratory is not interested in any kind of commercial profit. For you to have an idea, last week multimillionaire from Plastic Surgery Company proposed us a million dollar business in exchange for knowledge that does not even exist. If Mr. of Drac also wishes any kind of business with us you would better go away right now.

-Dr. W., please relax, I didn’t come to interview you with any commercial interest. I am just curious to know if, in this moment it is possible to convert a man with of age into a young man of age thirty years.

-Very well, I tell you that miracle is impossible right now. You and the general audience have to understand exactly what we are dealing with before drawing such false conclusions. I dislike seeing the work of my team considered a commonplace. What we want is to know if the induced cells can give raise to all kind of specialized cells and what are the conditions for that to occur. Hopefully with this we would be able to repair the function of certain organs or human tissues.

-But meanwhile what are the fruits of your research?

-Mr. of Drac, you cannot really see the art of our research! Our work is interconnected with the one from other researchers that use embryonic or adult stem cells as a model. With all common knowledge, we wish to understand how organisms grow and how the human body keeps on its organs and tissues during life. Only in this way we can understand what occurs in case of disease.

-At the end, Dr. W., don’t you think that there is so much publicity and so little clinical application!

- Please don’t despise all that my team and colleagues achieved. The more we can know about our model the closer we will be to clinical applications. We hope one day to be able to cure pathologies such as cardiac and liver diseases and some advanced cancers. Don’t you think that’s better than aspirin?

Bruno just wanted to bite the middle age man, full of impossible, sit at his front. That was catastrophe. His body trembled and the mouth got dry as a desert. Without even saying goodbye he evaporated from the room and diluted himself in the crowed streets. Finally at home not even Igor the cat could, with its furniture destruction power, wake him from a necrotic sleep walker state. Unexpectedly in a full moon night, a scream of joy disturbed the sleeping kitten. It was not Halloween night but somehow the vampire woke up in a good mood. Some days after the hair salon and karaoke bar were sold and the old vampire changed town and looked for a new life as a scientific researcher. The fake interview opened in him an extreme curiosity for science and stem cell research. He will take part on the biggest discoveries and have all eternity to look for the therapy of the lost youth.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

¡Nieva en el PRBB!

¡Nieva en el PRBB!
Cargado originalmente por okokitsme
Yesterday it snowed in Barcelona, something unheard of (at least for long years!!!). The city was unrecognizable, and there were plenty of opportunities to take cool pictures of the PRBB in snow.

There's even a funny video made by one of the residents showing how scientists have fun with snowballs...

We all had to go back home early to make sure we didn't get stuck in the building - it was that bad! But also beautiful and special.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Totipotent (premi ellipse) - ENGLISH

And here's the English version of the same comic, the graphic category winner of the 1st Ellipse award of the PRBB. Hope you enjoy it!

Totipotent (premi ellipse) - CATALÀ

Aquest és el guanyador del premi ellipse categoria gràfica. L'autor és n'Ignasi Buch, que treballa aquí al PRBB, al GRIB.

Que el gaudiu!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

"Once upon a time there was a cell" (premi El·lipse)

As you may remember in a previous post I copied the text that won the "El·lipse award", organised by the PRBB last year for the first time. Here you can find one of the runner-ups, "Once upon a time there was a cell"

David Mateos, 2nd honourable mention from El·lipse Prize of
Scientific Dissemination, in the category of written work

Once upon a time there was a cell

Once upon a time there was a cell that was torn between two conflicting destinations. Unlike most of the cells who had but just one marked destiny (to turn into a liver cell, a red blood cell or even into one of those cells inside the nose, the ones having a hair growing from them), this cell had many possibilities. It lived in the spinal cord and, depending on how it would decide to divide itself it could turn into a red blood cell, into a platelet or into a cell of the immune system. And even if it didn't want to turn into any specific cellular type, it could continue dividing itself eternally, maintaining its undifferentiated state. This capacity to give raise to so many different cells made it earn the nickname of ‘stem cell’.

But the pluri-potency didn't make our cell happy. It was tired of dividing itself constantly without knowing what cellular type to rise to, but on the other hand, it didn't quite understand the differences amongst the different type of blood cells that potentially existed in it. “The platelets have a great importance in the blood clotting", it recited in memory from something it had read on wikicell when the body it now lived in was just an embryo and all the cells received the necessary training for their future.

But how to choose that destiny in a permanent way, giving up all the other open doors, without ever having been a platelet and without really understanding what that new life meant in its day to day? It often tried to ask some of the platelets nearby, but these were very shy and didn't dare talk to stem cells for which they felt great respect. It also got no answer from the red blood cells, who felt certain envy towards its capacities.

One day, exhausted due to so much indecision, our stem cell decided to donate her body to science, believing that this way her fate would be sealed forever. What was her surprise when seeing that, once outside the body and already in its new home, a very comfortable Petri dish, its possible destinies were even bigger, infinite in fact!

In hands of the researchers, the cell learned that it couldn't just differentiate into all cellular types it could have given raise in the body, but that with the adequate nutrients the scientists provided it with, it could also turn into cell types it would have never even dreamed of… “I could become an eye cell and see incredible landscapes", the cell imagined. "Although being a sperm would also be funny", it smiled to itself. It didn't matter anymore what it would become, it wasn't only pluri-potent now, but all-potent, it could be anything. It would seem that this wide range of options should scare our tiny cell even more but, ironically, its new situation freed it. It knew that, whatever its future was it would be the scientist's decision and that its life had a meaning that went far beyond itself, that it could give life, cure patients. It thought that its name, ‘stem cell’, would never again just only be a nickname that it disliked and made it feel different to the others, but a name pronounced with affection by humans it would help, a name that made it feel special, privileged.

The cell closed its pores and breathed happily.


Friday, February 12, 2010

Mercadillo per Haití en el PRBB (II) en Flickr: ¡Intercambio de fotos!

You can check some more photos of the flea market in the PRBB group of Flickr:

Mercadillo per Haití en el PRBB (II) en Flickr: ¡Intercambio de fotos!

With love from the PRBB...2500€ for Haiti !!

The campaign to collect money for Haiti has been a success. 51 volunteers participated in the campaign, from cake confectioners and breakfast and flea market sellers.

The three-day breakfasts on the terrace, on February 8, 9 and 10, exhibited a large collection of excellent homemade cakes made by residents at the PRBB. The cakes were delicious and many people asked for the recipes - we might paste some here later on!!

The activities on Thursday 11 worked very well, despite the cold. Due to the intense wind the Flea Market was finally set inside the big local on the inner square (instead of at the square, around the trees, which would have been nice... but impossible on that day!). You could buy a great number and diversity of articles for symbolic prices (from 1€ or less you could get great clothes, a washing machine (well, that was for more, but about 15 or 20 at the most, I think - probably the most expensive item in the whole market!), a DVD player, small furniture, lamps, books, jewellery, kitchen utensils , etc.

The free hot chocolate that Soteras (the company that runs the restaurant) provided, together with the croissants and ‘melindros’ (cookies), helped soothe the cold of both sellers and buyers.

A total of € 2520 was collected, which will be donated entirely to the Emergency Fund of Doctors Without Borders.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Solidarity at PRBB: Haiti II

And so the third day of "Solidarity breakfasts" has gone, and we have collected more than 1600 euros!! It has been a great success, with many volunteers bringing cakes and even more people eating them :)

Thanks to everyone who participated, and don't forget we have the 'flea market' tomorrow, which is open to everyone - again, the PRBB residents have been very generous and there are hundreds of objects waiting for a good home.... don't miss it!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Receptes pastissos solidaris/Solidarity cakes recipes

Al PRBB sembla que tenim molts afeccionats a la pastisseria. Els esmorzars solidaris han tret a la llum veritables mestres pastissers i tothom demana les receptes.

En aquest blog podreu compartir les vostres receptes. Si a més pots afegir una foto, millor encara.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Solidarity at PRBB: Haiti

A group of PRBB residents is organising a campaign in aid of the earthquake victims in Haiti. A popular breakfast at the terrace, a "flea market" and a popular hot chocolate session are some of the actions that will take place on February 8 and 11. All money collected will be given to Médicins Sans Frontières. I'll send an update and some pics next week!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The PRBB at Flickr

Hi there!

There is now a PRBB group in flickr where you can see lots of nice pictures of the PRBB: both of the amazing building and of the many and varied activities that take place here: the beach volley championship, the Open Day, the plays by the theater company PeRaBaBaus, etc.

Here you can see a slideshow of the picutres. Enjoy!

Created with flickr slideshow.

Friday, January 22, 2010

New format of Cell papers - cool!

Today I’ve learned many interesting things. One of them is that Cell has launched this year a new format for the papers they publish, and it looks great! I’ve only had a very quick look at it, but it’s basically much easier to navigate, to inter-relate the different sections, etc.

You can see a video-explanation of how it works here.

And this is how the papers look like:

Some of the new features are:
- There are different tabs for each section (summary, results, etc) and you can move easily from one to the other
- The summary includes a ‘graphical abstract’ and in some cases there’s also a video-interview with the authors
- You can show or hide the affiliations, and when you click on one of them, the names of the authors affiliated to that centre is highlighted, so you don’t have to look at the million tiny symbols you had to do before
- You can see the thumbnails of all the figures, to have an overview, and then click on each of them to see them bigger, with their caption, as usual, but also with links to the places in the paper that refer to that figure!!
- This cross-reference system also works for the references. You can go to each reference and ask where in the paper it is mentioned, and it goes there directly. You can also organise references by author, or year, etc. It also gives you an idea of how these references have been cited in other publications (from Scope)

All in all, a great initiative, I think it will be a real success, and hope others follow suit!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Letter to a young scientist

This is the title of the text that won the "El·lipse award", organised by the PRBB last year for the first time. I already mentioned the El·lipse awards in an earlier post, but we now have the English translation of the winner (written category) - courtesy of Global Talent, so I thought it would be worth posting it heres, so more people can enjoy it!

So, here it is:

Marga Nadal, 1st El·lipse prize of Scientific Dissemination,
in the category of written work

"Letter to a young scientist"

Dear lady,

I received your mail a few days ago and have had it marked with one of those flags until now when I have found a moment of inspiration to answer you. You ask me if research on stem cells will have such an impact as those who understand it foresee, and my immediate response would be no. Even as we scientists have always been proud of being at the margin of fashions, one only needs to have a look at the most prestigious publications of the latest years and one will realize that it is absolutely not true. Scientists and the media who are minimally aware of what we do, have become experts in generating great social expectations and many of us have continued the onslaughts of these gales. Just think for a moment where genetic therapy had to take us and where it has finally taken us. I wouldn't, in any way, want to sin by being pessimistic and I wouldn't want to make you lose this enthusiasm that you have timidly shown towards research, but I would like you to understand that science is still far from being able of resolving all the imperfections of nature. Stem cells, as you know, are the branch parts for excellence, our pantry; their potential to become any cell is absolute at least in the embryonic stage, the very first ones.

The reasoning is therefore simple: if the liver needs a spare liver we only need the stem cells to become liver; if we need neurons, we transform them into neurons and this way, ad líbitum, without limitations. But what needs to be understood is, as always, the mechanism of this metamorphosis. For you to better understand it, if you have never walked along Chillida Leku, you will realize that the sculptures are all different, made of different materials, forms and dimensions and independently of whether you like them or not, they all come from a stone block, of granite, basalt, even of iron or whatever, but the author's imprint is unmistakable.

So, stem cells are the stone block which can be turned into a sculpture, any sculpture, the lining of the scale of the steps at home or simply, remain forever at the quarry. Man or artist is the one who, with his need or expertise, will transform the stone into slab or sculpture. But the stone also transforms by itself: put a stone or sandstone, polished or natural, shiny and white in your house and you will see how it initially will be the envy of neighbours and maybe even someone would want to publish it in a decoration magazine, but you will also see, as just some little time later the stone will have aged, well or badly, but it will have aged, by itself. And the ageing will be different according to whether it has been a humid winter or an especially dry summer, initially very unpredictable, of course.

Stem cells, dear lady, are the stones which can turn into anything the sculptor wishes, and we know it, what we don't know yet is who will sculpt them and how they will age.
I know that with everything I have just told you, I have probably disappointed you or even worse, I will have taken from you in one goes that part of vocation that is essentials to spend a lifetime in a laboratory. I guess this was part of the possibilities you contemplated when you sent me the mail. I also have to tell you that, even if I didn't warn you at the beginning, that I don't consider myself an expert in stem cells and that therefore my opinions shouldn't be regarded too seriously. Even so, dear friend, just think that stem cells are, whatever I may say, a nature's mystery that deserves all the attention of eminent scientists who leave all their energy in the search of sculptors.

Always yours,


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Happy new year!!

And here we are again! A bit cold, but Barcelona is still much better than London (where I spent New Year's eve freezing!).
Back at the PRBB, and here's some of the novelties.

- We had a Xmas lunch on December 21, just before the break. Plenty of people devoring the food there was, and enjoying the shows: the PRBB choir singing and the new group of African rythms playing the djembe live. The theater group (called PeRaBaBaus) had also prepared a fantastic video (will post it here later on, watch out for it!), very short but very funny and meaningful - you´ll love it! Here´s some pics:

- The CRG organized for the first time a competition for sculptures based on the structure of DNA. The competition aimed to encourage young people to discover the beauty and complexity of the DNA molecule by exploring new ways of communication and using art as a means of expression, and it was directed to schools. In this first edition, over 180 students participated and submitted a total of 52 sculptures divided in 4 categories. The winners for each category collected their awards on December 14 in a public event sponsored by the PRBB that took place at the park’s conference hall. All of the works where fantastic, and

the winner and finalist sculptures have been displayed at the PRBB reception since then. From this January on, the exhibition will travel to several schools to show the beauty of DNA and to strengthen the links between art and science.

 That's it for now. Have a wonderful 2010, and I hope to see you around here, and I promise to be more constant, too! (that is, until I have my baby!!!!)