Jason Johal gives you tips and advice on how to build a career in the stem cell sector, where the majority of businesses are located, what types of stem cell jobs are available and the types of skills employers are looking for:
Stem cells have the remarkable potential to develop into many different cell types in the body during early life and growth. In addition, in many tissues they serve as a sort of internal repair system, dividing essentially without limit to replenish other cells as long as the person or animal is still alive. When a stem cell divides, each new cell has the potential either to remain a stem cell or become another type of cell with a more specialized function, such as a muscle cell, a red blood cell, or a brain cell.
Stem cells are distinguished from other cell types by two important characteristics. First, they are unspecialized cells capable of renewing themselves through cell division, sometimes after long periods of inactivity. Second, under certain physiologic or experimental conditions, they can be induced to become tissue- or organ-specific cells with special functions. In some organs, such as the gut and bone marrow, stem cells regularly divide to repair and replace worn out or damaged tissues. In other organs, however, such as the pancreas and the heart, stem cells only divide under special conditions.
Where are most companies located?
There are hubs of academic research institutes and businesses (Spin outs, SMEs and larger organisations) in Edinburgh, Loughborough, Keele, Nottingham, Cardiff, Cambridge and London with more and more universities offering courses.
This is a subject that will be at the top of drug development and drug sales lists as research is undertaken to help with disease ranging from diabetes, heart disease, cancer, brittle bones and Parkinsons, along with many others.
What skills do employers look for?
Stem Cell Research, Regenerative Medicines, Cell Therapies, Cell Culture, Molecular Biology, Biochemical Engineering, Cell Engineering, Analytical Development, Process Science, GMP Manufacture, Clean Room/Aseptic, Tissue Culture, Biochemistry, T-Cells etc.