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Steve Chaplin
University Communications

Last modified: Friday, October 23, 2009

IU Biocomplexity event goes public with timely 'Legacy of Frankenstein' talk Thursday

Oct. 23, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- If "surgical manipulation of body parts . . . resurrection of life . . . the ethical consequences of engaging powers we've yet to morally know how to use" reads like a lead-in for a Halloween movie marathon then the public can expect much more next week when biologist David Stocum presents on the seasonally-timed topic of "The Legacy of Frankenstein: Regenerative Biology and Medicine."

Legacy of Frankenstein

Stocum, director of the Indiana University Center for Regenerative Biology and Medicine, uses cellular and molecular analysis to study why, among other things, creatures like salamanders and frog tadpoles have the ability to regenerate limbs while froglets, mice and, well, humans, remain deficient at the process.

Stocum will speak from 7:30-9 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 29, in room 119 of Swain West (727 East Third St.).

He will deliver his public lecture as part of the Oct. 28-Nov. 1 Biocomplexity X Workshop hosted by The Biocomplexity Institute at IU, according to institute Director James Glazier, who is also an IU professor of physics and adjunct professor of informatics and biology.

"In his public lecture, David Stocum will trace these themes -- surgical manipulation, resurrection and the bioethical consequences -- through the technology of organ and cell transplants, the quest for a universal cell donor through embryological resurrection and to the vision of the chemical induction of regeneration directly at the site of injury," Glazier said. "We think it's a fascinating topic that should offer some intrigue to the general public."

Stocum said examples that progress is being made are plentiful. One is called chemical induction, where the cellular environment that promotes scarring is changed to one that inhibits scarring and promotes regeneration. There are also animals that have the ability to turn certain types of cells into stem cells that can then regenerate tissue after an injury.

"A good example is a salamander, which regenerates limbs through a mechanism called dedifferentiation," Stocum said. "After amputation, skeletal, muscle and skin cells at the site of amputation dedifferentiate to become stem cells, which then proliferate and undergo differentiation to form an exact copy of the parts that were amputated."

Stocum's lab is currently studying the proteins that are expressed in the axolotl salamander during the dedifferentiation process.

David Stocum

David Stocum, director of IU's Center for Regenerative Biology and Medicine, will discuss progress in limb regeneration during a public presentation Thursday (Oct. 29) that is part of the six-day Biocomplexity X Workshop at IU Bloomington.

"Once we know, this information hopefully can be applied to mammals like ourselves to stimulate a similar reprogramming after amputation of a finger, for example," he said.

Out of the public eye during the Biocomplexity X Workshop will be six days of speakers, breakout sessions and plenary discussions focused on bringing together experimentalists and modelers working on varying aspects of developmental biology related to tissue and organ development, homeostasis, regeneration and diseases related to developmental mechanisms.

In addition to Stocum's public address, also expected to present during the workshop are Vanderbilt University's Shane Hutson ("Modeling microsurgical interventions in morphogenesis"), Robert Murphy of Carnegie Mellon University, Nadine Peyriéras of the Institut des Systèmes Complexes de Paris Ile-de-France, Octavian Voiculesco of University College London ("Shaping the early amniote embryo: A model based on defined cell behaviours") and Trish Whetzel of Stanford.

For more information about the workshop, visit The Biocomplexity Institute Web site at