Rogue Cells – Techniquest, March 2020

Tenovus, a Welsh cancer charity supporting patients and their families, recently teamed up with the Cardiff-based science discovery centre Techniquest to host an adult only evening event to give the public and insight into cancer research and science in general. Show Me The Science were invited to this event to put on a few activities and also bring along our trusted Giant Microbes as an introduction to microbiology for the general public.  

With myself working in Oral Pathology and dealing with head and neck cancers and Daniel’s microbiology expertise, we wanted to create an inter-disciplinary activity related to HPV (Human Papilloma Virus), causative virus of cervical cancers (among others). Although there are many strains of HPV, it’s HPV 16 & 18 which are high risk and can cause some head and neck cancers. We developed a HPV quiz and used a marble run so see if people got the right answer.

We took along our Giant Microbes which included our T4 bacteriophage which is currently being looked into as a cancer treatment so we felt it was really important to talk about this virus. We also wanted to highlight the importance of infection control so had our trusty powder and UV torches there, this time though we expanded on the activity. We invited people to leave their thumb imprint on some nutrient agar and then incubated these plates over the weekend. Each person was allocated a number which ties up with the imprint section on the agar plate, the results were great and we love that this activity worked as well as it did. A huge thank you to all that took part…….and here’s how the imprints looked! Bear in mind that as a microbiologist, Daniel has looked at them all and nothing seems out of the ordinary!! Lots of typical skin bacteria, environmental bacteria – all of which are the yellow/off white coloured spots. Looking great though!! And some of you are less clean than others!!

Let us know your thoughts on this by tweeting us @ShowMeTheSci and using the hashtags #ShowMeTheScience and #RogueCells