Sunday, 22 August 2010

All I want is a bike somewhere, far away from the cold night air, with one enormous chair, oh wouldn't it be lovely

Waking up in my own bed was like returning to the womb. I had tea in my very own, very large, very 'now' bang on trend London mug. I had a shower and marvelled at the little pieces of me still clogged in the plughole (it was so good to be home).

We had an 11 o'clock date with cancer (I have already copyrighted this phrase for a book title before you whipper snappers think about stealing it). We were heading to the Lincoln's Field Institute in High Holborn, which was our penultimate institute tour (the ultimate being Southampton, where we will be rewarded our PHD).

We met the super-duper Nancy of CRUKWALTON twitter fame outside the centre; Nancy has been so wonderfully supportive and has given us lots of tips which have gone towards making our project a success, we owe her many thanks.

Lincoln's Field does a lot of work with Fruit flies; the most wonderful thing about fruit flies is that a generation occurs every two weeks, which means gene therapy experimentation produces clear results in a short space of time. The idea is that DNA can be spliced into new pairings using a heat sensitive enzyme found commonly in the body. The new DNA sequence can then send a signal which in turn repairs the gene mutation. We thought it was pretty extraordinary that researchers can literally order any DNA sequence they like, for as much as £1 per sequence.

We learnt a lot more about the relationship between cancer and stem cells, which we had touched on in Birmingham. Stem cells are very clever little buggers; as you know they have the potential to be anything the body wants them to be, liver tissue, lung tissue, willy tissue etc. They are also the cells most vulnerable to mutation, and more likely to manifest the 'selfish gene' profile (all our cells have an almost primordial memory telling them that they need to divide and multiply, it is only though top down Gene control that they are prevented from doing this, however there is also a lot of self-organisation among cells which means they can be a law unto themselves). If a mutation occurs in the Stem cell genes which disrupt the top down governing then the self organisation of the cell can cause malignant cancer, uncontrolled growth, invasion of 'normal' tissue and metastasis (spreading to other locations). So lung cancer is not lung tissue which becomes cancerous, but rather stem cells which were supposed to be lung cells becoming cancerous. For example, in the skin there are stem cells below the surface waiting to become new skin cells. If we expose ourselves to high doses of UV radiation then the DNA sequence in the Stem cells goes wrong so that when the stem cells go to become skin cells they actually become cancerous. The problem is, when stem cells divide they make one new cell, i.e. skin, lung, willy, but also another one of themselves - this causes aggressive cancer proliferation. If the right DNA sequence can be inserted into the affected area then the mutation can be repaired.

Once again we were overawed by the work being done; we really felt part of one massive puzzle!

With another lovely lunch inside us we departed for Covent Garden to meet our Juice Doctor friends and rattle our buckets. I won't lie it was hard to get into the market square, but never one to admit defeat I navigated us through the countless bollards. Sadly we encountered some street entertainer abuse 'do I come into your office for charity'? No, you are obviously a mean balloon man who would never do anything for charity. We quickly forgot about Mr Nasty and hooked up with the Juice doctor ambulance (there weren’t as many pretty nurses as we might have liked, so we made do with Paddy).

Juice Doctor gave out 1200 bottles for free, which was amazing, and it was great to have them supporting us through the busy London streets. We had our picture taken outside the transport museum, and ferried around my favourite demographic; hen party ladies. We rode down Whitehall and tried to do a circuit of Downing St - maybe it was the sub machine guns but I don't think the police were pleased to see us. Instead we cycled around Parliament square, now guarded day and night by bailiffs.
We crossed Westminster Bridge and anchored ourselves on my old stomping ground, the Southbank. A little boy ran up to us and said ‘my mum had cancer so I’m allowed to come on’, we couldn’t really argue with that so he hopped on and was soon joined by his two brothers and his mum, now in remission which is great news (she said it was worth all the chemo to get on the bike, I think she was joking). We also bumped into Jacqui Cutcher (sporting a new hair cut and highlights) and Martyn Cutcher, it was their wedding anniversary, ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

The Southbank skate park was very tempting, but we had forgotten our baggy trousers and beanie hats, so we weren’t allowed in. Instead we were granted permission to cycle round the ‘Watch this space’ astro turf area outside the National and then we watched Motion Houses ‘chaser’ which was brilliant. We had a quick fish supper by Waterloo station where we said goodbye to Lotte who had been helping us all day.
We crossed back over the bridge and took two lovely Australians to Leicester square; they were very fearful about the result of the election – according to them both candidates for PM are clinically mad. I pointed this was better than our election where all three were pretty much brain dead.
We whiled away the next two hours combing the West End and delving in to centres of vice and scandal. By 10pm we went to pick up the van; the bucket felt about as heavy as Edinburgh, so hopefully we got close to the £2000 mark today.

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