Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Coláiste Ríoga na Máinleá in Éirinn

Cambridge Professor, Brian J Ford, speaks at RCSI's Annual Public Outreach Lecture

09 June 2011

Human cells capable of "independent thought" may unlock secrets to disease

RCSI's Annual Public Outreach Lecture 2011, entitled "Genius of the Cell" took place in the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) on, Wednesday, 8th June 2011. The lecture was delivered by Professor Brian J Ford, a renowned research biologist based at University of Cambridge who has a remarkable theory that the seat of human intelligence lies, not within communities of cells like a brain, but within each single living cell. This theory that cells can think independently of the brain may lead to a greater understanding of many disease processes.

Speaking ahead of his lecture, Professor Ford said: "Single cells in plants and animals have shown remarkable ability to perform complex tasks. Single-celled amoeba can build perfectly symmetrical homes for themselves using sand and there are algae that use a form of problem-solving ingenuity to repair neighbouring cells that become damaged."

 Professor Brian J Ford
Pictured is Professor Brian J Ford as he delivers the Annual Public Outreach Lecture 2011

"In humans, conventional wisdom has suggested that the brain is like a supercomputer powered by the interaction of a community of brain cells. However, I believe that the power to process data in the brain may come from each brain cell itself, rather than the interaction between them and the brain is more like a vast community of microscopic computers. As a result, the human brain may be a trillion times more complex and intricate than we have previously imagined," Professor Ford continued.

Professor John Kelly and Professor Brian J Ford
Pictured (l-r) are Professor John Kelly, Director of Research, RCSI and Professor Brian J Ford.

"By studying whole cells, rather than looking ever closer inside them at their molecular and genetic make-up, scientists may unlock many of the mysteries of human health and understanding of disease processes," Professor Ford concluded.

At the lecture, Professor Ford illustrated his theory with remarkable videos, which presents a new view of cells that opens up a vista of future biology that shows all life, including ourselves, in a dramatic new light.

The Annual Outreach Lecture, which is organised by the Research Office at RCSI aims to promote an awareness and interest in research and science to the wider community in an informative and entertaining way. Professor John Kelly, Director of Research at RCSI said "I am delighted to have a scientist of Professor Ford's calibre speaking at this year's lecture. Not only is Professor Ford a world-renowned scientist, but he also has the ability to convert difficult scientific concepts into language non-scientists can grasp and he brings science to life with remarkable footage of living cells as we have never seen them before."