Video transcript: The Roslin Institute

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July 2011

Professor David Hume, Director, The Roslin Institute
The Roslin Institute is one of the leading animal science institutes in the world. It is probably the best known brand in animal sciences and our objective is really to improve the sustainable production of animals, to improve animal welfare and to translate the outcomes into improved human health.

Video shows the new Roslin building

In 2011, the Roslin Institute will occupy a new state of the art £60M research building. It's an iconic building, its one that will be instantly recognisable which I think is actually important.

Video shows stills of 'Dolly' the sheep

The Roslin Institute is obviously associated with Dolly the sheep but, in fact, what we are best known for in the scientific field is qualitative genetics with pioneers applications of genetic markers selection to improvement of live stock. We're not solely in the business of making animals grow faster or produce more meat per unit input, we're also looking at making them more resistant to disease, in fact, healthier so this is actually an animal welfare issue as well as a production issue. A happy animal actually grows faster.

Professor Alan Archibald, Head of Division, The Roslin Institute
The division of genetics and genomics maintains, if you like, the division of the institute. We have been big in animal genetics and animal breeding for 50 odd years now.

Video shows various clips of a herd of sheep grazing in a field

If one was to look back over the past 50 or 60 years you would see astonishing improvements in the productivity of farm animals, the way they convert plant material into meat, the number of piglets we should get out of a sow in a year. We have seen changes of the order of 50-100% in some of these traits. We need to continue to improve those because the demand for food is increasing across the planet.

Professor David Hume, Director, The Roslin Institute
The Roslin Institute has four research divisions which were formed when we joined the University of Edinburgh. One of them is the Neuropathogenesis Division which is very well known for its work on transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, otherwise knows as mad cow disease and scrapie and the human CJD.

Professor Jean Manson, Head of Division, The Roslin Institute
It is important to study TSE diseases in animals for two reasons. One reason is we still need to understand the mechanism of these diseases in their own right which we don't. We need to understand when they alter, when the cross the species barrier, when they mutate and become zoonotic,

Video shows microscope views of red spots on a mouse brain indicating Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)

...but also what the TSEs provide us with is a model where we can understand the early process of these diseases.

Video shows two slides, side-by-side. On the left is a normal neuron, on the right is an infected neuron with TSE disease

Another area that the TSEs link into is the ageing process because many of the TSE diseases are of old animals. Interestingly, variant CJD reversed that in that it was young people it was associated with and we don't understand how age relates to the neurodegenerative process. Many of neurodegenerative diseases are clearly diseases of ageing so its understanding the ageing process and how ageing might exacerbate neurodegeneration.

Professor David Hume, Director, The Roslin Institute
The qualitative genetics division includes arc genomics which is the major centre in the UK for livestock genome studies.

Video shows a monitor displaying a 3-D graphic of an embryo

The developmental biology is where Dolly the sheep came but nowadays we have many programmes on stem cell biology and fundamental developmental biology especially of birds and the infection and immunity division deals mainly with endemic diseases so we have very substantial relationships with the Institute for Animal Health. The Institute for Animal Health focuses mainly on exotic viral diseases and we focus mainly on endemic diseases many of which actually are also important for human health.

Dr Bernadette Dutia, Group Leader, The Roslin Institute
We have quite a big programme here at Roslin on influenza viruses, we have ICHAIR, the Interdisciplinary Centre for Human and Avian Influenza Research which is a collaboration between the University of Edinburgh, the University of St Andrews and the University of Glasgow which brings together people working on basic pathogens which is what I work on, as well as people working on modelling and epidemiology and people working on systems biology in the influenza field.

Professor David Hume, Director, The Roslin Institute
The Roslin Institute is a multidisciplinary institute and that's actually what makes us unique. It's a big organisation so we are over 400 people now,

Video shows various clips of scientists working in the Roslin labs

...we are associated with the leading vet school in the United Kingdom and the leading medical school and so we can actually bring many different disciplines to there and that's really what gives us the power to make a difference and that's recognised by major interactions with animal breeding companies such as Aviagen and Genis, companies that are very important to the United Kingdom's economy. The major animal breeding companies based in the UK are very large export owners.

We are interested in the potential to use stem cells for understanding basic biology and within the institute we currently have pig, sheep, rat, mouse, dog, cat, horse - various forms of stem cells. In each case we are interested in potential therapeutic applications, biotechnology applications but also simply to understand how it works and what we are already discovering is that every animal species is different so when we talk about a stem cell in humans and mice they are not the same and when we understand that we gain a fundamental insight into biology; exactly how do you start with one cell and end up with a whole organism.