Monday, 28 June 2004

Friday – it’s hard to wake up, despite the alarm being the same time as normal.

Back to the stand, there’s minimal inerest, but that’s what we expected. Manage to work on the laptop for a while, then go into the conference for some of the more interesting presentations. Most interesting was the recent findings that foetal stem cells not only move into the maternal circulation, but appear to persist and actually perform some protective functions in the mother’s body. There was some excellent work done using mice and a special imaging system showing where foetal cells were assisting in healing just 6 days after the mouse became pregnant. This work has only been done in the last 3 months, and is of considerable importance in understanding the processes involved in reproduction.

There was also some amazing work done by a group in Hong Kong that were isolating foetal DNA from maternal circulation to allow them to identify whether the foetus was suffering all kinds of genetic conditions (they were investigating thalassaemia). This is of key interest, because it might make it possible to replace the presently hazardous methods of CVS or amniotic fluid sampling with a simple sample of maternal blood. Another worker’s results were rubbished somewhat publicly, and I spoke (purely by coincidence) with a colleague of the guy that had been put down, and he accepted this quite philosophically. This sort of things seem very common in the science world these days, and I have seen otherwise eminent and respectable scientists to take childish pot shots at each other from the lecturn.

In the evening a soiree to a ballet had been arranged, however since neither William (the MD) and I appreciate ballet we decided to walk round Budapest. Rain had started during the day, and by evening the streets were pretty sodden. We squelched over one of the bridges spanning the Danube and wandered over to the Gelert Hotel, which has a swimming pool fed by a natural hot spring. Entry here was refused (it was shut) so we just kept walking. For 2 hours. Guess we got to see plenty of Budapest. Eventually the sun came out, and it grew warm before we headed off for dinner.

The city seems very like the way I remember Vienna from my last visit in 1967 (aged 5) with just a few concessions to modernity, such as graffiti sprayed on many walls and buildings. There was littler evidence of rubbish, but most building more than a few years old were in need of repair, and it was common to see holes in plasterwork or even areas where sections of ornamentation had fallen off completely. Many buildings were originally decorated in typical mittel Europe style, with plaster mouldings and ornate doors. This is normally highly attractive, but here it was a sad reminder of greater times, now past.

Many people also look poor, and vagrants were quite common in places. Prices of many things seem very similar to the UK, but I’d bet that wages certainly aren’t. A sign of things bubbling under the surface is the number of ‘nightclubs’ offering table dancing.

On our return to the hotel, we found that Greece were beating France in their European cup game, and to our considerable pleasure, they held that lead to the end. There were some Greeks at the conference, and they were celebrating very enthusiastically.

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