Sometimes I imagine famous scientists and doctors from the past magically catching a glimpse of our modern world. Sure it's fun to picture their gawping faces, but the daydream also helps remind me that we take so much for granted these days. And, in fact, it illustrates the incredible pace of discovery, because you don't even have to go very far back in time before you are in a completely different era.

This week's contribution is about one such discovery.

Scientists at Riken's Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe have grown a vital part of the human brain from scratch. Well, actually, not quite from scratch. The team have coaxed human embryonic stem cells — essential cells in our body that have the capability to grow into any particular cell — into developing the cell type and structure necessary to replicate a working pituitary gland. Or, as they describe it, a functioning three-dimensional pituitary-like structure.