Douglas Melton, Professor of the Natural Sciences, Harvard University (April 10, 2007 at Princeton University) Description: Douglas Melton discusses the biology and public policy challenges surrounding stem cell research. The potential of human embryonic stem cells for understanding human development and finding new therapies will be presented. Dr. Melton is a cell and molecular biologist as well as an advocate of embryonic stem cell research. His research focuses on the developmental biology of the pancreas. One of the primary goals of his work is to understand how human embryonic stem cells differentiate into pancreatic beta (insulin-producing) cells. An understanding of this process has implications for the treatment of type 1 diabetes, and a major limitation on research has been the number and quality of available human embryonic stem cell lines. Through private funding from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and a partnership between the institute, Harvard, and the Boston In Vitro Fertility Clinic, Melton and his colleagues have been able to develop additional embryonic stem cell lines. Melton has testified in Congress against current restrictions on the use of federal funds to support human embryonic stem cell research. He is also working on a method of producing stem cells that does not require human embryos, thereby avoiding some of the controversy in the stem cell debate.
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