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May 30, 2003
Role of Stem Cells in Diabetes Treatment Topic of June 6th Lecture at the Marine Biological Laboratory

WOODS HOLE, MA—Harvard University professor Douglas Melton will speak about the role of stem cells in pancreatic development and diabetes treatment at a lecture on June 6 at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL).  The lecture will be held at 8:00 PM in the Laboratory’s Lillie Auditorium, located on MBL Street in Woods Hole.  The presentation is free and open to the public.  A reception will follow the lecture in the MBL’s Swope Conference Center.

All of our tissues and organs maintain their proper cell numbers by a balance between cell death and cell replacement.  In this process of continuous renewal, stem cells provide new cells to replace those that have died naturally or by disease. The aim of Melton’s research is to understand how stem cells make the pancreas during development and how they maintain the organ in adults.  Melton’s goal is to use this information to make more pancreatic cells, specifically, the pancreatic beta cell that makes insulin.  This approach speaks to basic questions about organ development and is relevant to possible cell replacement therapies for diabetes.

After years of work aimed at understanding how genes set up the body pattern of the early frog embryo, Melton is now focused on the goal of making pancreatic tissue in culture for transplantation into people with diabetes.  This challenging project involves understanding the embryonic formation of the pancreas and the role of stem cells in pancreatic development.
Melton is an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Thomas Dudley Cabot Professor in the Natural Sciences at Harvard University.  He is also a co-director of Harvard's Center for Genomic Research and Associate Director of the JDRF/Harvard Islet Transplantation Center.

Born in Chicago, Melton earned a bachelor's degree in biology from the University of Illinois and then went to Cambridge University in England as a Marshall Scholar.  He earned a B.A. in history and philosophy of science at Cambridge and remained there to earn a Ph.D. in molecular biology at Trinity College and the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology.  He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, and the author of over 100 publications.

The Marine Biological Laboratory is an independent scientific institution, founded in 1888, that undertakes the highest level of creative research and education in biology, including the biomedical and environmental sciences.