The MIT Technology Review spoke with Doug Melton, a director at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, about the status of stem cell research and its future applications to fight specific diseases.
TR: Where will this field go in the future?
DM: I think it will change the way degenerative diseases are studied–we’ll reduce the whole process of disease to a petri dish. Within a few years, researchers the world over should have access to disease-specific cells that can be turned into cell types defective in a particular disease.
We can also start to study environmental factors. We know sun is important for skin cancer, and smoking is important for lung cancer. But what do we know about Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, ALS, and diabetes? That’s hard to study in people because there is a long time between the proximal cause and effect.
Now, scientists can start to think more about how to look at environmental factors in a dish. Let’s take food, oxidative insults, pesticides, and extracts and ask how they affect the cells. Scientists can also screen for drugs that slow or stop degeneration of those cells. If that were successful–and now we’re talking about a decade-long project–you could make a drug that would slow or stop disease progression.
Read the whole thing at MIT Tech Review…
Additionally, we found a discussion Charlie Rose held with Doug Melton and a few other luminaries in the field in May of this year: