Return to Communications Center

Speaker Doug Melton Making Frontpage News

Reported today in the Boston Globe, TEDxBeaconStreet alum Doug Melton is making groundbreaking progress in the battle to end type 1 diabetes. His research will inform the rest of the scientific community and serve as a critical stepping stone on the path to a cure.  Stirring news for those living with or watching a loved one manage the disease (Melton’s own inspiration).  In addition to local coverage, the world is taking note and sharing in the excitement over his pioneering work and potentially game-changing approach. By transforming stem cells into insulin-regulating pancreatic cells, patients’ own bodies are redesigned to keep insulin stabilized as opposed to lifelong reliance on injections.

 Stem-Cell Breakthrough in Treatment of Diabetes  –  Harvard Magazine‎

Scientists Coax Human Embryonic Stem Cells Into Making Insulin  –  NPR

Cure for Type 1 diabetes imminent after Harvard stem-cell breakthrough  –  Telegraph.co.uk‎


Boston Globe Excerpt “Stem cell research offers hope on type 1 diabetes”:


Harvard researcher Douglas Melton developed a process that starts with stem cells and results in pancreatic cells that secrete insulin.

When his two children were stricken with type 1 diabetes, Harvard stem cell scientist Douglas Melton says, he did what any father would want to do: He set out to cure the disease.

After 15 years of effort, including some false starts and regulatory hurdles, Melton has taken a major step toward that goal.

In a paper published in the journal Cell on Thursday, he reported a step-by-step procedure that starts with stem cells and results in hundreds of millions of the precious pancreatic cells that secrete the hormone insulin, keeping blood sugar levels in balance. It is the lack of insulin produced by those cells, called beta cells, that lies at the root of type 1 diabetes.

Ultimately, the hope is those cells could be transplanted into diabetes patients and allow them to create insulin naturally, creating a paradigm shift in treating a disease currently kept in check by insulin injections.

Melton cautions that the work is still years from being tested in patients and many challenges, scientific and practical, remain. But he is gratified to have reached this point and even more motivated to continue, so as not to disappoint the millions of people who suffer from type 1 diabetes, which is usually diagnosed in children and young adults.

“We’re tired of curing mice,” Melton said in an interview. “Most patients are sick of hearing that something’s just around the corner; I’m sick of thinking things are just around the corner. But I do believe in the big picture.”

Melton hopes the cells could be ready to be tested in people in a few years. Already, cells are being transplanted into primates through a collaboration with a researcher in Chicago.

Melton’s work is expected to energize the diabetes research community.

Dieter Egli, assistant professor in the pediatrics department at Columbia University Medical Center, said his laboratory will try to repeat Melton’s experiment immediately.

“It’s a wonderful result, something we’ve been waiting for quite awhile,” Egli said.

Read the full article on Boston Globe

(Melton goes on to compare stem cell hacking to baking a chocolate raspberry cake… must read)

For insight into his research and the evolution of this Idea In Action, check out Melton’s fascinating talk from TEDxBeaconStreet 2013: