Douglas A. Melton, PhD
Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Research in our laboratory focuses on the developmental biology of the pancreas. We wish to understand how the pancreas normally develops and use that information to grow and develop pancreatic cells (islets of Langerhans). One goal is to understand how vertebrates make an organ from undifferentiated embryonic cells. A longer-term goal has practical significance: if our studies are successful, it should be possible to apply our conclusions to human cells and provide a source of insulin-producing beta-cells for diabetics.
Our main challenge is to understand the precursor or stem cells that give rise to the pancreas and to characterize the key gene products that specify cell fates and functions during organogenesis. To this end, we use several vertebrate organisms, including frogs and chickens but the majority of our studies are done with mice and human embryonic stem cells. We use a wide variety of techniques, including functional genomics, chemical screening, tissue explants and grafting for analyzing inductive signals, and developmental genetics for direct assays of gene function. The aim of all our experiments is to understand the genes, cells, and tissues that direct pancreatic organogenesis.
Dr. Melton is the Xander University Professor at Harvard and an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute . He is also a co-director of Harvard's Stem Cell Institute and Co-Chair of the Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology at Harvard.
Dr. 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 BA in history and philosophy of science at Cambridge and remained there to earn a PhD in molecular biology at Trinity College and the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology.
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