In the 1980s, Douglas A. Melton, Ph.D., was a developmental biologist, identifying genes important for cell fate determination. And he was good at it. But then something happened that would change his life forever.
In 1991, his 6-month-old son, Sam, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D).
It was shocking. But Dr. Melton wanted a way that he could make a difference in the disease. So, slowly, he began to change his research into the biology of the pancreas.
T1D has two main problems: (1) how to replace the beta cells destroyed by the body so the pancreas can again produce insulin, and (2) how to stop the body from destroying beta cells. Melton decided to focus on the first part of the problem—how to produce more beta cells.
His laboratory worked for years to figure out how to turn stem cells into functional beta cells. And, in 2014, he published a paper that outlines how to do it. He can now produce unlimited quantities of human beta cells, which has opened up a path to new approaches for T1D therapies.
He now wants to find a way to evade the immune attack when he transplants these cells into people. It’s not an easy task.
See Dr. Melton talk about his research and how he hopes that we will find a cure for T1D in our lifetime, by watching the video below, and by visiting our site: Meet the Scientists.
JDRF’s funding enables promising scientists, like Doug, to focus their talent, ambition, and passion on improving life with T1D. Learn more about the researchers we fund, and learn how you can support their work to prevent, treat, and—one day—find cures for T1D.