Douglas A. Melton

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Douglas A. Melton
Born September 26, 1953
Fields Stem cell biology, Developmental biology
Institutions Harvard Stem Cell Institute
Harvard University
Howard Hughes Medical Institute
National Academy of Sciences
Alma mater

University of Illinois, B.S. Cambridge University, B.A.

Cambridge University, Ph.D.
Doctoral advisor John Gurdon
Notable awards George Ledlie Prize
Richard Lounsbery Award
Eliot P. Joslin Medal
Marshall Scholarship

Douglas A. Melton is the Xander University Professor at Harvard University, and an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Additionally, Melton serves as the co-director of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute and the co-chair of the Harvard University Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology.

Melton serves on the Scientific Advisory Board of the Genetics Policy Institute, holds membership in the National Academy of the Sciences, and is a founding member of the International Society for Stem Cell Research.

Under a Marshall Scholarship, Melton did his PhD under John Gurdon at the University of Cambridge. Melton's early work in the 1980s pioneered the technique of in vitro transcription.[1] This later shifted to general developmental biology research in Xenopus, and eventually in the mid-1990s, became centered on the development of the pancreas.

His current research interests include pancreatic developmental biology and the directed differentiation of human embryonic stem cells, particularly in pertinence to type 1 diabetes, which afflicts both his children.

In 2001 when President George W. Bush cut federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, Melton used private donations to create 17 published[2] stem cell lines and distribute them without charge to researchers around the world.

In 2007 and 2009, Melton was listed among Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People in The World.

In August 2008, Melton's lab published successful in vivo reprogramming of adult mice exocrine pancreatic cells into insulin secreting cells which closely resembled endogenous islet beta cells of pancreas in terms of their size, shape, ultrastructure and essential marker genes.[3] Unlike producing beta cells from conventional embryonic stem cells or recently developed induced pluripotent stem cell (iPS) technique, Melton's unique method involved direct cell reprogramming of adult cell type (exocrine cell) into other adult cell type (beta cell) without reversion to a pluripotent stem cell state. His team used a specific combination of three transcription factors, Ngn3 (or Neurog3), Pdx1 and Mafa for such direct cell reprogramming to yield cells capable of secreting insulin and remodelling local vasculature in pancreas to counteract hyperglycemia and diabetes.

In 2013, the Melton group reported the discovery of Betatrophin, a hormone that signals the proliferation of insulin-producing Beta cells.



  1. ^ Melton, D.A. et al. "Efficient in vitro synthesis of biologically active RNA and RNA hybridization probes from plasmids containing a bacteriophage SP6 promoter", Nuc Acids Res 1984; 12(18):7035-7056.
  2. ^ Cowan, C.A. et al. "Derivation of Embryonic Stem-Cell Lines from Human Blastocysts", N Engl J Med 2004; 350:1353-1356.
  3. ^ Zhou Q et al., In vivo reprogramming of adult pancreatic exocrine cells to beta cells, Nature 2008, doi:10.1038/nature07314

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