Douglas A. Melton

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Doug Melton
Douglas A. Melton

(1953-09-26) September 26, 1953 (age 65)
Alma mater
Known forResearch on cure for Type 1 diabetes
Scientific career
ThesisThe expression of transfer RNA genes to other DNAs microinjected into Xenopus oocytes (1979)
Doctoral advisorJohn Gurdon[2]
Notable studentsRichard P. Harvey (postdoc)[3][4]

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 was the first co-chair (with David Scadden) of the Harvard University Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology. Melton is a founder of several biotech companies including Gilead Sciences, Ontogeny (now Curis), iPierian (now True North Therapeutics), and Semma Therapeutics. Melton holds membership in the National Academy of the Sciences,[6] the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and is a founding member of the International Society for Stem Cell Research.[7] With his wife Gail O'Keefe, Melton serves as Co-Master of Eliot House, an undergraduate residence at Harvard College.


Melton grew up in Chicago and completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign in 1975.[1] He was awarded a Marshall Scholarship for study at the University of Cambridge where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in the History and Philosophy of Science in 1977 and a PhD under the supervision of John Gurdon.[2][8]

Career and Research[edit]

Melton's early work was in general developmental biology, identifying genes important for cell fate determination and body pattern. This led to the finding that the nervous system in vertebrates is formed as a default when early embryonic cells do not receive inductive signals to become mesoderm or endoderm.[9] He also pioneered the technique of in vitro transcription with bacterial SP6 RNA polymerase.[10] In the mid-1990s, work in his lab became centered on the development of the pancreas aiming to find new treatments for diabetes.

In 2001 when President George W. Bush cut federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, Melton used private donations to create 17 published[11][12] stem cell lines and distributed them without charge to researchers around 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 the pancreas in terms of their size, shape, ultrastructure, and essential marker genes.[13] Unlike producing beta cells from conventional embryonic stem cells or the more recently developed induced pluripotent stem cell (iPS) technique, Melton's method involved direct cell reprogramming of an adult cell type (exocrine cell) into other adult cell type (beta cell) without reversion to a pluripotent stem cell state.

His current research interests include pancreatic developmental biology and the directed differentiation of human embryonic stem cells, particularly in pertinence to type 1 diabetes. In 2014, he reported a method using human pluripotent stem cells to generate virtually unlimited quantities of insulin-producing beta cells that respond appropriately to a glucose challenge.[14] This is considered a significant step forward in regenerative medicine for the possible treatment of diabetes, including type I diabetes, which afflicts both his children.

Awards and honors[edit]

Melton was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1995. In 2007 and again 2009, Melton was listed among Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People in The World.[15] In 2016, Melton was awarded the Ogawa-Yamanaka Prize in Stem Cell Biology.[16]


  1. ^ a b Doug Melton's Curriculum Vitae
  2. ^ a b Gurdon, J. B.; Melton, D. A. (1981). "Gene transfer in amphibian eggs and oocytes". Annual Review of Genetics. 15: 189–218. doi:10.1146/ PMID 7039494.
  3. ^ Harvey, R.P.; Melton, D.A. (1988). "Microinjection of synthetic Xhox-1A homeobox mRNA disrupts somite formation in developing Xenopus embryos". Cell. 53 (5): 687–697. doi:10.1016/0092-8674(88)90087-6. PMID 2897242.
  4. ^ Rebagliati, M.R.; Weeks, D.L.; Harvey, R.P.; Melton, D.A. (1985). "Identification and cloning of localized maternal RNAs from xenopus eggs". Cell. 42 (3): 769–777. doi:10.1016/0092-8674(85)90273-9. PMID 2414011.
  5. ^ Mossman, K. (2009). "Profile of Clifford Tabin". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 106 (21): 8407–8409. doi:10.1073/pnas.0903946106. PMC 2688980. PMID 19458049.
  6. ^ Douglas A. Melton, Harvard University
  7. ^ Douglas Melton - the Time 100
  8. ^ Melton, Douglas (1979). The expression of transfer RNA genes to other DNAs microinjected into Xenopus oocytes (PhD thesis). University of Cambridge.
  9. ^ Hemmati-Brivanlou, A.; Melton, D. (1997-01-10). "Vertebrate embryonic cells will become nerve cells unless told otherwise". Cell. 88 (1): 13–17. doi:10.1016/s0092-8674(00)81853-x. ISSN 0092-8674. PMID 9019398.
  10. ^ Melton, D. A.; Krieg, P. A.; Rebagliati, M. R.; Maniatis, T.; Zinn, K.; Green, M. R. (1984). "Efficientin vitrosynthesis of biologically active RNA and RNA hybridization probes from plasmids containing a bacteriophage SP6 promoter". Nucleic Acids Research. 12 (18): 7035–7056. doi:10.1093/nar/12.18.7035.
  11. ^ Cowan, C. A.; Klimanskaya, I.; McMahon, J.; Atienza, J.; Witmyer, J.; Zucker, J. P.; Wang, S.; Morton, C. C.; McMahon, A. P.; Powers, D.; Melton, D. A. (2004). "Derivation of Embryonic Stem-Cell Lines from Human Blastocysts". New England Journal of Medicine. 350 (13): 1353–1356. doi:10.1056/NEJMsr040330.
  12. ^ Derivation of Human Embryonic Stem Cells by Immunosurgery
  13. ^ Zhou, Q.; Brown, J.; Kanarek, A.; Rajagopal, J.; Melton, D. A. (2008). "In vivo reprogramming of adult pancreatic exocrine cells to β-cells". Nature. 455 (7213): 627–632. doi:10.1038/nature07314. PMID 18754011.
  14. ^ Pagliuca, Felicia W.; Millman, Jeffrey R.; Gürtler, Mads; Segel, Michael; Van Dervort, Alana; Ryu, Jennifer Hyoje; Peterson, Quinn P.; Greiner, Dale; Melton, Douglas A. (2014-10-09). "Generation of functional human pancreatic β cells in vitro". Cell. 159 (2): 428–439. doi:10.1016/j.cell.2014.09.040. ISSN 1097-4172. PMC 4617632. PMID 25303535.
  15. ^ Fox, M. J. (2007). "Time 100 scientists & thinkers. Douglas Melton". Time. 169 (20): 121. PMID 17536327.
  16. ^ PhD, Dana G. Smith, (2016-09-27). "2016 Ogawa-Yamanaka Stem Cell Prize Awarded to Douglas Melton". Gladstone Institutes. Retrieved 2017-06-29.