Alum Dr. David Scadden discusses stem cell research

Maja Ostojic, Contributing Writer

Dr. David T. Scadden Jr. ’75 said how a biological stem cell has the capacity to specialize into any cell and that all cells in the body derive from them on March 25.

Scadden stressed the importance of biological stem cells to life. “Life without stem cells would last approximately 4 weeks,” Scadden said.

These cells create and maintain every organ, making them essential to life. They have the capacity to specialize into any cell. “A single cell can restore the blood and immune system of one individual,” Scadden explained. 

Previously, scientists believed that the stem cell specialization process was irreversible. Once a stem cell fully developed into a particular cell of an organ (i.e. cardiac, liver, stomach, etc.), the stem cell permanently maintained that state.

But with the recent discoveries made by Shinya Yamanaka and Nobel Prize winner John Burdon, scientific research indicates otherwise. Their work supports the hypothesis that stem cells have the ability to reprogram to their original or pluripotent stage after already undergoing the specialization process.

Scadden explained how stem cells serve as an enormous renewable energy source based on these recent findings. Stem cells have the ability to be used in transplant and regenerative medicine in order to help grow new tissue. Essentially, stem cells are cell populations that have the capacity to be fundamentally different than anything else in medicine, as Dr. Scadden said.

 “I thought Dr. Scadden’s talk was incredibly interesting and cutting-edge. He also carried himself very well,” Hannah Bohr ’14 said. 

“Dr. Scadden’s lecture addressed the fact that while stem cell research is still in its early stages, much expansion of the science has already occurred. I’m curious to see how this technology will develop to impact larger issues,” Maddie Coffin ’14 said. 

Dr. Scadden is the Co-Director of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, the Director of the Center for Regenerative Medicine, and the Director of the Hematologic Malignancies & Experimental Hematology. His specialties at the Cancer Center include: lymphoma, multiple myeloma, hematology, and leukemia. He has written over 250 papers, and holds over 20 patents. He has also been a Bucknell Board of Trustees member since 2008.

Scadden concluded his talk by thanking the University. He expressed gratitude for the knowledge and creativity that the institution instilled in him during his time as as an undergraduate student. Particularly as an English major that went into the science field, he felt that he a large advantage that enabled him to communicate with others.

“It is here that I learned a great joy about ideas,” Scadden said.

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