Harvard Stem Cells Breakthrough: Diabetes

This recent news from Harvard is a perfect fit for the IBBio course, connecting lots of what we have learned in the course. Watch this short TED Talk from Prof. Doug Melton on how they are using stem cells to create new insulin-producing beta cells. Then read this article from the Harvard Gazette on the most recent developments in their work.

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Goal: Produce a poster, blog post or short presentation to communicate Melton’s team’s breakthrough, including connections to the IBBio course.

Role: You are science communicators.

Audience: Your peers – high school students and teachers.

Scenario: Stem cells and diabetes are both headline-grabbing stories. As we develop more treatments for diseases using stem cells, the public need to be well informed of the reality of what is happening – and inspired by the future.

Product: Large visual poster, blog (500 words with media) or short presentation (4-5 mins).

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Required information

  1. Explain that Type 1 diabetes is “an autoimmune metabolic condition in which the body kills off all the pancreatic beta cells that produce the insulin needed for glucose regulation in the body.” [article, paragraph 14]
  2. Outline the usual treatment needed for type 1 diabetes.
  3. Outline the properties of stem cells.
  4. Explain how stem cells differentiate to become differentiated cells.
  5. Describe the work of Melton’s team to create beta-cell lines derived from stem-cell lines.
  6. Outline the proposed treatment for type 1 diabetes through implanting the newly-produced beta-cells.
  7. Discuss any caveats or limitations to the method.
  8. Discuss any ethical implications for the use of stem cells in this manner.
  9. Define any new or technical terms used (or discovered in your research) for the audience.

Going Further

  • Distinguish between type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
  • Evaluate whether this method would be as effective for type 2 diabetes as for type 1, with reasons.

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Teacher Notes

  • This could be used to teach part of the homeostasis topic once students know about stem cells, or as a review tool for later in the course.
  • Students should refer to the subject guide to check their use of terminology and to regulate the depth of explanation.

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Connecting Type II Diabetes

Here is Doug Melton talking about how we might use hormones to treat Type II diabetes:

About Stephen

Director of Learning & MYP Coordinator at Canadian Academy, Kobe, Japan. Formerly MYP HS Science & IBDP Bio teacher and missing it terribly. Twitterist (@sjtylr), dad and bloggerer.

Posted on October 10, 2014, in 02 Cells, Differentiation, Human Health & Physiology (Core & AHL), Immunity & Immune System, Stem Cells and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Thank you ! I just read a Nat Geo article about it this morning 🙂

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