Regenerative medicine has come a long way, baby

Regenerative medicine has come a long way, baby

After a cloned baby sheep, what started as one of the most controversial areas in medicine is now promising to transform it.

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The field of regenerative medicine had a shaky start. In 2002, when news spread about the first cloned animal, Dolly the sheep, a raucous debate ensued. Scary headlines and organized opposition groups put pressure on government leaders, who responded by tightening restrictions on this type of research.

Fast forward to today, and regenerative medicine, which focuses on making unhealthy tissues and organs healthy again, is rewriting the code to healing many disorders, though it’s still young enough to be considered nascent. What started as one of the most controversial areas in medicine is now promising to transform it.

Progress in the lab has addressed previous concerns. Back in the early 2000s, some of the most fervent controversy centered around somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), the process used by scientists to produce Dolly. There was fear that this technique could be used in humans, with possibly adverse effects, considering the many medical problems of the animals who had been cloned.

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Eve Herold
Eve Herold is an award-winning science writer and consultant in the scientific and medical nonprofit space. A longtime communications and policy executive for scientific organizations, she currently serves as Director of Policy Research and Education for the Healthspan Action Coalition. She has written extensively about issues at the crossroads of science and society, including regenerative medicine, aging and longevity, medical implants, transhumanism, robotics and AI, and bioethical issues in leading-edge medicine. Her books include Stem Cell Wars and Beyond Human, and her latest book, Robots and the People Who Love Them, will be released in January 2024. Her work has appeared in Vice, Medium, The Washington Post and the Boston Globe, among others. She’s a frequent contributor to Leaps.org and is the recipient of the 2019 Arlene Eisenberg Award from the American Society of Journalists and Authors.
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Dr. Picard is founder and director of the MIT Media Lab’s Affective Computing Research Group. Her research and engineering contributions have been recognized internationally. For example, she received the 2022 International Lombardy Prize for Computer Science Research, considered by many to be the Nobel prize in computer science.

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Matt Fuchs
Matt Fuchs is the host of the Making Sense of Science podcast and served previously as the editor-in-chief of Leaps.org. He writes as a contributor to the Washington Post, and his articles have also appeared in the New York Times, WIRED, Nautilus Magazine, Fortune Magazine and TIME Magazine. Follow him @fuchswriter.
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Sarah Watts

Sarah Watts is a health and science writer based in Chicago.