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Stratton Lecture looks at cloning, gene therapy

Four scientists in the rapidly expanding fields of stem cell research, cloning and gene therapy will explore the promise and myths surrounding these new technologies at the ninth annual Catherine N. Stratton Lecture on Critical Issues.

The panel discussion takes place on Tuesday, Oct. 22 at 4 p.m. in the Tang Center (Building E51). It is free and open to the public.

Researchers hope that advances in these areas may one day be used to replace damaged cells and tissues and provide novel therapies for diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and diabetes. But the scientific hurdles are tremendous, and the ethical dilemmas that these technologies raise for society are equally challenging.

The moderator for "Stem Cells, Cloning and Gene Therapy: The Biology Behind It" will be Nancy Hopkins, the Amgen Professor of Biology at MIT's Center for Cancer Research. Her lab isolates genes required for the normal development of zebrafish embryo. This study of vertebrate development could lead to new drugs and therapies for humans because of the similarity of gene sequences among these organisms.

Panelists are Helen M. Blau, the Donald E. and Delia B. Baxter Professor at Stanford University School of Medicine; and Rudolf Jaenisch and Harvey Lodish, both founding members of the Whitehead Institute and professors of biology at MIT.

Blau studies how cells differentiate during human development and aging, and how that process goes away in diseases such as cancer. Jaenisch works at the frontier of cloning technology and creates mouse models of human disease that are leading to new understanding of cancers and various neurological diseases. Lodish has isolated and cloned proteins that regulate cell growth, glucose transport and energy metabolism.

The lecture is sponsored by the MIT Women's League to honor Kay Stratton, wife of the late MIT President Julius Stratton, whose ideas and energy have enhanced Institute life for more than 60 years. Susan Lindquist, director of the Whitehead Institute and professor of biology at MIT, assembled the panelists in response to an invitation from the Women's League.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on October 9, 2002.

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