20 Years of Human Embryonic Stem Cells

For October 31, 2018        
Hi WN@TL Fans,
I was cued up last week to cite my two favorite trees, the key ones in the Garden of Eden—The Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil—and then came on Saturday the news of the slaughter of 11 Jewish worshipers at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh.  I will continue to invoke these metaphors;  the killings are reasons to pause on our way but not to diverge from our path towards a just and peaceful world.
On November 6 the university will commemorate the announcement 20 years ago by James Thomson that he had figured out how to grow human embryonic stem cells.  This announcement reverberated around the world, following in much the same tracks as the announcement of Dolly the Sheep in February 1997.  
Both achievements rewrote our Book of Expectations of what animal cells could do, or more accurately, our book of what we thought they could not do.
They also bore on our impressions of immortality, of personhood, of our views of the totipotency of animal cells, of our fears of the powers of science.
The cells came with great hope, and with deliberately toned-down promises:  it would be a long road—many years, perhaps decades—from cultures to cures.  
Since the cells were derived from human embryos, they also came laden with all the ethical and emotional weights of the abortion issue.  
Hence, I hark back to the two Trees in Eden, to the Godly qualities of immortality and of the ability to discern between Good and Evil.
Since 1998, some technical feats have helped lighten the ethical weight;  for example, the development a decade ago of induced pluripotent stem cells has bypassed the issue of destroying embryos. 
But perhaps the most exquisite expression of our best aspirations remain this couplet:  “We don’t want to play God; we want to play doctor.”
This week (October 31) Timothy Kamp of the School of Medicine & Public Health and director of the Stem Cell & Regenerative Medicine Center will walk us through 20 years of human embryonic stem cell research at UW-Madison.  
He’ll give us an overview of where his colleagues have trekked, where they are now, and where they’ll soon be heading in their laboratory investigations and in their clinical trials

About the Speaker: 

A graduate of the University of Notre Dame, Timothy Kamp attended medical school at the University of Chicago, receiving his doctorate in pharmacological and physiological sciences in 1987 and a medical degree in 1989. While at the University of Chicago, Kamp received the Medical Alumni Association prize for most outstanding research presentation and the Harry Ginsburg Memorial prize for outstanding students in physiology. 
He completed his Internal Medicine residency and fellowship in Cardiovascular Medicine at Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1996, receiving an American Heart Association research fellowship and the Howard Hughes post-doctoral fellowship for physicians. Kamp joined the faculty of the University of Wisconsin Cardiovascular Medicine Division in 1996 and is currently an Associate Professor of Medicine with an affiliate appointment in Physiology. He has served as Associate Director for the Medical Scientist Training program at UW since 1999. 
His teaching activities focus on cardiac physiology and pharmacology. Kamp trains graduate students in several cross-departmental programs, including medical scientists (MD/PhD), molecular and cellular pharmacology, and cellular and molecular biology. Board certified in Internal Medicine and Cardiovascular Disease, Kamp’s clinical activities include general cardiology with an emphasis on noninvasive cardiac electrophysiology and heart failure. He is a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology and a Fellow of the American Heart Association.
Next week (November 7), we mark the somber occasion of the centennial of the end of World War 1 demarcated by the November 11 Armistice.  Steven Oreck’s talk will also be the third in our series commemorating the Influenza Pandemic of 1918-1919, this time with an emphasis of how both the War and the Flu played out in Madison and on the UW campus. 
Hope to see you soon at Wednesday Nite @ The Lab.
Tom Zinnen
Biotechnology Center & Cooperative Extension