May 17, 2002
Colloquium Speaker: John Gearhart
John Gearhart received his undergraduate degree from Penn State and his doctorate from Cornell University in Genetics with fellowship training at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia. He is the C. Michael Armstrong Professor of Medicine, and Professor of Gynecology and Obstetrics, Physiology, and Comparative Medicine in the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and Hygiene. Dr. Gearhart is a member of the Institute of Cell Engineering and the Institute of Genetic Medicine. He serves as Director of the Division of Development Genetics, Director of Research for Gynecology and Obstetrics and Director of Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis. Dr. Gearhart is a developmental geneticist with research programs in the genetic control of mammalian development and in human stem cell biology. In 1998, he published the landmark paper on the derivation of human embryonic stem cells from primordial germ cells.
Stem cell biology was given added research impetus in 1998 when two papers, one from our group at Hopkins, announced the derivation of human pluripotent stem cells from embryonic tissues. Pluripotent stem cells are those capable of giving rise, some would say, to all of the different cell types >200 found in the body. The media informed the public that the search for the 'ultimate' human cell had successfully ended and that these cells would soon serve as the basis for transplant therapies for many diseases and injuries. However, stem cells (a term now in the public arena referring only to those cells obtained from early embryos) have been the center of many philosophical, religious, scientific, and political debates. Currently, the debate has focused on whether somatic cell nuclear transfer (aka, therapeutic cloning, or research cloning) should be permitted to produce stem cells for individual patients.