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Floating University

How to Grow a Heart: Transforming Cells Into Human Organs

In the 21st century, biology will usher in advances in regenerative medicine. Stem cells will be at the center of discovery and application in that new field.  

Editor’s Note: Over the next 12 days, Big Think will be running excerpts from all the lessons that make up our first online course, Great Big Ideas. During this period, we are offering discounted subscriptions to Big Think readers. You can now subscribe and gift this course for $99. Please sign up and then subscribe using the coupon code THINK to get the discount.


What’s the Big Idea?

Unlocking the human genome is a little like learning the alphabet. It gives you all the essentials – but in order to actually put your knowledge to use, you need to know more. You need to understand the rules of language, how to form words from letters and sentences from words. In biology, these elusive and complex interactions take place in the cell. 

“What has been lost in the discussion up until now is the idea that the real unit of biology is not DNA, but is instead a cell,” says Doug Melton, a biologist and co-director of Harvard’s Stem Cell Institute, in his Floating University lecture, What’s Up, Doc? Is Biomedical Research Really Close to Curing Anything? “Cells are alive, cells make more cells and cells are the units that allow us to harness the future of our bodies and regenerative medicine.”


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