Dr. Jalees Rehmans work taps into the never-ending human quest for immortality. As an associate professor of medicine and pharmacology at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine, Rehman studies how stem cells repair and regenerate tissues and organs. And while he says the groundbreaking discoveries in stem cell biology are amazing, he stresses they're not a miracle cure-all, and that much of the research is still in its infancy. He explores these developments, along with the ethical and political issues that revolve around stem cell research, on his blog, Next Regeneration (www.scilogs.com/next_regeneration). Find Rehman on Twitter at @jalees_rehman.
Q. What first got you interested in biology?
A. I went to school in Germany, where they teach biology starting in middle school and eventually introduce kids to the definition and structure of cells, the nature of DNA and genetics, the concept of evolution as well as animal and plant physiology. Biology was incredibly fascinating to me with an endless array of mysteries waiting to be solved. I was also fortunate enough to work as a high school student in the (highly regarded) Max-Planck Institute outside of Munich for two weeks, which sealed the deal.
Q. Why did you start Next Regeneration?
A. When we write academic research articles, they are full of jargon and very difficult to understand for anyone who is not a specialist in the field. Science blogging forces us to distill the essence of scientific results, interpret them and make them accessible to nonspecialists.
Q. What issues do you blog about most often?
A. I started Next Regeneration with the intent to primarily blog about stem cells, regenerative biology and medicine and aging. However, once I started blogging, I also became interested in a much wider range of topics such as the communication of science or how we should assess the quality of scientific studies. So I have incorporated these topics into my blogging and also begun to blog about topics such as psychology and neurobiology.
Q. What projects are you currently working on regarding stem cell research?
A. My laboratory recently published a study in which we showed that human bone marrow stem cells could guide blood vessel cells and help them build functional blood vessel networks. Another major project in my laboratory is to study how metabolism of stem cells determines their ability to choose their cell fate. The idea of using the metabolism of a stem cell as a switch to help direct stem cells into certain desired cell types is still very novel but also very important for future applications.