Stanford cardiologist Joseph Wu, MD, PhD, grew up on an Asian pear-apple farm in California's Central Valley, serving as a translator for his Taiwanese farmer. Now, he cultivates cells, specifically induced pluripotent stem cells, to grow heart tissues and perhaps even a full heart.
A recent OZY feature on Wu, described here as a "cardiologist mastermind who is changing how we study — and, potentially, cure — heart disease," explains the potential of his work:
Wu’s research will change drug testing for the better. Doctors will administer drugs into petri dishes filled with stem cells, testing reactions on a small, safe scale. Clinical trials will be conducted in a dish instead of on animal or human subjects. He is “one of the most promising minds of his generation,” says Dr. Chuck Murry, of the Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine at the University of Washington.
Rather than testing drugs on individual patients, Wu, who directs the Stanford Cardiovascular Institute, aspires to test the effects on their stem cells first. And he has other plans:
What sets Wu apart, according to fellow iPS cell researcher Lorenz Studer, is his “systematic approach — he doesn’t stop at data discovery.” Indeed, Wu wants to move beyond patient-level testing and is already thinking big. His goal is to take these stem cells from thousands of patients to create a genetically diverse enough bank that will allow for “clinical trials in a dish” — Wu’s go-to phrase. Murry calls the idea “extraordinarily ambitious.”
Previously: Predicting chemo-induced heart damage using iPS cells, A cheaper, faster way to find genetic defects in heart patients and Induced pluripotent stem cell mysteries explored by Stanford researchers
Photo by Umberto Salvagnin