Today I was rewarded with possibly the most significant scientific achievement I have produced. Lately, have been working on a protocol to turn reprogrammed cells into functioning muscle cells and heart muscle cells. The latter of the two protocols can produce cells that are physiologically similar to the pacemaker cells (and cells downstream of these cells) in the human heart. This means that theoretically they can beat in a dish. I’ve been checking meticulously for these signs, and today, to my delight, I observed a rhythmic beating in a few of the wells I had been maintaining. Video below:
It felt like an achievement to have transformed one cell type into another with such a distinct visual characteristic. I’ve performed cellular differentiation before, but I have produced nothing so acutely stunning. I felt like a a true pioneer, and to some extent, a creator. The whole episode raised several ethical questions in my mind I was reminded of the humbling fictional tale of Shelley’s Frankenstein (a favorite work of mine). The possibilities are so broad with cellular and molecular biology-based technologies, but the scope and direction of their application must be clearly defined when pursued. I hope never to take things of such wonder and gravity casually.