Ben Stanger is a practicing gastroenterologist at Penn Medicine. He is also the Hanna Wise Professor in Cancer Research and professor of medicine and cell and developmental biology. Stanger recently published his first book “From One Cell: A Journey into Life’s Origins and the Future of Medicine.” The book takes the reader on a journey from the beginning of life as a single cell. In a Q&A, Stanger discusses his research and what inspired him to write his book.
The subject of developmental biology, which investigates how animals mature as embryos from one cell—the fertilized egg—is “fascinating,” Stanger says. “It goes to the root of how we all come into existence and forms the basis of both normal and disease physiology. As a kid, I was drawn to science by listening to scientists firsthand—people like Carl Sagan (the author of “Cosmos”) who stirred my imagination by speaking with authority about their field. A motivating factor for me was the hope that others, especially young(er) readers, would read the book and be inspired to become scientists themselves.”
Stanger says he knew “next-to-nothing” about embryonic development when he began graduate school, and was influenced by the developmental biologists in his thesis lab. “The more I learned the more I was hooked. There have been immense changes in the field over the past 25 years—advances in stem cell biology and our understanding of how the embryo comes together. That basic understanding is now beginning to bear fruit in the clinic, such as promising therapies for Type 1 diabetes.”
As for the future of developmental biology research, Stanger says, “I do think that gene editing—the ability to change the genetic code of cells—will have a huge impact in medicine. We are already beginning to see the impact of this technology in the treatment of blood disorders, and other disease types are sure to follow.”
This story is by Tristan Epps. Read more at Penn Medicine News.