The movement of scientific research from the bench to the bedside is becoming an increasingly important aspect of modern 'biomedical societies'. There is, however, currently a dearth of social science research on the interaction between the laboratory and the clinic. The recent upsurge in global funding for stem cell research is largely premised on the promise of translating scientific understanding of stem cells into regenerative medicine. In this paper, we report on the views of biomedical scientists based in the United Kingdom who are involved in human embryonic stem cell research in the field of diabetes. We explore their views on the prospects and problems of translational research in the field of stem cell science. We discuss two main themes: institutional influences on interactions between scientists and clinicians, and stem cell science itself as the major barrier to therapies. We frame our discussion within the emerging literature of the sociology of expectations.