We'd like to welcome our journalism fellow Rina Shaikh-Lesko, who will be helping us out this summer writing about progress in the stem cell field. This is her inaugural blog entry.
We’re about to kick off our first ever Google Hangout on July 3 at noon. Google’s foray into online video conferencing makes interacting with fellow participants easier than traditional webinar formats. CIRM grantees and patient advocates will be talking about progress in finding a stem cell-based therapy for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or ALS, a devastating neurodegenerative disease.
On hand to provide an update on stem cell research into ALS and answer questions about the disease will be CIRM grantees Lawrence Goldstein of the University of California, San Diego, and Clive Svendsen of the Cedar Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, as well as ALS patient advocate and CIRM governing board member, Diane Winokur. Have a question for our panel? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org or leave your question as a comment on this post. You can also post questions via Twitter to @cirmnews, or wait and ask during the Hangout.
ALS, sometimes called Lou Gehrig’s Disease, occurs when the nerve cells that control muscles, or motor neurons, die off for reasons scientists don’t entirely understand. The muscles they were connected to eventually wither away, leaving patients paralyzed. Most people who are diagnosed die within four years. According to the ALS Association, about 30,000 people in the U.S. have ALS. Stem cell researchers hope to develop an experimental treatment within a few years.
Goldstein leads a team working to mature stems cells into a kind of cell that normally lives near motor neurons, called astrocytes. They plan to transplant these astrocytes into people with the disease where the cells could protect neurons from further damage from ALS. This video explains his team’s research and how ALS has affected one family.
Svendson’s team is working on a way to modify neuronal stem cells so they excrete a protein that can protect neurons. Those modified stem cells can be transplanted into a person’s brain or spinal cord to slow down the progression of ALS.
Winokur has been a fierce advocate for families coping with ALS and other neurodegenerative diseases since her own family was affected nearly two decades ago. Her youngest son, Douglas, was diagnosed with ALS in 1995 and died two years later in 1997. Her oldest son, Hugh, was diagnosed in 2005 and died in 2010.
You can register for our inaugural CIRM Google Hangout at this link. Future Google Hangouts will spotlight other diseases CIRM researchers are working on. Watch this blog and our Google+ page for updates. In the meantime, put our first one, July 3 at noon, on your calendar and come join the discussion.