A few months ago my uncle was diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). It started with some speech problems but since then his condition is constantly worsening. It is very painful for me to know that he is in such a difficult position and that there is no cure for it. However, with the latest stem cell research, there might be some hope. He is very willing to participate in any kind of experiments. So my question is – is there any way that you can take him into your research program and see if there is any potential to cure ALS or at least to improve his condition? If not – can you recommend any programs? Any help or suggestion would be very much appreciated.
— Bellevue, Washington
Sanford-Burnham scientists frequently receive letters like this. They remind everyone at the Institute how important the research is, as well as how much work needs to be done. In recent years, there has been intense focus on embryonic stem cells, as well as induced pluripotent stem cells, because they can form more than 200 different tissue types. This flexibility, or plasticity, could make them ideal to treat numerous diseases.
As Dr. Evan Snyder, director of Sanford-Burnham’s progam on Stem Cells and Regenerative Biology, likes to point out, stem cells are “nature’s do-over.” For example, they can be differentiated into heart muscle cells, which could then be used to replace damaged tissue. Sanford-Burnham researchers are currently working on stem cell treatment for diabetes, brain tumors, heart disease, muscular dystrophy and other conditions.
Although federal funding for embryonic stem cell research hangs in the balance, we pause today to recognize the amazing advances scientists have already made and the promise this technology holds for improving human health.
Happy Stem Cell Awareness Day!