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Just received this wonderful news from Matthew Rodreick!

Obtaining $1 million dollars in research funds for spinal cord injury is a tremendous accomplishment, which every state should emulate, and which we hope is ongoing! Drop Matt a note of congratulations, he and his hard-working friends definitely deserve it…. Thanks, Matt!  Thanks, Rob!

Read on, the rest is from Matt:

Get Up Stand Up 2 Cure Paralysis is proud to announce that the Spinal Cord Injury and
Traumatic Brain Injury Research Grant Program has been passed in both the House
and Senate with a $1 Million appropriation.
After 5 years of work and thousands of hours our community can now begin to have a
direct influence on seeding the research that is working toward the functional
improvements for our injuries.
Our thanks go to Sen. John Hoffman and Rep. Rod Hamilton for championing our
cause this session as our authors, with special thanks to Sen. Jeff Hayden for carrying
our Bill the previous 3 sessions. Also thanks to Sen. Terri Bonoff and Rep. Bud Nornes
our Higher ED co-authors, and our many co-authors in both the House and Senate.
We are also very grateful for the strong support from Hennepin County Medical Center,
who chose to sponsor this Bill in 2015. Special thanks to LifeScience Alley, Courage
Kenny Rehab Institute and Gillette Children’s for their additional support.
Thank you
Matthew Rodreick
Executive Director GUSU 2 Cure Paralysis
matt@gusu2cure.org
Rob Wudlick
Board Chair GUSU 2 Cure Paralysis
rob@gusu2cure.org

Obviously the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine is my favorite place on Earth– makes me happier than Disneyland!

But today was unbelievable… As you know, I have a new project going on, a “Disease-a-week Challenge: How the California stem cell program is battling_____(name of disease), and I will be posting it every Wednesday on my weblog until Stem Cell Appreciation Day, October 14th, which is also my new book’s publication day!

Here is that weblog from CIRM:

http://blog.cirm.ca.gov/2015/05/28/new-stem-cell-book-chronicles-californias-fight-against-incurable-disease/

AND– the Huffington Post ran my first in the series!  Here it is: // 0){} }window.NeoGV=window.NeoGV||{};NeoGV.startTime=(new Date()).getTime();
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DISEASE-A-WEEK CHALLENGE  #1: How the California Stem Cell Program  is Battling Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

By Don C. Reed

Last year, chronic disease cost America as much as all federal income tax and the national debt combined.

Let me prove that.

First, the money we spend on chronic (long-lasting or incurable) disease is three-quarters of every health care dollar. http://www.cdc.gov/workplacehealthpromotion/businesscase/reasons/rising.html

Total medical care in 2014 was approximately $3.1 trillion. (The exact figure is not recorded yet, but in 2013 it was $2.9 trillion)

http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/health-expenditures.htm

Three fourths of $3.1 trillion is $2.3 trillion.  Hold that number in your mind.

Now. All federal income taxes ($1.7 trillion last year)—

http://www.usgovernmentrevenue.com/fed_revenue_2014US

plus 2014’s  installment of the national debt ($506 billion)–   (http://www.cbo.gov/publication/45653)

$2.2 trillion

Chronic illness–$2.3 trillion.

Another way to look at it is that chronic disease ($2.3 trillion) cost America four times the amount  of the national debt ($506 billion) for 2014.

And the human suffering?  Incalculable.

The United States has nearly one person in two with a chronic disease: that’s 45%, or 133,000,000 people with a long-lasting or incurable disease.

http://www.fightchronicdisease.org/sites/fightchronicdisease.org/files/docs/GrowingCrisisofChronicDiseaseintheUSfactsheet_81009.pdf

These are not just empty figures on a page, to be skipped over and ignored. These are our loved ones: friends and family members: people like my son Roman Reed, paralyzed since 1994; or my sister Patty, dying of leukemia at 23 years;  or my mother, Christine, killed by cancer, age 52.

But California is fighting back.

In 2004, a citizen’s initiative was led by Bob Klein, himself the father of a diabetic son, Jordan Klein. Proposition 71 led to the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) our $3 billion stem cell research program.

The work they are doing is amazing, and everyone should know about it.

For the next 21 weeks, every Wednesday, I will blog about one disease or condition  the California stem cell program is challenging—all  considered “incurable”.  Why Wednesday? First, the second Wednesday in October, (October 14th),  is Stem Cell Awareness Day. https://www.cirm.ca.gov/our-progress/stem-cell-awareness-day.

And– October 14th is the day my stem cell book* comes out!

Consider following the 21-week series, here or at www.stemcellbattles.net.

Note:  I  have no official connection with the California stem cell program.  Also, I am neither scientist nor doctor. Mistakes and misinterpretations are my own.

For more information on ALS or another disease, go to www.cirm.ca.gov, type its name  into the search box, and then click on the condition’s “Fact Sheet”.

Now—here we go!

Disease-a-week Challenge #1:  ALS, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, motor neuron disease, is called Lou Gehrig’s disease in America.

Lou Gehrig, the great New York Yankee baseball player, was called the “Iron Horse”  because he always stayed in top condition, never failing to start a game. Inexplicably, he began losing control of the ball. All the things that meant so much to him, throwing, catching and hitting the elusive leathern spheroid— his near-miraculous coordination was gradually destroyed. He trained harder, saw doctors; but nothing helped.

Finally, during a game, a fellow player actually ran over and handed Lou Gehrig the ball—and he dropped it. The next day, he took himself out of the lineup.

The world will never forget the courage of his retirement speech “I stand before you the luckiest man on the face of the earth”, immortalized by Gary Cooper in the film PRIDE OF THE YANKEES. But few know how he spent his last months,  serving as a probation officer, working with ex-cons, trying to give them the second chance he would not have himself. When Lou Gehrig died, America knew about motor neuron disease.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lou_Gehrig

ALS does its damage by killing the nerve cells which control motion. Gradually, over a period of several years, the body loses its ability to move: even to swallow, and, finally, to breathe.

What happens to the family financially, when ALS strikes?

In one year, a patient  can expect costs of approximately:  “$31,121 medical costs, $17,889 in non-medical costs, and $14,682 in lost income.”

https://www.mda.org/research2/cost-of-illness

The expenses only stop when the patient is gone.

So what is California trying to do about this murderous condition?

First, our scientists are seeking to more clearly “understand  the origin of the disease and what causes (the death of) motor neurons…”

Second, they must be able to describe the weapon that is used against the patient, in this case cells literally oozing toxin:

“Cells (astrocytes) secrete a chemical that damages the neurons (nerve cells which control motion).

Ultimately, we must find a path to cure. One promising possibility:

“(Our) scientists learned how to take…cells and turn them into motor neurons (for possible replacement.).”

https://www.cirm.ca.gov/our-progress/disease-information/amyotrophic-lateral-sclerosis-als-fact-sheet

If new and healthy nerve cells are introduced into the body, they may replace the bad cells, and reverse the downward spiral to paralysis and death.

Steps taken towards cure in ALS research may help other nerve diseases as well.

But none of this happens without money.

As of today, the California stem cell program has provided $55 million in research funding, toward the cure of ALS.

https://www.cirm.ca.gov/our-progress/disease-information/amyotrophic-lateral-sclerosis-als-fact-sheet

Such funding makes possible the work of  top scientists (and their lab teams!) champions like: Larry Goldstein, Bin Chen,  Clive Svendsen, Eugene Yeo, Bennett Novitch, Ying Liu, Steven Finkbeiner, Zack Jerome, and more.

They work at world-class research institutions like: the University of California at San Diego, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, the J. David Gladstone Institutes, and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.

This is the way to fight for cure. In years to come, the California stem cell program will be recognized as one of the greatest accomplishments in medical history. It is the pride of a state, the glory of our nation—and a friend to all the world.

Join us next Wednesday, for: Alzheimers, the Thief of Memory.

Follow this series at here or at:  http://www.stemcellbattles.net.

P.S. Consider “friending” me at:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Stem-Cell-Battles-Proposition-71-and-Beyond/1641012769443938

*Don C. Reed is the author of the forthcoming book, STEM CELL BATTLES: Proposition 71 and Beyond: How Ordinary People Can Fight Back Against the Crushing Burden of Chronic Disease.

http://www.worldscientific.com/worldscibooks/10.1142/9255.html.

DISEASE-A-WEEK CHALLENGE: California vs. Chronic Disease

By Don C. Reed

Did you know October 14th is Stem Cell Awareness Day?

It is no accident that I requested that date to be the official publication day for my new book, STEM CELL BATTLES: Proposition 71 and Beyond. http://www.worldscientific.com/worldscibooks/10.1142/9255.html.

I wrote the book so people could know the accomplishments (and the tremendous struggles) of the California stem cell program, which began as the citizens’ initiative, Proposition 71, the Stem Cells for Research and Cures Initiative.

Every Wednesday between now and then, (starting May 27), I will produce a “Disease-a-week” summary of the amazing work the program is doing on one “incurable” illness or injury.

Below is a preview: a list of 21 diseases and disabilities that will be featured: samples of the amazing California stem cell program in action.

If one of these conditions affects someone you love, mark the date on your calendar, and check back for the article at this website, or my personal weblog, WWW.STEMCELLBATTLES.COM

Quotes are drawn from CIRM’s public website: www.cirm.ca.gov. Words in parentheses (like these) are mine. Please note: I have no official connection with the California stem cell program, and am neither doctor nor scientist: just a father of a paralyzed young man, Roman Reed, whose courage inspires me every day. We are determined there will be cure, but it will only happen if the field advances.

Want to help fight chronic disease? Forward this to your social networks: Twitter, Facebook, GooglePlus– , and especially any patient or disease organizations to which you may belong. Thanks!!

May 27: ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) “…Some projects (seek to) understand the origin of the disease and what causes the (the death of) motor neurons … Cells (astrocytes) secrete a chemical that damages the neurons. (CIRM-funded scientists) learned how to take… cells and turn them into motor neurons (for replacement) and the astrocytes (which may be part of the problem)…”

June 3: Alzheimer’s Disease: “Using cells from Alzheimer’s patients …researchers are creating…models of the disease in a lab dish. They can then test for drugs… that eliminate symptoms of the disease…some groups are trying to (turn) embryonic stem cells into a cell type that can… replace cells destroyed…. Stem cells (may) deliver factors (to) protect brain cells…(or, like tiny brooms) clear out… protein that builds up and clogs neurons”.

June  10:  Arterial Limb Disease: “Hardening of the arteries…may result in amputation due to wounds that refuse to heal because of poor blood circulation…Researchers (hope) to coax the patients’ bodies into growing new blood vessels…

June  17: Arthritis: “ a disabling condition that afflicts 6 million Californians, costing nearly $32 billion annually for health care and lost wages… Stem cell therapies (may be used) for cartilage repair… A patient’s own cells…(may grow new) cartilage and prevent arthritis progression…”

June 24: Autism: “…CIRM (is) investigating how the brain matures… studying stem cells as they… change into different types of nerves… to learn how diseases such as autism form, and develop future therapies.  Several CIRM-funded projects (use) stem cells derived from people with autism… Scientists can expose those cells to drugs and see which one alleviates symptoms….”

July 1: Blindness: “The leading cause of blindness…is Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD)…In AMD the layer of cells that support photoreceptors  (light-sensing cells) is destroyed…. CIRM-funded teams are (trying to replace) these support cells….”

July 8: Segmental bone fracture: “… a complex medical condition (causing) great suffering to patients, long-term hospitalization, repeated surgeries, loss of working days, and considerable costs to the health system. …(One) approach for treatment might utilize ultrasound to deliver a bone-forming gene to stem cells. …(and) trigger the stem cells to (grow) bone…”

July 15: Cancer: Brain Tumor:  “…malignant brain tumors (are) hard to treat because…(they) spread throughout the brain… (However) certain types of stem cells migrate toward these tumor cells… CRM scientists are trying to engineer these stem cells to produce cancer-killing molecules. …These would seek out cancer cells and deliver therapy where needed…”

July 22: Cancer: Melanoma: …When (melanoma) spreads… it becomes highly resistant to most current therapies… (A healthy body has) specialized cells in our immune system…(which) seek out and destroy cancer cells. But when melanoma (spreads)  there are not enough of these cells. Since the cells use a protein called the T-Cell Receptor (TCR) to seek out …cancers…  (Adding) TCR genes to a group of immune cells (may) boost their cancer-fighting abilities…”

July 29:  Cancer: Solid Tumor: “Solid tumors include cancers of the brain, ovary, breast, colon and other tissues…. (growing from) cancer stem cells. …Chemotherapy kills (most) of the tumor, but leaves behind the cancer stem cells that can…form a new tumor. Stem cell scientists are studying (these) cancer stem cells…. If cancer stem cells (from different parts of the body) share characteristics that allow them to be destroyed by the same drug, then a single new drug could significantly improve cancer treatment for a range of different cancer types….”

August 5: Deafness: “…Approximately 36 million American adults have hearing loss. (A) common cause of deafness occurs when the cells that detect sound in the inner ear… lose their function.  These cells contain… hair-like structures that turn sound into electrical signals (which) the brain interprets as sound. If the hairs are damaged … they no longer transmit sounds to the brain. Researchers… coax stem cells to form these hair-like structures in the lab…. Hair cells (made) from stem cells could replace the damaged cells and restore hearing…”

August 12:  Diabetes:  “As many as 3 million people in U.S. have Type 1 diabetes… a disorder where the body’s immune system destroys cells in the pancreas that make insulin.  …Without insulin…sugar builds up in the bloodstream (and) can damage the kidneys, blood vessels and retina. … replacement insulin-producing cells (can be) derived from human embryonic stem cells. (which may be able to regulate blood sugar.  CIRM-funded teams have placed cells in a device (put)  under the skin (to) shield the cells from the immune system…”.

August 19: Epidermolysis Bullosa: “(EB is) a devastating  skin disease in which the protein that normally anchors the skin to the underlying tissue is absent. …The slightest friction can rub skin off. Children with the most severe form of the disease develop disfiguring scar tissue and often die as young adults…   The goal of a stem cell therapy is to replace the protein that is missing…(One approach) is to genetically engineer a patient’s own skin cells to contain the protein…”

August 26:  HIV/AIDS: “HIV…is a virus that infects cells of the immune system, undermining the body’s ability to fight disease…(causing) susceptibility to infections, cancers and other diseases, and eventually… death. … A gene called CCR5, ( lets) HIV enter cells. Scientists hope to create   CCR5 mutations. (These) genetically altered cells would then repopulate the person’s blood system with one that lacks CCR5…(thereby preventing HIV from getting in.)”

September 2: Huntington’s Disease: “…The disease is uniformly fatal, usually in 10-20 years. HD results from a mutation to one gene…(which) produces a protein that is toxic to nerve cells. California has funded several projects that probe into both the nature of the mutation and ways to prevent or repair the damage from (it)….  One team proposes to use embryonic stem cells, to mature them into early forms of  nerve cells and genetically modify them to deliver a compound that could protect the patient… from the toxic protein.  The other team plans to use mesenchymal stem cells to deliver a genetic fragment called iRNA to the nerves and shut down the faulty gene…”

September 9:  Multiple Sclerosis: “…occurs when body’s immune system attacks the (myelin) cells that protect neurons… As people lose myelin…, they start feeling weak…. Over  time…paralysis. About 400,000 people are living with MS in US.  One approach may be to repopulate the person’s blood system with  immune cells that won’t attack the myelin. (Or to)… find drugs that could stimulate the body’s own stem cells to replace the damaged myelin.”

September 16: Osteoporosis: “(This bone-thinning condition causes nearly) 2 million women…to develop bone fractures each year…  (Good) bone-forming stem cells decrease tenfold between ages of 30-80, (and those remaining) are less effective at repairing bone. CIRM (seeks to) increase number of these stem cells or improve their effectiveness to keep bones healthier longer. One team is testing bone-forming stem cells in animal models and revving up those cells with a hormone… Another group has isolated (from fat tissue)…a stem cell…capable of forming bone…”

September 23: Parkinson’s Disease(PD):  … (PD) occurs when (nerve cells) stop functioning in the part of the brain that controls movement.  (In a healthy body) these nerve cells send signals using a molecule called dopamine… CIRM grantees have taken skin cells from people with Parkinson’s disease, reprogrammed them back to an embryonic-like state, …then coaxed those cells to become the type of neuron affected by PD. Now (scientists can) expose those cells to different drugs to find which ones eliminate disease….”

September 30:  Respiratory Disorders: “Severe blockage of major airway (trachea) is rare but… (can cause) death.  …Physicians currently treat these blockages through surgery or by using a stent to hold the airway open.  Neither approach is very good…. UC Davis team uses a trachea from a cadaver as a scaffold, (first) removing the soft tissue cells and then seeding the…scaffold with two types of stem cells from the patient.  The (resulting) construct is grown in a bioreactor until ready for transplant…the team has already used the procedure through the European compassionate use exemption in five dying patients, saving three of their lives…”

Otober 7:  Sickle Cell Disease: “…is a genetic disorder that causes red blood cells to assume a sickle shape, clogging blood vessels with episodes of excruciating pain, and progressive organ damage. …Researchers intend to remove bone marrow from the patient and fix the genetic defect in the blood-forming stem cells. These cells can be (put back) into the patient (for) a healthy blood system.

October 14: Spinal Cord Injury: “California’s stem cell agency retains many grants for research to move potential… therapy forward…(One is the former Geron embryonic stem cell trial, now moving forward under Asterias Biotherapeutics.) Much work tries to determine which type of nerve cell is the best to transplant… Other research is to see if transplanted cells become part of the existing nerve system…  One obstacle …is the scar at the site of injury (which may) block the growth of transplanted cells. …Synthetic scaffolds…may help the cells bridge the scar…”

* Information on the author’s forthcoming book: STEM CELL BATTLES: Proposition 71 and Beyond: How Ordinary People Can Fight Back Against the Crushing Burden of Chronic Disease (With a Posthumous Forward by Christopher Reeve) can be found at:

http://www.worldscientific.com/worldscibooks/10.1142/9255.html.

Most Important URL?

If somebody asks you, how do you know if a “clinical trials” is legit– or not– send them to www.clinicaltrials.gov. 

It is also great for you or anyone interested in the latest on their disease of interest.

Go to the website, type the name of any disease into the search box at the top of the page, and you will find “the good stuff”– probably a lot– of clinical trials of new therapies and medicines being tested in accordance with FDA standards.

This matters because even the most casual websearch for stem cell therapies can send you to a lot of people very good at taking your money– and perhaps endangering your health– but maybe not so good at bringing anybody closer to cure.

The Food and Drug Administration process is slow, painstaking– and sometimes painfully slow.

When the Hans Keirstead/Geron stem cell therapy went forward, (first funded by the Roman Reed Spinal Cord Injury Research Act of 1999)  it took 9 years, many series of lab tests, and approximately 22,000 pages of correspondence with the FDA– but when it was finally tried on newly paralyzed people, there were no major deleterious side effects on anybody.

Slow, yes. But safety matters. What it boils down to is this:

Which would you rather have tested on you or a loved one– something which had multiple tests before, checked over many times by people with no financial axe to grind– or somebody who just thought: “Oh, good idea, let’s try something!”

http://www.clinicaltrials.gov has no connection with me.

And the only connection I have with the FDA is a couple phone calls. I felt the FDA was taking too long on the paralysis tests, so I called them up. Turns out they have someone called an OMBUDSMAN who will talk to ordinary citizens like myself. He hooked me up with the actual person who was making decisions on the timing of the stem cell trials, and we talked for perhaps an hour.

At the end I was still frustrated with the pace of progress, but I was convinced that his reasons were scientific, not political.

So check out http://www.clinicaltrials.gov and see what you think.

Don C. Reed is the author of the forthcoming book, STEM CELL BATTLES: Prop 71 and Beyond– How Ordinary  People Can Fight Back Against the Crushing Burden of Chronic Disease, to be released in October by World Scientific Publishing, Inc.

HOW MANY PEOPLE HAVE PARKINSON’S?
By Don C. Reed
Five hundred thousand Americans have Parkinson’s Disease (PD). It is hard to visualize half a million people! But try this:
Think of a crowded junior high school at lunchtime, the cafeteria, courtyard and playground jam-packed with happy healthy hollering kids—plus adminstrators, teachers and visiting parents—that’s about one thousand people.
But now the picture darkens. Imagine there were all adults in that school, all fifty years of age and up, and every one had Parkinson’s disease—and there were five hundred such schools– that’s how many Americans have Parkinson’s today.
Parkinson’s attacks the parts of your brain which control motion—like zapping the steering wheel of your car, so that every time you tried to turn, there would be a shock of electricity, throwing off your balance, messing with your coordination, or stopping you altogether.
How much does it cost in medical treatment to care for our half-million friends and neighbors (perhaps yourself?) with Parkinson’s disease?
Roughly eleven billion dollars a year.
http://www.parkinsoninfo.org/about-parkinsons-disease/economic-impact/
When that wave of financial indebtedness strikes, it can devastate a family. Take the smallest cost first. Imagine if you had to come up with an extra five hundred dollars—not too much, but you have to pay it every month—just for medication. What about losing your job, if the disease makes your normal employment impossible? What if the disease gets so bad, the person has to go to an institution—about one hundred thousand dollars a year…
California is fighting back.
The California stem cell program has contributed more than $44 million ($44,278,485) to Parkinson’s research…
This has provided funding for such top-notch scientists as: David Schaffer, Michelle Calos, R. Jeremy Nichols, Daniel Lim, Susan McConnell, Lei Wang, Birgit Schuele, Xianmin Zeng, Fred Gage, Zhuohua Zhang, Stuart Lipton, Su Guo, Steven Finkbeiner, Xinnan Wang, Arold Kriegstein, J. William Langston, Evan Snyder and many more such champions.
They work at some of the most outstanding research institutions in the world: like Stanford University, UC Berkeley, The Parkinson’s Institute, UC San Francisco, the Salk Institute, the Buck Institute for Age Research, the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, the J. David Gladstone Institutes—the best of the best.
How are our scientists trying to fight Parkinson’s?
Basically two ways: first, to develop a disease-in-a-Petri-dish: “Several teams of …researchers are using stem cell techniques to create Parkinson’s disease cells in the lab dish…” (to test new drugs against them.)
Second: to make new and improved cells, so the body can help heal itself. Since dopamine is a molecule which helps nerves control motion, some of our scientists “are creating dopamine-producing cells…in the hope that they could replace the (nerve cells) that are damaged in people with the disease.”
(https://www.cirm.ca.gov/our-progress/disease-information/parkinsons-disease-fact-sheet)
At a time when it is harder and harder to get grants for research, the California stem cell program is standing by our scientists: helping them do the work only they can do: trying to “turn stem cells into cures”, as our official motto states. (That slogan, by the way, was made up by a patient advocate, Roman Reed, my son. )
Would you like the California stem cell program to be renewed when its $3 billion in funding runs out, which it will in a couple of years? I know I would! I am speaking strictly for myself here, having no official connection to the program. But I probably have attended more of the public meetings than anybody, (possibly including staff!) and folks, it is terrific!
Join us at the meetings! (go to http://www.cirm.ca.gov and click on “Public Meetings”. It will tell you when and where the meetings are, and what is the agenda. Take part: as a member of the public, you are allowed to speak for three minutes—what if the board was trying to decide about funding a Parkinson’s disease project, and you felt it was promising– wouldn’t you want to be there and speak up?
If you support medical research to fight chronic disease, and want to know more, consider “friending” me at: https://www.facebook.com/diverdonreed

Don C. Reed is the author of the forthcoming book, “STEM CELL BATTLES: Proposition 71 and Beyond: How Ordinary People Can Fight Back Against the Crushing Burden of Chronic Disease”. It will be published in October by World Scientific Publishing, Inc., which publishes the Nobel laureates’ biographies.
(http://www.worldscientific.com/worldscibooks/10.1142/9255.html)

THREE STEM CELL MUSKETEERS OF BRAZIL

By Don C. Reed

When I first heard Brazil had signed a letter of agreement with the California stem cell research program, to support research collaboration, I could hardly believe my ears.  Brazil is a religiously conservative country: how could they achieve the necessary scientific freedom?

http://www.fapesp.br/en/8406

I wrote to a scientist friend, Dr. Lygia Pereira, of Sao Paulo, Brazil, who said:  “the road to legalizing embryonic stem cell research in Brazil  was  bumpy”…

In 2005, her letter read, the Biosafety Law approved in Congress had allowed the use of stem cells made from fertilized eggs left over from the In Vitro Fertilization procedure–  but only after being  frozen for more than 3 years. This was strict, and from a too-narrow population (primarily European ancestry) but perhaps workable.

Unfortunately, individuals associated with the Catholic church filed a lawsuit attempting to ban the research.  If they won their case, frozen fertilized eggs could be considered a full-fledged life with Constitutional rights–and embryonic stem cell research could be declared illegal.

Enter the scientists I will always think of as the three Musketeers of Brazilian stem cell research: Drs. Lygia Pereira, Stevens Rehen, and Mayana Zatz.

Lygia Pereira is a pioneer, the kind of scientist who takes giant early leaps of progress, on which others build. She began working with stem cells in 1992, and developed a mouse model for a condition called Marfan’s Syndrome, a potentially fatal disease. She wrote three books, five book chapters, and many papers.

http://www.laspau.harvard.edu/trustee/lygia-pereira

Stevens  Rehen is a visionary, who looks at what is now, and asks: how can we do it better?  One improvement that may revolutionize the field is his method of increasing the number of stem cells. The old way was to put embryonic stem cells into a dish of feeder gel, and gently tap and shake the container. This “passaging” helped develop the stem cell colonies, but was awkward and time-consuming. Instead, Dr. Rehen developed an automatic spinning method, which might be called the “Rehen Spin”, reportedly seven hundred times as efficient as the older method–for half the cost.

https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=RHb_i94AAAAJ&hl=en

And the third Musketeer?  Mayana Zatz is the ultimate patient advocate. Having visited the shanty-towns of Brazil, she saw children with muscular dystrophy born to families who could not afford to give them any medical treatment, not even a wheelchair. She fought for them, organizing and raising funds for the Brazilian Association of Muscular Dystrophy. And when they asked to be present in the court, so the judges could see who would be affected by the trial, it was Dr. Zatz who made it happen.  In 2001, she won the L’Oreal-Unesco Award for Women in Science.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mayana_Zatz

The three scientists did everything they could: making literally hundreds of educational presentations.

At last, there was nothing further they could do.

On the day the Brazilian Supreme Court argued the case, the courtroom was packed with patients, many in wheelchairs, and their families beside them.

Embryonic stem cell research would either go forward, or be banned.

The final vote?  Six to five– in favor of allowing the research. Six to five… Without the efforts of Pereira, Zatz and Rehen, there would be no embryonic stem cell research in Brazil today.

Instead, Brazil has taken its rightful place in world science.

And what happened to the three Musketeers of Brazilian stem cell science?

Dr. Lygia Perreira established Brazil’s first embryonic stem cell line, BR-1.

“Once the legal aspects were sorted out, we started culturing the Harvard lines… using those cells as a model to study… and the Brazilian government decided to invest in cell therapy.  We got a grant to establish lines of hESCs, and in 2008 we reported the generation of our first line, BR-1.  Since then, we have established 4 additional lines, and provided cells and training in hESC culture to several groups in Brazil. When we reported… the first Brazilian line of hESCs, the public reaction was all positive…” -personal communication.

Mayana Zatz,  a member of the International Human Genome Project of the Academy of Sciences of the State of Sao Paulo, and of the Brazilian Academy of Science has been cited almost 9,000 times in peer-reviewed publications, and has had more than 150 articles published in magazines such as “Nature Genetics” and “Human Molecular Genetics”. Dr. Zatz is also a columnist for Brazilian Veja Magazine.

Stevens Rehen is Full Professor at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and Head of Research at the D’Or Institute for Research and Education.

http://directory.pewlatinfellows.org/fellows/2000-218

FLASH! As this is written, Brazil’s Stevens Rehen has just taken “…an important step toward the implantation of stem cell-generated neurons as a treatment for Parkinson’s disease. Using an FDA-approved substance for treating stomach cancer, Rehen and colleagues were able to grow dopamine-producing neurons derived from embryonic stem cells that remained healthy and functional (in) mice, for as long as fifteen months, restoring motor function (muscle control) without forming tumors.”

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/04/150403104223.htm

Long life to the three stem cell Musketeers of Brazil! May they continue to enrich the world with their useful skills–and may they never need to take up their legislative swords again!

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