By Don C. Reed

Two scientists’ beaming faces recently adorned a press release:

“New cell type developed for possible treatment of Alzheimer’s and other brain diseases”.–…

Why are they smiling– and what should we be worried about?

First, the good news. Using embryonic stem cells, California’s Edwin Monuki and Momoko Watanabe   may have found a way to answer Alzheimer’s disease. As you know, Alzheimer’s involves plaques and tangles in the brain, studded throughout the brain like raisins in oatmeal. If these plaques could be removed, it might help heal the devastating disease of memory loss, as well as perhaps easing Huntington’s disease and other neurological nightmares.

Alzheimer’s affects 4.5 million Americans today. A brutal condition, removing both memory and judgment from the sufferer, the financial costs are almost unbelievable, a staggering two hundred billion dollars a year……

How might cure work?

In a healthy brain, cerebrospinal fluid  (CSF) washes away the metabolic wastes which would otherwise become the plaques of Alzheimer’s; in addition, CSF “produce(s) many nutritive molecules…good things for the brain.”

And where does this cleansing and re-vivifying fluid come from?

“…the choroid plexus… tissue in the brain…produces cerebrospinal fluid (CSF).

And if the choroid plexus goes wrong?

“In Alzheimer’s… the choroid plexus (may) age prematurely, resulting in….decreased ability to flush out such debris as the plaque-forming proteins…of Alzheimer’s.”–personal communication, Ed Monuki

To fix a non-working choroid plexus, it seems you need repair cells called the “choroid plexus epithelial cells” or CPECs.

“…For the first time we can use stem cells to…(make)… large amounts of (CPECs), … to treat neurodegenerative diseases,” said Monuki….

“These cells could be part of… disease treatments in at least three ways:

•    ….first… to flush out plaque-causing proteins from brain tissue, and limit disease progression;
•    Second, CPEC(s)….could transport therapeutic compounds to the…brain and spinal cord;
•    Third, the cells could be used to screen…drugs that….improve function.”

Dr. Monuki is a creative individual. He invented a new Petri dish on a grant from California’s Roman Reed Spinal Cord Injury Research Act, the law named after my paralyzed son. The Monuki petri dish can separate cells by their electrical potential, a job presently done by an expensive machine so big you have to rent it.

Ms. Watanabe is a graduate student with what would have to be described as an amazing future. The University of California at Irvine, and the Sue and Bill Gross Stem Cell
Research Center should take great pride in their accomplishments.

All good so far?

Now the problem: the project was only possible because of government funding: vital to scientists as air is to a deep-sea diver. Without grants, no work can be done.

Unfortunately, the threat of massive cuts hangs over the National Institutes of Health–America’s crown jewel of medical research.

It would be a tragedy if right now, just when we are starting to break through toward therapies for cures, that we should be blocked for lack of funds.

Want to help?

Here is Mary Wooley, the CEO of the non-partisan group Research!America with some thoughts on what you can do.

“Research could be put on hold if we the stakeholder community allow ourselves to be ignored or taken for granted by a lame-duck congress as it wrestles with averting the fiscal cliff.  Massive cuts to federal research agencies could have devastating consequences.

“Accordingly, this week we began a “Save the Research!” campaign here in Washington with many partners in the science and patient community.

“We need cures not cuts! We are funding ads, and making visits, 60 visits yesterday.

“Research is a bi-partisan priority, but it is just not brought to the forefront sufficiently. Now is the time to do it.

“Visit our website and find out how you can make the difference.

“The single most important thing you can do? Contact your own elected officials.

“Visit the website and sign on to the group letter of support, and do an easily clickable outreach to your elected officials.”  Mary Wooley, personal communication. (for verification contact
For media queries, contact Suzanne Ffolkes, 571.482.2710)

Think of it this way: if just one chronic disease costs America $200 billion, what is the price of all them put together?

I can’t even count that high.

But the Kaiser Medical Foundation estimates that in 2010, total health care cost America $2.3 trillion–of which 75% went to chronic (incurable) disease.…

We can either pony up the funds to pay for research–or watch our country go broke trying to pay impossible mountains  of medical cost.

Our choice, as Shakespeare said, (is) “to endure the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing, end them.”

Cure, or endure–and I am sick of enduring. My son Roman Reed has been paralyzed 18 years, since a football accident in 1994. I want to see him walk again, and close his fingers, and enjoy all the small luxuries of motion we take for granted.

The money Washington allocates to research funding will affect not only Roman’s fate, but that of approximately 109 million Americans with chronic conditions.…

Don’t let a lame duck session of Congress do damage to our hopes for cure.

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