By Don C. Reed

First, a seeming digression.

Ernest Hemingway’s classic novel, THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA, is based on a true story. Hemingway was on a fishing trip off Cuba, when he heard about the r/l fisherman’s epic battle against a giant marlin.

After he had killed the great fish, the old man fastened its body along the side of his boat, and headed home. He would sell the fish as meat, make money to stay alive, maybe even enough for his small luxuries, coffee and cigarettes.

Then an unexpected threat: sharks came, and tore into his catch.

He fought them with his harpoon, poking and stabbing till the spear got stuck in the back of a mako, and was yanked from his hands. The sharks went away, but he knew they would come back.

“What will I do now?”, he said aloud, for he often talked to himself when fishing alone, “And what will I do if they come in the night?”

“Fight them,” he said, “…fight them until I die.” (1)

And what about (deadly as sharks in their way) multiple disease threats to humans?

“More than one in four Americans have multiple (two or more) chronic conditions” at the same time. These can include arthritis, asthma, chronic respiratory conditions, diabetes, heart disease, …viral infections, hypertension, mental illnesses, dementia, cognitive impairment disorders, development disabilities, and more.” (2)

They even have a name for it. A condition called “clustering” means if you have one chronic disease, you are a likely candidate for another.

If you have a stroke, you may also get depression and/or Alzheimer’s disease, at the same time.

Similarly, “…conditions such as tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS (may accompany) diabetes and cardio-vascular disease”. (3)

Personally, I have several conditions: peripheral neuropathy (nerve disease, numbness in the ankles and feet), arthritis, a spinal cord injury, and possibly cancer. (I had treatment for the latter, and hopefully it is gone, but it is hard to tell for sure.)

So what is the answer? Fight them — as California did — by making sure our scientists had access to funding.

Our state voted to sell bonds ($3 billion dollars’ worth) for stem cell research. We established the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), and built twelve new labs, dedicated to stem cell research and gene therapy.

And when the money was gone, Bob Klein, the man who led the fight for Proposition 71’s $3 billion, said “Let’s do it again” — for 5.5 billion.

And California said yes!

Now. Is it possible for multiple diseases or conditions to be fought? There may be ways.

For instance: imagine a good cell, which helps you fight disease.

“Microglia are specialized cells that play critical roles in …immune defense… (they) influence the development and progression of many neurological disorders including Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, traumatic brain injury and autism…(4)

If a disease kills microglia, which brings on a disease — increasing microglia may help to fight back.

First, how to make enough microglial cells to use?

A team led by Matthew Blurton-Jones of the University of California at Irvine “established a highly reproducible method ( to make stem cells) into microglia.” (5)

Could that be important? A gene called CD 33 “is thought to influence Alzheimer’s disease by the clearance of beta-amyloid, (removing plaques and tangles from the brain, a possible cure)…”

Using mouse models…the team will examine the role of CD 33 to… “study the… causes of Alzheimer’s disease…”

“…further examination of human microglial transplantation will have broad implications for many neuro-degenerative disorders.”

When the sharks come back, we must be ready.



3. Optimizing the differentiation and expansion of microglial progenitors from human pluripotent stem cells for the study and treatment of neurological disease.

Optimizing the differentiation and expansion of microglial progenitors f…


Don C. Reed is the author of the new book, “Science, Politics, Stem Cells and Genes: CALIFORNIA’S WAR ON CHRONIC DISEASE”, from World Scientific Publishing, Inc.

Don C. Reed is the author of four books on the California stem cell program, including most recently: Science, Politics, Stem Cells and Genes: CALIFORNIA’S WAR ON CHRONIC DISEASE, from World Scientific Publishers Inc., available at a discount from:

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