Fall 2004 Forum

Biotechnology & Social Justice
Towards a Cure for Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s Disease: Adult Stem Cell Plasticity in the Brain

Dr. Ira BlackDr. Ira B. Black
Chairman of the Department of Neuroscience and Cell Research
UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
Founding Director, Stem Cell Institute of New Jersey
Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, NJ
Oct 18, 2004

Abstract

Dr. Black and his team have succeeded in converting adult bone marrow stem cells into nerve cells. This work is being applied to the treatment of degenerative and acute neurological diseases including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and spinal injury. These discoveries suggest that adult cells are far more flexible than formerly assumed. Moreover, these adult stem cells are now being transplanted to embryos to prevent birth defects, and to adults to treat models of degenerative and mid-life diseases. The possibilities of this research will be discussed along with societal issues and ethical problems that are its byproducts.

Dr. Ira Black is Professor and Chairman of the Department of Neuroscience and Cell Biology and Founding Director of the Stem Cell Institute of New Jersey. He is past President of the Society for Neuroscience of North America. He is a clinical neurologist and neuroscientist studying stem cells, and brain genes encoding growth factors, survival factors and neurotransmitters. His team succeeded in converting adult bone marrow stem cells into nerve cells in culture and in vivo in a variety of neurological diseases. This work is being applied to the treatment of degenerative and acute neurological diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and spinal injury. Dr. Black has served on numerous international and national panels and advisory committees, and is presently Chairman of the Publications Committee of the International Society for Stem Cell Research, the Scientific Advisory Council of the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation and a member of the Cure Autism Now Scientific Advisory Board. He is the recipient of a McKnight Foundation Award in Neuroscience, a Jacob Javits Award from the NIH, the Viktor Hamburger Prize and the Rita Levi Montalcini Award. He is the author of approximately two hundred articles in neuroscience and of three books Cellular and Molecular Biology of Neuronal Development, Information in the Brain: a Molecular Perspective, and The Changing Brain: Alzheimer’s Disease and Advances in Neuroscience