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NINDS

A Thumbs Up for New NIH Research Center

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I enjoyed touring the future home of the Center for Alzheimer’s and Related Dementias (CARD), now under construction on the NIH campus. The tour was led by Mitch Taragin, the CARD Project Officer, and he and I gathered afterwards with some of the dedicated construction workers for this group photo and a big thumbs up. That’s me front and center in the mask and hardhat. The 24,000-square-foot building is expected to open its doors in Spring 2022. The new NIH center will accelerate the translation of scientific findings on Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias into real-world applications. The center is supported by NIH’s National Institute on Aging (NIA) and National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). My visit took place on July 21, 2021. Credit: NIH

Why We’re So Excited About Stem Cells

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Certainly – as you can see here – stem cells are spectacularly beautiful. But they also hold spectacular promise for medicine.  That’s why I immediately expressed my enthusiasm for Monday’s Supreme Court ruling that effectively enables NIH to continue conducting and funding responsible, scientifically worthy stem cell research.

There are many kinds of stem cells. This is a picture of induced pluripotent stem cells – or, iPS cells. Investigators have recently begun using iPS cells to model several neurological diseases – including Parkinson’s. The cells here have been treated with growth factors that coax them into becoming the dopamine producing (dopaminergic) neurons lost in Parkinson’s. The colorized markers indicate the presence of three proteins found within dopaminergic neurons: (1) the enzyme needed to produce dopamine (tyrosine hydroxylase, in blue), (2) a structural protein specific to neurons (Type III beta-tubulin, in green), and (3) a gene regulatory protein needed in dopaminergic neurons (FOXA2, in red). The color-mixing in some cells indicates that all three proteins are present – confirming that these cells are on their way to becoming dopaminergic neurons.

Today’s image is more than just a pretty picture. It’s a window into the ways that disease affects the body – and possibly the ways we might counter those affects. The NIH/NINDS web site has more information about how iPS cells are being used to study Parkinson’s and other neurological disorders.