Ground-Breaking Work in Stem Cell Research

An Interview with Dr. Derek van der Kooy about His Recent Work on Retinal Stem Cells

Kimby N. Barton, MSc
Assistant Editor
Geriatrics & Aging

In August, this year, the National Institutes of Health generated a firestorm of controversy when they released their new guidelines allowing scientists to use stem cells derived from human embryos for their research. Reactions varied from great praise from the publicly funded Ameri-can scientific community, to a papal condemnation of the action as 'not morally acceptable'.

The various reactions aside, it is widely recognized that stem cell therapy may be one of the only avenues available for treating a number of neurodegenerative disorders, spinal cord injury, and diabetes. The recent success of the 'Edmonton Protocol', which relies on the injection of pancreatic islet cells into a donor pancreas, has raised the possibility of a 'cure' for diabetes. Unfortunately the limited availability of current donors, and the need for two or more pancreases per patient, raise the spectre of a long waiting list of people desperately hoping for a donated organ. One means of overcoming this organ limitation is to develop a renewable line of pancreatic stem cells.

Several articles in this issue offer discussions on the limited success of treatments for such age-related eye diseases as macular degeneration and glaucoma.