Laying a foundation for treating ALS, spinal cord injury

This story starts in 1955, upon the death of Albert Einstein, when the pathologist charged with performing the famous scientist’s autopsy stole his brain. Fast forward to the 1980s when a University of California, Berkeley scientist was studying parts of the stolen goods involved in complex thinking and discovered that the father of relativity had more of certain types of cells, called astrocytes, than other human brains studied.

ALS community suddenly awash in awareness

If you hadn’t heard of ALS before this summer, you’re not alone. If you haven’t heard of it by now, you must be living under a rock. Not only did the ubiquitous ALS Ice Bucket Challenge raise about $100 million from late July to late August, it boosted awareness of ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Rare disease yields clues about broader brain pathology

Alexander disease is a devastating brain disease that almost nobody has heard of — unless someone in the family is afflicted with it. Alexander disease strikes young or old, and in children destroys white matter in the front of the brain. Many patients, especially those with early onset, have significant intellectual disabilities.

Waisman scientists model human disease in stem cells

Many scientists use animals to model human diseases. Mice can be obese or display symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Rats get Alzheimer’s and diabetes. But animal models are seldom perfect, and so scientists are looking at a relatively new type of stem cell, called the induced pluripotent stem cell (iPS cell), that can be grown into specialized cells that become useful models for human disease.