Back in May 2009, CIRM held a workshop in which leading scientists discussed ways in which stem cell research could benefit people with autism (the autism workshop report from that meeting is available here). I have two friends with children who are on the spectrum and have seen first-hand the toll the disease takes on the families.

A story by Nick Wade in Monday's New York Times rubbed some scientists the wrong way - and I must admit the piece was not too popular around CIRM headquarters.

Wade equated research funding with picking stocks. His idea is that a broad portfolio is bound to include some winners (he attributes this approach to the NIH and NSF) whereas attempts to only buy the big winners can produce a risky portfolio (an approach he attributes to CIRM).

Radiation can effectively destroy brain tumor cells – but at a cost. While killing the tumor cells the treatment also damages normal cells in portions of the brain involved in learning and memory, leaving people with varying levels of impairment. New work by researchers at the University of California, Irvine suggests that human embryonic stem cells are able to ameliorate radiation-induced normal tissue damage.

Researchers at the Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease have identified two molecules, called microRNAs, that push early heart cells to mature into the smooth muscle cells that line blood vessels. These same molecules also control when those smooth muscle cells divide to repair damage or in diseases such as cancer or atherosclerosis, which both involve unhealthy blood vessel growth. The two microRNAs, miR-145 and miR-143, are abundant in the primitive heart cells of prenatal mice, leading those cells to differentiate into various mature heart and aorta cells.