Salk Institute

Blood has been among the most sought after and hardest to achieve tissue that CIRM grantees are attempting to derive from embryonic stem cells. It's an obvious target. The medical system needs a constant influx of blood, which comes entirely from volunteer donors. Creating that blood in an unlimited supply from human embryonic stem cells would significantly ease concerns about blood shortages at hospitals.

Normal aging takes many decades to create major changes in our cells, so it is very difficult to study. As a result, very little is known about this fundamental inevitability of life. But that may change with the help of an unfortunate child, who by the bad luck of a single point mutation developed a rare disease that results in aging at eight to 10 times the normal pace.

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.

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have found a protein that protects the brain from the kind of damage that can lead to Parkinson's disease. This protein, called Nurr1, has a long history in Parkinson's disease research. People who carry a mutation in the gene are prone to developing the disease. The new work explains how the protein prevents Parkinson's disease and could also help researchers find ways of treating of preventing the disease.