By: Benita Zahn
RENSSELAER - Welcome to the Neural Stem Cell Institute in Rensselaer. They're doing cutting edge work on encouraging our bodies to regenerate damaged nerves - something animals can do but humans can't .. or, as the theory here goes - we can - but the ability is dormant. And these scientists are working on encouraging our bodies to turn on that ability. They've already made one very big discovery.
"Recently we discovered an entirely new stem cell that exists in the back of the human eye" says Sally Temple, Ph.D., the scientific director and co-founder of the institute.
"So we can activate the cell now and figure out ways to use it to repair diseases like age related macular degeneration."
Temple says this work has implications beyond the eye .. to treating spinal cord injuries, Parkinson's disease, even Alzheimer's.
"And we have to learn how to activate those cells and now that we find they exist, how do you turn them on in a controlled manner, in a safe manner to repair the central nervous system."
Temple says they're at a pivotal point and would like to begin clinical trials . .but the economy is working against them.
"It's a risky process. We may start off with 100 things and only 20 of those will make it through" says Temple.
So they keep studying ways to uses these newly found cells to replace those lost to disease and how to more effectively activate them, and working to find a champion with deep pockets to help them take the next step.