More MS news articles for Sep 2001

Foundation Offers $2.2 Million to Fund Parkinson's Stem Cell Research

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) Sept 07 - The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research (MJFF) said on Friday that it will guarantee $2.2 million in funding to a research program that attempts to produce a stem cell line with benefit to Parkinson's disease patients.

Founded in May 2000 by actor and Parkinson's disease patient Michael J. Fox, the private foundation aims to facilitate finding a cure for the neurological disorder within the decade.

Parkinson's disease occurs when cells are destroyed in certain parts of the brain stem, limiting a release of a key neurotransmitter, dopamine. This loss negatively affects the nerves and muscles controlling movement and coordination, resulting in the major symptoms characteristic of the progressive disease.

The MJFF said that it intends to evaluate proposals for the $2.2 million award on the basis of their merit, rather than the original source of the cells to be used in research.

Applicants for the award may conduct their research using all viable cells including adult, fetal and embryonic, the MJFF said. Its tack flies in the face of the Bush Administration's recent efforts to curtail US scientists' harvest of any more stem cells from aborted fetuses and embryos by restricting government funding for such medical research.

On August 9, President Bush announced that federal funding would be available only to scientific programs using the alleged 60 stem cell lines already in existence. Scientists and activists critical of the policy have voiced concern that of the cell groups already produced, only 24 or 25 lines are sufficiently developed for disease-targeted research.

As a private organization, the MJFF is free to extend its research awards as it sees fit.

"The Foundation seeks to take targeted actions that accelerate the search for a Parkinson's cure," the MJFF's Executive Director Deborah Brooks said. "With expert guidance from our scientific advisors, we feel this initiative represents a dramatic step forward."

Medical experts advising the MJFF include Parkinson's Disease Foundation Director Dr. J. William Langston, who also serves as the philanthropic organization's chief scientific advisor, and the Salk Institute's Dr. Fred Gage.

Potential treatments for Parkinson's disease are not limited to replacement with stem cells, the MJFF added. Dopaminergic cells are also believed to offer opportunities to understand and treat the illness, as well as the potential to reverse the process of neural degeneration, the MJFF said.

Research proposals based on dopaminergic cells will also be considered, it said.

Copyright © 2001 Reuters Ltd