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From NW Missourian:
Genia Brin, mother of Google co-founder Sergey Brin, assisted Stanford University scientists in late March in breakthrough discoveries about Parkinson's disease. The scientists excised a dime-sized patch of skin from her upper arm, chemically matured the cells and watched them die. By replicating the process that naturally occurs in Parkinson's victims, they are one step closer to finding how the disease affects our brain cells.

Until recently, Parkinson's was a tricky disease to observe because only humans are afflicted with it, ruling out animal testing, and deep brain cell extraction in a live patient would be fatal. The embryonic stem cell debate revolved around degenerative disorders like Parkinson's because it appears to victimize people sporadically. Harvesting embryonic stem cells for research, a practice abhorred by pro-life activists, was supposed to help scientists replicate the process in which Parkinson's hijacks brain cells.

The process used in Brin, who carried a rare genetic form of the disease, employed adult stem cells. After extraction, her skin cells were genetically manipulated to take the form of neurons involved in Parkinson's disease.

This is at least the second major breakthrough in adult stem cell research for Parkinson's disease, following the University of California, Los Angeles case in early 2009. In that instance, adult stem cells were removed from the afflicted patient, genetically modified into mature neurons and reintroduced to the brain for an 80 percent improvement in motor skills.

If such a process has proven its worth and does not lie in a moral gray area like embryonic stem cells, it ought to spearhead stem cell research. Unfettered by debate or strong opposition, it is more likely to attract grant monies or even public funding. Finally, we have disease-fighting research that most Americans would not mind being taxed for.

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