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UC Davis Medical Center

UC Davis Medical Center

Community forum focuses on stem cell research and brain disorders

Stem Cell Dialogue expert panel © 2009 UC Regents
Leading researchers in neurodegenerative disorders addressed the potential for stem cell science to find new treatments for ALS, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease, and FXTAS. "Our goal for our stem cell research is to discover new therapeutic approaches – and then move these scientific discoveries from the laboratory to patients," said Claire Pomeroy.

Before an overflow crowd at the UC Davis Education Building, four prominent UC Davis experts gave presentations about the possibilities that stem cell science will lead to newer and more effective treatments — or even cures — for common brain disorders. It was all part of a community forum on Thursday, Sept. 10, entitled "Stem Cell Dialogues."

The event, which was free and open to the public, was the second in a series of discussions that offers opportunities for the public to learn and ask questions about the stem cell research and therapies in development at UC Davis. The forum focused on using stem cells to understand and treat neurodegenerative diseases such as Huntington’s, Parkinson’s, ALS and a more recently identified condition called FXTAS — or fragile X-associated tremor/ataxia syndrome. It also highlighted the upcoming clinical trials that UC Davis is planning using adult stem cells. 

The potential — and the hope — of stem cell science

“This is such an exciting time in medical science because patients who currently have limited treatment options may soon have opportunities to benefit from stem cell therapy,” said Jan Nolta, director of the UC Davis Stem Cell Program and the university’s new Institute for Regenerative Cures, a facility supported by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine. “The potential to treat disease and injury in a completely new way offers a lot of hope. This type of community forum is an important way to share the latest research information and answer questions from about the work UC Davis physicians and scientists are doing and the potential for breakthroughs and success.”

Jan Nolta © 2009 UC Regents“This is such an exciting time in medical science because patients who currently have limited treatment options may soon have opportunities to benefit from stem cell therapy.”
— Jan Nolta, director of the UC Davis Stem Cell Program

Nolta was one of the featured speakers at the Stem Cell Dialogues, along with Paul Hagerman, a professor of biochemistry and molecular medicine who directs the UC Davis NeuroTherapuetics Research Institute. Hagerman has focused much of his research on neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative diseases associated with the fragile X gene. The session also featured Bjorn Oskarsson, a neuromuscular neurologist and director of the ALS clinic at UC Davis, who discussed his work exploring various aspects of ALS — better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Vicki Wheelock, a clinical professor of neurology at UC Davis who specializes in movement disorders, addressed the hope of stem cell science in leading to new treatments for Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease.

About UC Davis Stem Cell Research

UC Davis Institute for Regenerative Cures © 2009 UC Regents

UC Davis is taking a leading role in stem cell research, with more than 125 scientists and physicians currently working on a variety of stem cell investigations.

The university recently broke ground on its Institute for Regenerative Cures, a facility supported by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine. The 92,000 square-foot research facility located in Sacramento will enable researchers to have access to state-of-the-art laboratories and cell manufacturing and testing rooms.

Together with the university’s Translational Human Embryonic Stem Cell Shared Research Facility and its Clinical and Translational Science Center, the institute will help turn stem cells into cures. For more information, visit www.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/stemcellresearch/.

Turning stem cells into cures

The event was moderated by Claire Pomeroy, UC Davis vice chancellor for Human Health Sciences, dean of UC Davis School of Medicine and a member of the governing board of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, which is the state stem cell agency created several years ago by a voter-approved initiative that allocated $3 billion for stem cell research.

“Neurodegenerative diseases take a huge toll on people — physically, economically and emotionally,” said Pomeroy during her opening presentation. “Being able to treat these disorders — or better yet, prevent them from occurring — represents one of the most significant challenges in medicine today. Our goal for our stem cell research is to discover new therapeutic approaches — and then move these scientific discoveries from the laboratory to patients. Our goal is to turn stem cells into cures.”

Your chance to find out more

For those who were not able to attend the dialogue, a video of the session will soon available online at http://www.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/stemcellresearch/.

The next community discussion about stem cell science is planned for Thursday, Nov. 4, when UC Davis experts will discuss the use of stem cells in understanding and treating cancer. Those interested in more information should contact Kathy Lopez at kathleen.lopez@ucdmc.ucdavis.edu.