22 Dec Stem cells give scientists a window on diseases
By Mark Johnson
Using a simple skin biopsy from a young boy with a deadly genetic illness, scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have provided the first demonstration that reprogramming can offer researchers an unprecedented view of human disease.
The skin cells came from a boy with spinal muscular atrophy, or SMA, an illness that is similar to Lou Gehrig’s disease, but afflicts children. The disease kills motor neurons until muscles stop working. Children become immobile, dependent on respirators and feeding tubes, and eventually die. The boy, whose biopsy the scientists used, ultimately died of SMA at age 3.