Dr. Marius Wernig – Stanford University
At Stanford, the National Stem Cell Foundation partnered with the National MS Society to support the work of Dr. Marius Wernig and his lab at the Stanford Institute of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine. Dr. Wernig is reprogramming a patient’s own skin cells into the brain cells that make myelin, the insulation around nerve fibers that allows the brain to transmit electrical impulses to the rest of the body. Optimizing this pathway may create a therapy that will halt or reverse the loss of function in patients with diseases that damage myelin or inhibit its production. The most common of the demyelinating diseases is MS, but there are a family of rare, inherited disorders that interfere with myelin production and are fatal in early childhood. Dr. Wernig has successfully “modeled” Pelizaeus-Merzbacher Disease in the laboratory to speed discovery and advance therapeutic options. See Dr. Wernig’s interview here.
Dr. Regina Armstrong – Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences
The National Stem Cell Foundation partnered with the National MS Society to support the work of Dr. Regina Armstrong at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland. Dr. Armstrong is finding ways to induce myelin repair by working with a molecule called “Sonic Hedgehog” known to multiply cell division and increase the number of myelin-making cells. Myelin is the insulation around nerve fibers that allows the brain to transmit electrical impulses to the rest of the body. If successful, this research may lead to therapies that will improve symptoms and restore function for people with MS and children with inherited demyelinating disorders that are fatal in childhood.