Supporting Stem Cell Research

January 23, 2014
BY Melissa Gerr
Hadassah of Greater Baltimore, Hadassah Medical Organization remain at the forefront of stem cell research and advocacy
Bruce in the USA, a Bruce Springsteen tribute band, will perform at CELL-A-BRATE, Hadassah of Greater Baltimore’s event to fund stem cell research. (Provided)

Bruce in the USA, a Bruce Springsteen tribute band, will perform at CELL-A-BRATE, Hadassah of Greater Baltimore’s event to fund stem cell research. (Provided)

Hadassah of Greater Baltimore’s eighth annual CELL-A-BRATE event will feature a night of music and dancing with Bruce in the USA — a tribute band to Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band — as well as a catered reception, drink offerings and a silent auction. The gathering promises to raise critical funds necessary to support the Hadassah Medical Organization’s continuing stem cell research, treatment, therapies and advocacy efforts.

Hadassah’s work remains at the forefront of stem cell research as shown by its  approaches to the treatment and research of Alzheimer’s disease and age-related macular degeneration, say officials with the organization. It continues to battle diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis by applying cell transplantation treatments and therapies also used in bone fracture repair and some cancer treatments.

Hadassah’s efforts are global, points out Jill Sapperstein, president of Hadassah of Greater Baltimore. In Washington, D.C., and across the nation, the organization has taken a lead role in educating elected officials about the importance of stem cell research. In Israel, the Hadassah Research Center for Human Embryonic Stem Cells was established to further its pioneering work and has drawn scientists from around the world.

“The only way the research can continue is to continue to fund it,” says Sapperstein. “Every day the research gets closer and closer for cures to diseases like ALS [amyotrophic lateral sclerosis] and MS.”

“Medical research at Hadassah Medical Organization is one of the core pieces of Hadassah’s mission,” she continues. “It’s what it was founded on and continues to live by: To improve the lives and health of people in Israel and worldwide.”

This year, Hadassah of Greater Baltimore is honoring the memory of Alvin and Louise Myerberg. Working with Dr. Justin McArthur, chair of the department of neurology at Johns Hopkins Hospital, Alvin Myerberg funded a research project to test a novel therapy to treat multiple sclerosis; his wife, Louise, suffered from the disease.

The National Institutes of Health contends that the use of stem cells in research is vital because of their unique characteristics. Stem cells are essentially undeveloped and therefore not genetically programmed to become a specific cell type. Because of this, stem cells have the potential and flexibility to develop into many different cell types, a valuable trait to researchers. They also renew themselves through cell division quickly and can do so over prolonged periods, and can be induced under the right conditions to become tissue- or organ-specific cells.

Although stem cells can be sourced from adult lines, amniotic fluid and induced pluripotent cells, the use of embryonic stem cells ignited a fierce ethical debate that continues in the scientific and public policy worlds today. In the United States, embryonic stem cell research funding was severely restricted until 2009, when President Barack Obama issued an executive order that removed some of the barriers.

mgerr@jewishtimes.com

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