A familys bravery and generosity in the face of their sons death three years ago has enabled researchers to make an important new finding about the brain and its stem cells.
On May 7, 2002, 12-year-old Nathan Van Vleck of Pittsford died after a nearly lifelong fight with an exceedingly rare inherited disease known as vanishing white matter (VWM) disease. As Nathans illness progressed, the family discussed how it might help other families and patients coping with VWM, and the family decided to allow the study of some of Nathans brain cells for research purposes. Immediately upon his death in the hospital, a team of neuropathologists and neurobiologists worked through the night to isolate some of Nathans brain cells, which were then grown and studied in the laboratory.
The outcome was an unprecedented in-depth look at the brain cells of a VWM patient. The investigation not only yielded important knowledge about how the disease affects the brain, but it also marks one of the first times that scientists have been able to isolate neural stem cells from a patient and use them to learn what is going wrong in the brain of a patient with a complex neurological disease. The team of scientists from the University of Rochester Medical Center reported its results in the March issue of the prestigious research journal Nature Medicine.
Tom Rickey | EurekAlert!
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