Harvard Stem Cell Researcher Targets ALS And 'The Watershed' Of Neurological Disease
Harvard stem cell biologist Kevin Eggan is a P2ALS Collaborator.
Harvard stem cell biologist Kevin Eggan sees a vivid connection between his research and one of his favorite recreations.
Eggan, whose lab is affiliated with the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, specializes in the study of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and stem cells have become a major tool for understanding the progress of the disease.
It’s a complicated challenge, and one that is not at first easy to comprehend without the help of certain analogies.
The one Eggan likes to use grew out of his experience from kayaking in New Zealand, a sport his wife’s family introduced him to.
“Think of a watershed,” he said. A familiar sight to kayakers: a strip of land that separates waters flowing to different rivers and streams.
“If you think of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and ALS, which we study, then patients are like drops of water; they fall into this watershed, and the catch basins are way upstream. And what we’ve learned is that there are a lot of places where the drops can fall and all run downhill into the same river.”
But how does the river connect to diseases like ALS?
There are a variety of different environmental stimuli that cause disease, according to Eggan. ”It seems that there are many different genes mutated in the body that can lead to ALS; what’s amazing is when you look at these genes, the connections [between the genes] are not immediately clear. They seem to affect different parts of the cell’s biology, and the genes that are mutated –their products are expressed in every part of the body.”
But for some reason in ALS it is the spinal motor neuron, which connects the brain to muscles, that dies. And scientists as yet don’t know why.
“In other words, although there are many different creeks, lakes and streams which can feed this river system,” said Eggan, “and we have some insights from epidemiology and genetics where those sources of the river are … we have no information about how those rivers and streams connect with one another.”
Read the entire article of forbes.com