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FIGHTING ZIKA: A Guest Post by Don C. Reed @diverdonreed #stemcell #research #books #TuesdayBookBlog

Zika…Zeeekaahh… sounds poisonous and evil, doesn’t it? But the reality is worse.

Some adults may go through a session of Zika and barely notice it: mild headaches, stomach upset, aching in joints. Others may contract the paralyzing condition Guillain-Barre, or acute myelitis and other disorders of the nerve system.

But the worst danger is to the child in the womb.

In the early stages of pregnancy, a child infected with Zika does not develop right. He/she may be born with an unnaturally small head, and a damaged brain. This can mean death before birth, or to be born with massive brain damage. The consequences are for the rest of their lives.

“These are children who might never be able talk, or walk. They can be deaf and blind. Many will require constant care and will never be able to live an independent life.”—Dr. Nivea Arraes, Januario Cicco Maternity Hospital, Brazil.

Why we fight: Zika disease can harm our beloved children, giving them microcephaly, a small skull and damaged brain...

Alysson R. Muotri is a scientist whose work I have followed for several years. He is a terrific asset to the cure research community, not only because of the quality of his science, but because he can explain himself in “people talk”—hugely important! In another entry, I will talk about his efforts with autism but right now let’s focus on Zika.

Two years ago, there was a major outbreak of the Zika virus in Brazil, Dr. Muotri’s original place of residence. Efforts from Dr. Muotri’s lab confirmed the causal link between the virus and birth defects.

Today he works at the University of California at San Diego, UCSD.

Before its Brazilian outbreak in 2015, Zika (originally found in Africa, in Uganda’s Zika forest) had been an inconvenience, nothing more.

But the genes mutated. Suddenly, people began to get terribly ill, and some died.

A Chinese study tested three early strains of Zika virus on lab mice; of which 17% of the infected lab mice died. But the new Zika? It killed them all.

It spread. The Aedes mosquito plunged its sharp proboscis into infected people, and then carried their virus to others.

The Zika mosquito feeds— and may spread a deadly disease.

Recently, cases were found in Brownsville, Texas, Miami, Florida—and in Long Beach, California.

The Center for Disease Control has advised pregnant women to “delay” visiting Brownsville and Southern Florida.

The World Health Organization suggests women in at-risk areas postpone pregnancies.

Attempts have been made to wipe out the mosquito species, by releasing sterile males.

As individuals, pregnant women in the area are advised to protect themselves from mosquito attack as best they can, using repellent and bug spray.

As the disease can be spread by sexual contact, condoms or abstinence may prevent the transmission of the disease.

But as yet, there is no cure. Efforts toward a vaccine are on the way, but it will take years and there is no guarantee it will work…

Could stem cell research fight Zika?

First, we need to understand how the disease is spread throughout the body.

Think of a janitor with a mop and a bucket—but the bucket contains poison. So everywhere the janitor mops, poison is spread.

The “janitors” of the nervous system are called microglia. They devour waste products of the nerves, the leftover remnants of Neural Progenitor Cells (NPCs).

When the microglia “clean up”, eating an NPC which has Zika, they pick up the infection, and become themselves carriers of disease.

Using skin cells from healthy people, Dr. Muotri has made stem cell lines of NPCs and microglia. He verified that Zika was “eaten” by microglia, which then spread the disease through the blood and into the brain, bringing the damage. He sees it like a Trojan horse strategy.

Next he used a zika-infected “mini-brain”, a tiny dot of nerve tissue called an organoid, to test some already-FDA-approved medications. (The advantage of using FDA-approved drugs means much less testing—less costs and less delay.)

He found a drug (Sofobusvir) originally intended to fight Hepatitis C—but which might inhibit the Zika replication in human cells.

He also found a protective drug, Chloroquine, an anti-malaria medicine, to be effective on protecting infected Moms: to hopefully prevent the virus from being passed on to the fetus. He says: “This drug is so inexpensive, you could treat the entire country on a reasonable budget. In the 50’s, the Brazilian government added Chloroquine into the cooking salt to control malaria. A similar strategy might be applied to protect people from Zika, while vaccines are not available.

Using this new “model” Dr. Muotri hopes to get to human trials quickly.

And if the disease mutates again? Worse may be in store.

Better to fight it now.

Good luck, Dr. Muotri.

And a heart-felt thank you to the California stem cell program, which is funding his anti-Zika research.

Title: California Cures! How the California Stem Cell Program is Fighting Your Incurable Disease!

Author: Don C. Reed

Genre: Medicine, Stem Cell Research, Sciences

Book Blurb:

Thirteen years ago, America faced an epidemic of chronic disease: cancer, paralysis, blindness, arthritis, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes and more.

But California voters said "YES!" to a $3 billion stem cell research program: the awkwardly-named California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM). Born into battle, the scrappy little state agency was immediately blocked by three years of anti-science lawsuits — but it defeated them all. And then?

A quiet triumph. With a focused intensity like the Manhattan Project (but for peaceful purposes, not to build a bomb), scientists funded by CIRM took on the challenges: disease and disability called chronic: incurable.

In a series of connected stories, accurate though written to entertain, "California Cures" relates a war: science against disease, with lives on the line. Think what it means for a paralyzed young man to recover the use of his hands, or for a formerly-blind mother to see her teenaged children — for the first time!

Do you know the "bubble-baby" syndrome? Infants without a proper immune system typically die young; a common cold can kill. But for eighteen babies in a stem cell clinical trial, a different future: they were cured of their disease.

No one can predict the pace of science, nor say when cures will come; but California is bringing the fight. The reader will meet the scientists involved, the women and men behind the microscope, and share their struggle.

Above all, "California Cures" is a call for action. Washington may argue about the expense of health care (and who will get it), but California works to bring down the mountain of medical debt: stem cell therapies to ease suffering, and save lives.

Will California build on success — and invest $5 billion more in stem cell research?

"We have the momentum", says author Don C Reed, "We dare not stop short. Chronic disease threatens everyone — we are fighting for your family, and mine!"


  • Introduction: Evangelina and the Golden State

  • The Absolute Minimum You Need to Know First

  • To Breathe, or Not to Breathe

  • The Strongest Man in the World

  • When the Dolphin Broke My Ear

  • The Boy with Butterfly Skin

  • The Great Baldness "Comb-Over" Replacement?

  • "He Sees! He Sees!"

  • Cop at the Window

  • "Go West, Young (Wo)Man" — To a Biomed Career?

  • And How Will You be Paying for that New Heart?

  • The Answer to Cancer?

  • A Political Obstacle to Heart Disease Cure?

  • Your Friend, the Liver!

  • "Bring 'em Back Alive"

  • The Color of Fat

  • Revenge for My Sister

  • A Story with No Happy Ending?

  • Aging and Stem Cells

  • The "Impending Alzheimer's Healthcare Disaster"

  • President Trump's Great Stem Cell Opportunity

  • Leiningen's Ants and Parkinson's Disease

  • On the Morality of Fetal Cell Research

  • Democracy and Gloria's Knees

  • Three Children, and the Eternal Flame

  • Autism, Mini-Brains, and the Zika Virus

  • Why "The Big Bang Theory" Matters to Me

  • Musashi and the Two-Sword Solution

  • "The Magnificent Seven"

  • The Connecticut Commitment

  • In Memory of Beau

  • To Relocate Alligators, or Turn a Country on to Biomed?

  • Whale Sharks and Outer Space

  • Mr Science Goes to Washington?

  • When Oklahoma is Not OK

  • James Bond and Melanoma

  • Neurological Diseases vs. California

  • Driving to the Storm

  • Door into Tomorrow

  • Stem Cell Battles — On Times Square?

  • Annette, Richard Pryor, and Multiple Sclerosis

  • Mike Pence, and Reproductive Servitude

  • Motorcycle Wrecks and Complex Fractures

  • Even Dracula Gets Arthritis

  • Tugboat for Cure

  • Wheelchair Warriors, Take Back Your Rights!

  • Sickle Cell Disease vs. Stem Cell Agency

  • Dwight Clark, "The Catch," and A L S

  • A Friend is Lost

  • Dying in Doonesbury, Fighting Back at UCD

  • The Man with the Autographed Baseball

  • The Gorilla Gynecologist Returns

  • Wrestling the Invisible Enemy

  • Two Warriors Named Joan

  • An End to Heroism?

  • Message from the Middle Kingdom

  • Scientists and the Undocumented

  • The Girl, the Bandit, and Women in Science

  • The Greatest Proposal

  • Forty-Two California Clinical Trials

  • Gathering of Champions

  • Goodbye, Hello!

  • The Answer

  • A Nobel Prize for Bob Klein?

  • Afterword: For More Information

  • Personal Message

  • Index

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Author Biography:

For Don Reed, the inspiration for the work he does is the people he works with and for. Reed is often called the “Grandfather of Stem Cell Research Advocacy”, and has been in the eye of the storm of stem cell research and advocacy since before the passage of Proposition 71, having worked at grassroots, national, international, and state levels to garner public support and advocating for policy action.

Reed’s involvement with stem cell research began after his son Roman was in a paralyzing football accident in 1994. The Reeds pursued multiple treatments and clinical trials nationally and internationally, and in their process of searching for spinal cord injury treatments for Roman, Don was led towards stem cell research. In a pre-computer era, he wrote to every member of the United States Senate and Assembly. Receiving no response, he then reached out to every member in the California Assembly and Senate. Assembly member John Dutra, (D-Fremont, retd.) responded, and the Roman Reed Spinal Cord Injury Research Act (AB 750), a research funding law, was passed in 1999 and funded America’s first embryonic stem cell therapy.

In 2002, Reed organized grassroots support for California Senator Deborah V. Ortiz (D-Sacramento, retd.) to pass the nation’s first stem cell research laws, giving California official permission to perform both embryonic stem cell research and somatic cell nuclear transfer.

His contribution to stem cell research and advocacy grew when he joined forces with Bob Klein in 2003. Klein’s leadership brought the passage of $3 billion California initiative, Proposition 71, the California Stem Cells for Research and Cures Act, which became the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine. Reed worked first as a volunteer, and later became vice President for Public Policy for Americans for Cures Foundation, a position he holds today.

Awards and Recognitions: Reed has won numerous advocacy awards, including the first patient advocate award from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), the Willie Shoemaker Award for advancing spinal cord injury awareness, the first Genetic Policy Institute Advocate of the year Award, and various writing and teaching awards, including “Teacher of the Year” for Fremont Unified School District, and the National Press Award.

As a writer, he is best known for approximately 200 articles on stem cell politics for the Huffington Post, and as the author of the book, “STEM CELL BATTLES: Proposition 71 and Beyond”. Reed also wrote five books about the ocean, based on his 17 years as a scuba diver for Marine World Africa USA.

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