Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Obituary: Dr. Ira Black

From The Philadelphia Inquirer:
Neuroscientist Ira Black, stem-cell expert
The Philadelphia Inquirer
11 January 2006
Associated Press

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. - Ira Black, 64, an internationally recognized clinical neuroscientist and a founding director of the Stem Cell Institute of New Jersey, died yesterday.

A spokeswoman for the university hospital where Dr. Black taught said he had died at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. The cause of death was not disclosed.

Since 1990, Dr. Black, who lived in Princeton, was chairman of the neuroscience and cell biology department at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. The state-sponsored Stem Cell Institute was established nearby in May 2004.

Stem-cell research is an emerging science that advocates say could bring revolutionary therapies to a variety of disorders, including paralysis and Alzheimer's.

Gov. Codey, a champion of public funding for such research, said yesterday that Dr. Black left an "honorable legacy."

"His spirit lives on in his work, which is being applied to the treatment of degenerative and acute neurological diseases and spinal cord injury," Codey said in a statement.

Wise Young, a cofounding director of the institute, called Dr. Black a statesman for his field as well as one of its most rigorous scientists. Dr. Black discovered that certain adult bone-marrow cells could be converted into transplantable nerve cells, Young said.

"My great regret," he said in a statement, "is that he will not see the fruition of his work and the use of bone-marrow stem cells to treat neurological diseases."

Dr. Black used postnatal stem cells, but both doctors agreed that research on fetal and embryonic stem cells should be permitted, Young said. Opponents, including President Bush, liken such research to abortion because human embryos would be destroyed.

John Petillo, president of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, called Dr. Black a "faculty superstar" who was a dedicated teacher and mentor.

"He was engaged by the complexities of the brain and driven by the possibility of helping individuals with heartbreaking neuro-degenerative conditions or traumatic brain injuries," Petillo said in a statement.

Information about funeral arrangements was not available.
Anthony H. Risser | |

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