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Brain Healing

Finally there is good news forthcoming about stem cell research: an Israeli biotech company, BrainStorm, has announced that in a small-scale trial with ALS patients, four out of six experienced improvement in their symptoms after treatment and the other two were stabilized. ALS, also known as motor neuron disease, is a progressive, debilitating condition in which the motor neurons gradually degenerate. Patients experience muscle weakness and eventual paralysis. Generally speaking, neurons, once they die, cannot be replaced. The one hope is treatment with stem cells, the same cells from which the embryo is formed in the womb. These cells have the potential to grow into any type of cell.

In BrainStorm’s experimental treatment, stem cells were taken from the patient’s own bone marrow, treated with growth hormones and induced to multiply, and then reinjected into the patient’s spinal cord. The hope is that these stem cells will grow and replace the damaged motor neurons, restoring function.

Some parts of the body have almost unlimited abilities to regenerate: the skin, for example, or the liver.  It is not known why the brain and nervous system do not have this ability to the same extent. However, stem cell research has enormous potential to bring cures for people suffering from devastating neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s, stroke or neuromuscular disorders. We pray for their speedy recovery, as well as for people suffering from any type of ill. In truth, though, we pray for so much more than that.

In Torah sources it is mentioned that when Moshiach comes, all ills will be cured and the dead will be resurrected. There is a bone in the spine known as “Luz,” from which G-d will regenerate the entire body with all its muscles, nerves and other tissues. The body will first be restored to the condition it was in at death, and then it will be healed entirely.

Scientifically, it’s hard to say which bone in the body corresponds to the “Luz.” However, these exciting new discoveries in stem cell research point the way to a plausible mechanism by which the body can be restored. This is not to say that the resurrection will not be a miraculous process. G-d, who controls both nature and the miraculous, can make the miracle of resurrection come about through direct miracle or through a blend of natural and miraculous processes. Modern technological miracles that we have already witnessed give greater hope that the final Redemption with its promises of miraculous healing is near at hand. We are approaching the time when, as described in Psalms (25:5), “He asked for life, and You gave him long days for eternity.”


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