Doctor to speak at Graham

By SHUVA RAHIM, News-Sun Staff Writer

One of the world's leaders in spinal-cord injury research will visit St. Paris next month to speak with Graham High School students.

Dr. Wise Young, founding director of the W.M. Keck Center for Collaborative Neuroscience, is also a professor at Rutgers University and chairman of the school's Department of Cell Biology and Neuroscience.

Young, who earned his doctorate from the University of Iowa and {M6a medical degree from Stanford University, is scheduled to speak with Marcia Ward's human anatomy class at 7:30Â*a.m. March 10 and from 8:35 to 9:45 a.m. with the public.

His visit stemmed from an e-mail Young received last fall from Nicholas Shore, an 18-year-old Graham senior, who held a symposium about the scientist for Ward's class. The teacher suggested the student contact the Rutgers professor and ask if he would talk to the students.

"I actually didn't think he would come. But I e-mailed him anyway, and a couple days later I got an e-mail from Dr. Young saying he would like to speak to the class," said Shore, who aspires to be a chiropractor. "I was amazed to think he would actually want to come."

Young said Tuesday he's spoken to New Jersey high school students, but this will be his first time speaking with Ohio students.

"I was amazed," Young said of the offer to speak. "I want to talk about some of the issues of spinal-cord injuries and some of the therapies being developed, including stem cells. I want to get an understanding of what high school students think about stem cells."

The Hong Kong-born scientist said he believes there's too much politics in the debate over embryonic stem-cell research, adding that the original proposal for the endeavor involves using frozen, fertilized eggs that otherwise would be thrown away. The 53-year-old said research that could be done has no relation to abortions, cloning or baby factories and alluded to conservatives such as U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and former first lady Nancy Reagan as advocates of the research.

"The debate on stem cells has been hijacked, in my opinion. Political concerns are irrelevant to the issue," Young said. "Is it better to throw them away into the trash or better to use them for research? Most reasonable people I talk to will say, 'Of course, it's better to use them to help people."'

He said it's hard to know where stem-cell research will lead because existing federal regulations don't allow the issue to be fully explored. Some animal studies indicate stem cells may be useful and, Young said, he believes they will prove important for spinal-cord injuries, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and other diseases.

In 1990, Young was part of a team that discovered and established a steroid, taken intravenously in high doses, as the first effective therapy for spinal-cord injuries. That work dismissed the idea of a spinal-cord injury being permanent. He said the therapy reduces inflammation and may stimulate some neurons to help repair damage in the spinal cord.

Young has held numerous positions in academics, government and professional organizations since his days as a surgery and neurosurgery resident at New York University Medical Center in the late 1970s. He has also authored numerous articles in medical journals and edited three books. He has appeared on national television shows such as "20/20" and "48 Hours," has been featured in a Life magazine special edition and in USA Today and was named as America's best in the field of spinal-cord injury research by Time magazine in 2001.

"I'm very gratified that students in high school are interested in science, particularly science that helps people," Young said. "High school students are the future of science. That's the main reason I'm coming to Ohio."

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