The death of former US President Ronald Reagan Saturday (June 5) after a decade-long struggle with Alzheimer's disease—just a month after former First Lady Nancy Reagan spoke publicly for the first time in support of stem cell research—has firmly linked stem cells with the hope for an Alzheimer's cure in the public mind. But most in the field admit it's highly unlikely that a stem cell transplant could cure or even treat Alzheimer's.

"Alzheimer's is a tough target for this sort of thing because it is widespread and it involves so many different types of neurons," Donald L. Price, director of the Alzheimer's Research Center at Johns Hopkins, told The Scientist. "There are other diseases, like Parkinson's, which may be much more amenable to stem cell therapies."

It's a matter of taking a "very narrow view or a large view," said Sam Gandy, vice chair of the National...

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