Dr. Ira B. Black, a neuroscientist and brain researcher who became an early advocate for stem cell research and a founder of the Stem Cell Institute of New Jersey, died on Tuesday at a hospital in Philadelphia. He was 64.
Dr. Black argued forcefully that medicine would gain from laboratory research involving stem cells taken from tissue and human embryos. He said the cells derived from embryos, while controversial, could constitute "the gold standard" in repairing damaged nerve cells and developing therapies to treat Alzheimer's disease, cancer and other ailments.
In 2000, Dr. Black and others reported that they had succeeded in forming cells similar to neurons from stem cells taken from the bone marrow of humans and rats. The experiment did not use cells derived from embryos, whose destruction in other types of stem cell research has angered abortion opponents.
Dr. Black and others later transplanted the newly formed cells into the spinal cords and brains of laboratory rats and found that both the cells and the rats survived without ill effects.
As an administrator, Dr. Black expressed impatience with the scarcity of public financing for stem cell research and the seeming cross-purposes of federal and state legislation intended to control or encourage it. This month, New Jersey legislators decided to postpone proposals that would have provided about $600 million in state sponsorship for stem cell research.
"We hope we'll get patients out of bed and out of wheelchairs," he said in an interview in July, "and that's one of the reasons it's particularly frustrating to have a federal stance that inhibits this progress."
Dr. Black devoted his life to improving the human condition and George Bush is devoted to destroying it. If God has a sense of humor, I don't get the joke.