President-elect Obama has pledged to lift the seven-year ban on federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research a boon for the field. But for some scientists, it almost doesn't matter. Researchers at Harvard and Columbia reported a milestone experiment in July, using a new method one that doesn't require embryos at all to generate the first motor neurons from stem cells in two elderly women with Lou Gehrig's disease, or ALS. The technique, developed by Kyoto University scientist Shinya Yamanaka in 2006, involves reprogramming a patient's ordinary skin cells to behave like stem cells, then coaxing them into the desired tissue-specific cells. Using the motor neurons created from ALS patients, scientists can now study the progress of the disease as the affected cells develop, degenerate and die in a dish something researchers could never do before for such slow-moving conditions. Once scientists understand the development of ALS, they may be able to create more effective treatments, or perhaps even a cure.