Human embryonic stem cells have long been a paradox for scientists. Now a team at a US biotech company is to start the world’s first study of a treatment for spinal cord injuries based on them.
California-based Geron Corporation has already gained permission from the US Food and Drug Administration to inject some eight to ten patients,who can use their arms but can’t walk,with cells derived from embryonic cells.
In fact,the patients will receive a single injection within two weeks of their injury. And,it will be made in the spine at the site of damage.
“The study is aimed at testing safety of the procedure but doctors will look for signs of improvement like return of sensation or movement in the legs,” the company’s CEO Thomas Okarma was quoted by ‘The Daily Telegraph’ as saying.
Whatever its outcome,boffins believe that the study will definitely mark a new chapter in the contentious history of embryonic stem cell research.
“It’s a milestone and it’s a breakthrough for the field” because Geron passed the safety hurdles for getting federal clearance to launch the study,according to Ed Baetge,the Chief Scientific Officer of Novocell Inc.
Added spinal cord injury researcher Dr Wise Young of Rutgers University: “A lot of hope of the spinal cord injury community is riding on this trial.”
Embryonic stem cells can develop into any cell of the body,and scientists have long hoped to harness them for creating replacement tissues to treat a variety of diseases. But research has been controversial because embryos must be destroyed to obtain them.
Animal studies have suggested that once injected,the cells mature and repair the lack of insulation around damaged nerves,and also pump out substances that nerves actually need to function and grow.