First Human Stem Cell Trials Proposed

January 11, 2009

California (ChattahBox) – Proposed human trials of a stem cell treatment aimed at spinal cord injury patients may hold the fate of stem cell research in the balance.

The tests, for which government approval is being sought, would be conducted by Geron Corp., a company that has been working on this research for a decade, and now feels confident enough to put it to use.

But there is some speculation that a failure in it’s beginning trials could spell the end of current developments, and push potentially life saving therapies and medications years away, halting research in the meantime.

“There’s a lot riding on it,” said Dr. John Kessler, of the Northwestern University Stem Cell Institute. “If this trial goes ahead and is not successful, rightly or wrongly, it will be used as a judgment as to whether embryonic stem cell is effective.”

The Geron Corp.’s experimentation has been privately funded Dr. Thomas Okarma, the head of the company, after a ban was put on federally funded research into stem cells by the Bush administration. This has put plenty of obstacles in the way, and while there is hope that President-Elect Barack Obama will reverse that ban, in the meantime, they are still on their own.

“I’m not bragging that we are this far, believe me,” Okarma said.

“We have submitted all Geron publications because there is no NIH-funded literature to compare it to. The FDA has to go through every page with a fine-tooth comb. While we will be first to deliver a human embryonic stem cell product into the clinic, with that accomplishment comes a burden of doing it right.”


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