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Stanford joins first human embryonic stem cell trial

Today Stanford's School of Medicine announced its participation in the first human embryonic stem cell trial in paralyzed humans. Stanford has partnered with Santa Clara Valley Medical Center for the trial, which is run by Menlo Park-based company Geron Corp. From our release:

The FDA-approved, phase-1 trial is meant to test only the safety of the cells, which can develop into neural support cells called oligodendrocytes found in the brain and central nervous system. If the investigational treatment is shown to be safe for use in humans, larger clinical trials will be designed to test whether the cells are better able than conventional treatments to improve a patient’s condition.

Because the cells must be administered within two weeks of the initial spinal cord injury, the trial is open only to those with very recent trauma and only upon physician referral.

Stanford neurosurgeons Gary Steinberg, MD, PhD, or Marco Lee, MD, PhD, will perform the surgery to inject the cells near the damaged area of the spinal cord. The patients will be cared for and monitored at Valley Medical Center's Rehabilitation Trauma Center. The trial is a critical first step toward the eventual use of human embryonic stem cells in humans, says Steinberg:

Until recently, we have not had any hope of restoring neurological function in people with spinal cord injury or stroke, or those with brain tumors or Alzheimer’s disease... But now we’re moving stem cell therapy into the clinic, which I feel is a tremendously important step. People are not mice or rats, and we can learn so much from clinical trials that we can never learn by studying animals.

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