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Early success of human embryonic stem cell therapy: A perspective

Yesterday, my colleague and others reported on early results of two studies involving human embryonic stem cell therapy for macular degeneration-caused blindness; the report (.pdf) in The Lancet represents "the first description of hESC-derived cells transplanted into human patients." Now, on the Law and  Biosciences Blog, Stanford law professor Hank Greely, JD, weighs in on the significance of the findings:

...This clearly is some good news for those hoping for treatments from human embryonic stem cells. Granted, it is only a little good news. A report on four months of treatment in two patients, with two related but different diseases, cannot bear heavy reliance. That’s too few patients for too little time to be too exciting. But it is, at least, a little exciting – and in a field that saw its first approved clinical trial stopped two months ago, even a little exciting news is very welcome.

When California passed Proposition 71 in November 2004, I was quoted saying that I would be disappointed if there were not some human clinical trials within 5 years and would be further disappointed if there were not some treatments emerging within 10 years. I did not count on the three year delay in funding from that Proposition caused by frivolous litigation (and courts unwilling to act promptly to dismiss those claims). Given that CIRM funding did not really start until 2007, I’m going to take (some, little) heart from this report.

Previously: First results of human embryonic stem cell trials for blindness, Two new human embryonic stem cell trials launched and After the lawsuit, what’s next for stem cell research?

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