Stem Cell And Spinal Cord Injury

    Feb-10-2009

Here is good news for those suffering from injuries of the spinal cord. A biotech firm in the United States has announced its plans to commence the world's first research of what may be called a therapy rooted in human embryonic stem cells. This much longed-for venture focuses on evolving a cure for spinal injuries. According to Dr. Thomas Okarma, president and chief operating officer (CEO) of Geron Corp. based at Menlo Park in California, said that the firm has already obtained the federal government's permission to inject 10 patients suffering from spinal injury with cells extracted from embryonic cells.

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All the 10 patients will be incapacitated or paraplegics who can use their arms, but are unable to walk. All these patients will be given one injection within a period of two weeks from sustaining injuries. According to Dr. Okarma, their clinical research is intended for examining the safeguard of the process and the doctors will be looking for hints of progress in the patient, including restoration of feelings or activities of their legs.

Regardless of the results of the research, it will definitely open up a new chapter in the controversial record of embryonic stem cell study in the United States. In fact, the controversy over the issue has gushed out from the laboratory to influence the country's national politics. Contrary to the assertion of a number of foreign medicos that they have used human embryonic stem cells in their health centers, stem cell specialists have expressed their ignorance regarding the issue. According these experts, they have no knowledge, whatsoever, regarding any preceding use of stem cells in human studies.

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The chief scientific officer of Novocell Inc. Ed Baetge described Geron Corporation's project as a landmark as well as a step forward in this arena since the biotech firm has been able to get through the protection barriers to obtain the federal government's permission for initiating the clinical study. Baetge has said that his firm also intends to commence a similar clinical research in a few years' time to cure diabetes. On the other hand, Dr. Wise Young of Rutgers University, who is a specialist in spinal cord research, has said that the entire community of people suffering from spinal cord injuries have pinned their hopes on the clinical research initiated by Geron Corp.

It may be mentioned here that the embryonic stem cells have the potential of growing into any cell found in the body and for long scientists have look forward to exploit these cells to create substitute tissues to cure an assortment of ailments. However, research in this regard has been contentious as the stem cell study process necessitates the demolition of the embryos in order to acquire them. In fact, cells from other parts of the human body, also known as the adult stem cells, have been examined earlier, for instance, to cure patients suffering from heart ailments. During the process of the clinical study, scientists at Geron Corp. will administer injections to the patients at the injured spot in their spine cord. According to Dr. Okarma, the study will be carried on at three to seven clinics across the United States.

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Studies conducted on animals with spinal injuries have shown that once they have been injected, the cells at the damage point tend to mellow and restore what is basically deficient in insulating the area around the damaged nerves. At the same time, administration of injections also draws off materials that the injured nerves require to operate and nurture.

Dr. Okarma has said that in addition to reviewing the well-being of the patients suffering from spinal cord injuries, the researchers at Geron Corp. expect to notice hints of improvement in their subjects. According to Dr. Okarma, the aim of their research is not to find a patient get up and dance on the day following the administration of the injection, but to offer some degree of capability that may be enhanced by physical therapy. Every patient or subject volunteering in the clinical study will be given a small dosage of anti-rejection medicines for approximately two months and, according to Dr. Okarma, these medications would not be required after that period. He said that that as per the research's schedule, every patient will be examined for a minimum period of one year. Nevertheless, Dr. Okarma has said that he is not able to do an approximation of the expenses involved with the therapy if the experiment proves to be successful.

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A stem cell research expert at the Burnham Institute for Medical Research based at La Jolla in California, Evan Snyder also confirmed that the Geron Corp. scientists undertaking the clinical trial will mainly focus on the safety aspect of the research findings. He said that everyone is sincerely hoping that nothing bad will emerge from the Geron Corp. scientists' clinical study on stem cells relating to finding a cure for spinal cord.

Established in 1992, Geron Corp. has already spend a minimum of $100 million on human embryonic cell studies, but still does not have any therapy product in the market. Nevertheless, Geron Corp. is regarded as the world's premier developer of embryonic stem cell. This has been possible owing to the firm's title on a number of crucial key stem cell know-how. The company is known to have funded researchers at the University of Wisconsin who were the first to segregate human embryonic stem cells way back in 1998. It is pertinent to mention that Geron Corp. has preserved its exclusive rights on many of those cell varieties.

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