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Entries in Embryonic (3)

Monday
Jan232012

Blindness Treatment an Embryonic Stem Cell First

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- The first results of human embryonic stem cell therapy are in, and they look good.

Two women, 51 and 78, who were legally blind became the first patients to receive human embryonic stem cell treatment, for their condition. The treatment, also called hESC-RPE, involved scientists injecting stem cells into each patient’s eye. One woman had a condition known as Stargardt’s macular dystrophy and the other had age-related macular degeneration. Both conditions cause severe vision loss. The surgery appeared safe after four months and both women experienced an improvement in vision.

“Our study is designed to test the safety and tolerability of hESC-RPE in patients with advanced-stage Stargardt’s macular dystrophy and dry age-related macular degeneration,” the authors wrote. “So far, the cells seem to have transplanted into both patients without abnormal proliferation...or other untoward pathological reactions or safety signals. Continued follow-up and further study is needed. The ultimate therapeutic goal will be to treat patients earlier in the disease processes, potentially increasing the likelihood of photoreceptor and central visual rescue.”

Eye experts say this is an important study because it could show a promising trend in vision improvement. According to the National Eye Institute, about 1.75 million Americans currently suffer from macular degeneration, and this number is expected to grow to 2.95 million in 2020.

“Stem cell biology has an enormous potential to correct genomically derived ocular diseases, both in correcting deficiencies and amending altered anatomy and physiology,” said Barrett Katz, Frances DeJur Chair in ophthalmology at Montefiore Medical Center in New York. “The eye is the very best organ to expect such advances to be made within, as it is relatively easily accessible and immunologically privileged.”

The research, conducted at UCLA and Advanced Cell Technology in Massachusetts and published Monday in Lancet, was small in scope and population and no patients were given a placebo treatment for the sake of comparison.

For this reason, some doctors worried the report would raise hopes prematurely.

“To reach any conclusions on the safety or efficacy of two patients treated for four months without a control population for comparison is unreasonable,” said Martin Friedlander, professor of ophthalmology at Scripps Health in La Jolla, Calif. “This is why anecdotal reports like this are not published.”

“This falsely raises the hopes of millions of individuals suffering from these diseases,” he said.

The use of human embryonic stem cells has long been seen as an ethically controversial medical technology because many ague that an embryo is the earliest form of life. Extracting stem cells from that embryo almost always damages it.

But proponents of the use of human embryonic stem cells say this argument lacks validity and detracts from the medical benefits that could be achieved.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Nov172011

Geron Announcement Throws Stem Cell Research into Question

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(MENLO PARK, Calif.) -- In the wake of a California-based research company's decision to drop the world's first clinical trial using human embryonic stem cells, many investigators who once held to the promise of stem cell research now wonder whether the field of embryonic stem cell research has been abandoned in the U.S. completely.

The company, Geron, which pioneered the field of embryonic stem cell research, announced its decision on Monday to drop its study on stem cells for spinal cord injury.

Geron cited costs as the primary reason, saying the payoff of stem cell research wouldn't come close to other more lucrative projects.  The company would be better off allocating financial resources to research for cancer therapies that are near completion in development, company representatives said.

While Geron says it hasn't given up on the promise of stem cell research, many experts say the announcement signals a symbolic end to the era of embryonic stem cell research that many researchers worked so hard to launch.

Many experts say they're not convinced that financial limits are only to blame.

"This company would not walk away from this trial in the absence of an unexpected complication or safety concern, if there was any evidence that it was working," said Dr. Daniel Salomon, associate professor in the department of molecular and experimental medicine at the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego. "The assumption has to be that they designed a study with a purposeful plan to complete it to a certain benchmark of efficacy and that they had the funds for that effort in hand."

In 2009, the Obama administration lifted former president George W. Bush's restrictions on funding for stem cell research, which expanded the financial limits of the field.

Geron's trial on therapies for spinal cord injury became the first embryonic stem cell-based research approved in the U.S.

"Without seeing the data, one cannot be certain that there was not a clinical reason for stopping the trial," said Dr. Robertson Parkman, professor of pediatrics at the University of Southern California.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jun022011

Spinal Cord Injury Victim First to Undergo Embryonic Stem-Cell Therapy

Medioimages/Photodisc/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) -- Dr. Donald Leslie, medical director at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, has high hopes.

"We want to cure paralysis," he said. "We want to stop spinal cord injury. How incredible would that be?"

Leslie's mission has begun with T.J. Atchinson, the first step in research that he believes could lead to many steps for those who were told they would never walk again. Atchinson, 21, was the first human with a spinal cord injury to undergo embryonic stem-cell therapy.

The athletic college student's life took a hard turn in September when he was home from the University of Alabama visiting his family in Chatom and lost control of his car. Even before he was cut loose from the vehicle, he knew something was wrong.

"I realized I couldn't feel from about here down," nursing student Atchinson said, pointing to his waist. "When I got to the hospital, they said I would never walk again."

The accident took place on the birthday of Christopher Reeves, the actor who had fought hard for embryonic stem-cell therapy but never lived to receive it. Atchinson was still accepting the news about his situation when doctors told him he'd be a great candidate for the therapy.

Stem cells are the building blocks of life, and they've been used in the laboratory to repair the broken spinal cords of small animals, who walked again. Atchinson agreed to become test case No. 1.

Doctors opened his wound, while researchers used a remote control to guide the needle. They injected his spinal cord with a small dose of 2 million cells that, they hope, will transform into new nerve cells, attach to muscles and refire Atchinson's central nervous system.

Although Atchinson's role was only to prove the procedure is safe, he believes it's already working. "I can feel that," Atchinson said, pulling the hair on his legs.

After six months of the therapy, he said, he's able to sense weight when he places heavy items on his lap. It's barely there, Atchinson said, but he can sense something. Rubbing his leg, Atchinson said, "I can feel that, there's something there."

His doctors are cautiously optimistic.

"It's very hard to measure sensation," Dr. Leslie said. "But if he tells me he couldn't feel something before, and he can now, I got to believe him. And I want this for him more than you know."

Doctors will continue to measure Atchinson's strength and test his nerves and muscles. He returns to school in the fall, moving on with his life but still holding out hope that his injury is healing.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio