The New York Times reported on January 23, 2008 that the federal government is allowing Geron to conduct the world’s first test of human embryonic stem cell therapy in people. The clinical trial will focus on 8 to 10 people with severe spinal cord injuries. According to the article:
“The cells will be injected into the spinal cord at the injury site 7 to 14 days after the injury occurs, because there is evidence the therapy will not work for much older injuries.
The study is a so-called Phase I trial, aimed mainly at testing the safety of the therapy. There would still be years of testing and many hurdles to overcome before the treatment would become routinely available to patients.
There is controversy surrounding this trial, as some researchers fear that if the therapy proves unsafe or doesn’t work, that it may set the field back for several years. Dr Kessler feels that this particular therapy is not an ideal candidate for the first trial, as the therapy that worked moderately well in injured animals might not work so well in humans.