Shepherd Center becomes site for first human trial of embryonic stem cell treatment in U.S.

Atlanta has just become the point where embryonic stem cell research meets a human being in the United States. From the Washington Post:

The first patient has been treated with human embryonic stem cells in the first study authorized by the Food and Drug Administration to test the controversial therapy.

A patient who was partially paralyzed by a spinal cord injury had millions of embryonic stem cells injected into the site of the damage, according to an announcement early Monday by the Geron Corp. of Menlo Park, Calif., which is sponsoring the groundbreaking study.

The patient was treated at the Shepherd Center, a 132-bed hospital in Atlanta that specializes in spinal cord and brain injuries, Geron said. The hospital is one of seven sites participating in the study, which is primarily aimed at testing whether the therapy is safe.

Doctors will, however, also conduct a series of specially designed tests to see whether the treatment helps the patients. No additional information about the first patient was released.

So why is this on a political blog? Because several attempts to bar embryonic stem cell research in Georgia have arisen from the state Capitol in recent years. Many, though not all, conservative Christians oppose it.

In the governor’s race, the topic is one of the issues that differentiate Democrat Roy Barnes, who supports ESC research, from Republican Nathan Deal, who does not.

An important point from Reuters:

Geron is not subject to limitations on federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research, as it has done all its work with its own funding.

The government is embroiled in a legal battle over the cells. Just weeks after he took office in 2009, President Barack Obama issued an executive order that eased limitations on federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research.

More from the BBC:

Geron, a biotech company based in “silicon valley” south of San Francisco, has spent $170m on developing a stem cell treatment for spinal cord injury.

The research will use cells coaxed to become nerve cells which are injected into the spinal cord.

In animal trials of the treatment, paralysed rats regained some movement.

But it is not yet known if it will offer any benefit to people with spinal cord injuries.

Every year around 12,000 people in the US sustain spinal cord injuries. The most common causes are automobile accidents, falls, gunshot wounds and sports injuries.

In the trial, patients who have sustained such an injury within the last 14 days will be given the experimental stem cell treatment.

Geron president Dr Thomas Okarma said: “When we started working with human embryonic stem cells in 1999, many predicted that it would be a number of decades before a cell therapy would be approved for human clinical trials.

“This accomplishment results from extensive research and development and a succession of inventive steps.”

But it will take some time to get the results.

And there are many years of rigorous testing ahead before it can be known if the therapy is safe and effective.

Professor Sir Ian Wilmut, director of the Medical Research Council Centre for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Edinburgh, said: “This is very exciting news, however, it is very important to appreciate that the objective of trials at this stage is to confirm first of all that no harm is done to patients, rather than to look for benefits.

“Once that has been confirmed then the focus moves on to development and assessment of the new treatment.”

Ben Sykes, executive director of the UK National Stem Cell Network, said: “This is indeed a significant milestone in our journey towards the promise of stem cell-based medicines.

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187 comments Add your comment

about time

October 11th, 2010
10:52 am

great news for the shepherd spinal center. Wish them much success.

CFK

October 11th, 2010
12:06 pm

Why is this not front page news. This is revolutionary. First time embryonic stem cells have been used to treat humans. This is groundbreaking. According to Reuters News, this is a landmark trial. Medicine will never be the same again. Embrynoic stem cells will be used in many, many other treatments. This is the begining of a new age in medicine.

[...] p.m. Atlanta’s Shepherd Center has begun the nation’s first FDA-approved testing of human embryonic stem cells on a human patient. The patient, partially paralyzed by a spinal cord [...]

MR164164

October 11th, 2010
12:53 pm

This is great news for my mother. She has MS and we have been waiting for this to come through!

johnatl

October 11th, 2010
12:54 pm

I think I just heard some Christian Coalition heads explode………

David Staples

October 11th, 2010
1:02 pm

Wow, no outcry from the Christian right yet? Now that is surprising…

Aquagirl

October 11th, 2010
1:05 pm

I hope this patient regains function in his/her legs. Then they can kick a wingnut Republican square in the @$$.

Stefan

October 11th, 2010
1:06 pm

@johnatl. Ha, ha..I hearad the same thing!!

N Ga Thinker

October 11th, 2010
1:08 pm

Like many, I anxiously await the eventual positive impact important studies like this will bring to my friends diagnosed with chronic, long term, quality of life diseases like MS.

bart

October 11th, 2010
1:20 pm

This is groundbraking news. Kudos to the Shepherd Center for being chosen for this landmark study. I’m surprised Sadie Fields and the so-called “Christian” Coalition have not been screaming about this. Maybe they realize that this is a landmark study and has the potential to help millions of people suffering from Parkinsons, diabetes, paralysis, MS, and other chronic conditions. Let’s hope for once they will put the well being of the living ahead of their narrow minded political agenda.

CitizenJane

October 11th, 2010
1:33 pm

Why is this a political issue? Because the left needs it to continue demonizing the right:

Japanese stem cell pioneer among possible candidates for Monday’s Nobel Prize in medicine
By MALIN RISING , Associated Press
Last update: October 3, 2010 – 10:23 AM
STOCKHOLM – A Japanese researcher who discovered how to make stem cells from ordinary skin cells and avoid the ethical quandaries of making them from human eggs could be a candidate for the medicine award when the 2010 Nobel Prize announcements kick off Monday, experts said.

DJ Sniper

October 11th, 2010
1:37 pm

Can somebody tell my exactly why the Christian conservative groups are so opposed to stem cell research? What exactly is the reason?

WAW

October 11th, 2010
1:39 pm

So it Roy is not elected will the Shepherd Center be allowed to continue their work. The Republicans have already tried to replace ESC with blood letting and will be after ending this abomination. This is worse than implanting microchips in our children.

OTW

October 11th, 2010
1:43 pm

“. . . that the objective of trials at this stage is to confirm first of all that no harm is done to patients, rather than to look for benefits.”

Runaway Cancer cells, with its attendant explosion of cancerous tumors, has historically been the legacy of this treatment in China, Vietnam, North Korea and other UN-regulated nations that have employed this treatment over the last decade. It is certainly right that Geron Corp. protect themselves from the beginning by managing expectations. The likeliest outcome under the current level of medical knowledge is that this poor unfortunate patient will succumb to cancer and die . . . well before their normal life expectancy.

It is a shame the way the big BioTech conglomerates manipulate the suffering of people in order for them to make a profit. It is a larger evil that in destructive embryonic stem cell therapy a small human life is killed in order to make the serum that is injected. One person dies for a fact and another’s life is shortened as a human guinea pig for big Biotech.

Adult stem cells do not take a human life and have produce 72 near cures to embryonic stem cell therapy’s 0 over the last decade.

Mrs. PACman

October 11th, 2010
1:50 pm

It isn’t just Christian groups that are opposed to the use of human embryos for research. It is people who see life as beginning at fertilization and destroying these tiny humans is completely against our belief that all life is sacred – regardless of its size, stage of development, manner of creation, etc. We aren’t opposed to cures for diseases that many of you have mentioned. Many of us who oppose embryonic stem cell destruction have MS, cancer, Parkinson’s, are paralyzed, etc. However, we see that cures can take place using adult stem cells. Research done using adult stem cells have been MORE effective in producing cures and do not have ANY ethical implications whatsoever. I simply don’t understand why we need to destroy human life when there are other ways to come to the same results that don’t destroy life. That is the reason some groups are opposed to this research. This has affected me personally. I have a family member that was treated with adult stem cells and is now in remission because of that technology. There have been NO such positive results with embryonic stem cells. Shouldn’t we put the research money into technology that has been tried and proven to be successful? Especially when it doesn’t require the destruction of human life!

OTW

October 11th, 2010
1:50 pm

Do a quick google search on “pluripotentency of embryonic stem cells and cancer”

“There is a body of research clearly demonstrates that foetal stem cells are very unstable and can lead to undifferentiated cell growth and cancer” Feb 2009

http://www.pharmastrategyblog.com/2009/02/do-embryonic-stem-cells-cause-cancer.html

lucy

October 11th, 2010
1:52 pm

Here we go with the exaggerations, innuendos, and outright lies from the far right. If you were really “pro-life,” you would care what happened to the millions of people suffering from debilitating conditions and diseases that this research might help.

Aquagirl

October 11th, 2010
1:52 pm

Jane, Dr. Yamanaka used a gene known to cause tumors for his stem cells, and retroviruses are involved, further raising the risk of cancer.

Like most wingnuts, science isn’t your strong suit.

Kevin

October 11th, 2010
1:57 pm

Wonderful news!!!! Science doing science – let the wack jobs be wack jobs, its what they do – and when they are in pain, they go to the Doctor and ask for medicine created by medical advances like this one happening at Shepherd.

Therightisevil

October 11th, 2010
1:59 pm

Wonderful news – science will always triumph over superstition.

Shoshanna

October 11th, 2010
2:05 pm

Checkout this article entitled “The Great Stem Cell Coverup” from the Weekly Standard.

http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/012/519gzqaa.asp

Very troubling!

CitizenJane

October 11th, 2010
2:05 pm

Aquagirl, that’s your best argument against using skin cells?

Fetal stem cells cause tumor in a teenage boy –
http://www.scientificamerican.com/blog/post.cfm?id=embryonic-stem-cells-cause-cancer-i-2009-02-19

Aquagirl

October 11th, 2010
2:16 pm

Jane, yes, embryonic stem cells cause cancer—when injected by Russian doctors who are whacking away willy-nilly with them.

Aren’t you in the least embarrassed to openly blather and try to scare people into your medieval worldview? Wait, forget I said that. Wingnuts are never embarrassed by such things, if they were, Sadie Fields would be unemployed. This crap works. How sad.

CitizenJane

October 11th, 2010
2:22 pm

Aquagirl, Russian doctors whacking? Wot?
I’m taking it that you’ve done no research and have no interest in learning about these new methodologies, and are only interested in insulting anyone who disagrees with you and pushing your narrow agenda. That strategy cannot be working well for you.

Swede Atlanta

October 11th, 2010
2:31 pm

From the reading I have done, most if not all of the new embryonic stem cell lines are generated from embryos that otherwise would be discarded. Why not let these embryos provide a pathway to potentially life-saving or life-restoring treatments?

If you are opposed to embryonic stem cell research then don’t create embryos that would be used for this purpose. I get so tired of people saying they don’t want tax dollars used for this and that.

I am equally opposed to having any of my tax dollars go to the prosecution of unnecessary (Iraq) and unwinnable (Afghanistan) wars that result in the deaths of American military and civilians and untold innocent bystanders. I don’t want my tax dollars used to rendition people for special treatment overseas, etc.

Aquagirl

October 11th, 2010
2:39 pm

Jane, you obviously didn’t even read the article you posted to push your narrow agenda. I don’t know whether it’s your low literacy level, general disinterest in science, or what. Frankly, I don’t care.

My narrow agenda is sick people getting better. If that means insulting you, I’m quite happy to do so. maybe a few people will realize the silly junk spewed by folks like you is just that–silly junk to push your narrow agenda of hugging frozen blastocysts.

CitizenJane

October 11th, 2010
2:48 pm

Aquagirl, of course I read it, I cited it.
Please keep being an insulting harpy, as is typical of your ilk. If this is an example of your “caring”, I can quite imagine that you’re quite the hit at parties and that you’re very adept in “educating” (alienating) your former friend and aquaintences. I hope your cats keep you warm at night.
You’re just one of the reasons that the Right will take over in November. Keep representin’ ;)

Slotl

October 11th, 2010
2:48 pm

Great news…..just on that fact alone, I am voting for Barnes.

Ralph

October 11th, 2010
2:51 pm

Only the media like the AJC which supports Democrats tries to make this a wedge issue. The electorate even according to a leftist CBS poll doesn’t mention it in their top 5:

Economy/Jobs 54%, Health care 7%, Budget deficit/National debt 3%, Immigration 3%, Education 2%, Moral values/Family values 2%, the President/Barack Obama 2%.

Fox 5 has this poll for issues in the Georgia Governor’s race: State budget 15%, Education, 15%, Jobs and the economy 64%, Transportation 1%, Water 1%

I suspect the overriding issue for most voters is which PARTY they want to control new Congressional district boundaries, appoint as federal judges, nominate for the Georgia Supreme court and control the statehouse.

Personal nominee finances, stem cell research, abortion, and any other wedge issues the AJC can come up with aren’t on the radar.

CitizenJane

October 11th, 2010
2:53 pm

Ralph, exactly right.

Slotl

October 11th, 2010
2:55 pm

Bill Maher had a great analogy: You can put Embrynoic stem cells in a freezer for years, try that with your newborn baby and see what happens. So, tell me when does life begin?

Swede Atlanta

October 11th, 2010
2:55 pm

Citizen Jane,

And what exactly do you think the Right is going to do for you and your cause? You need to accept that most conservative politicians use the religious right for their own purposes, not the other way around.

You won’t see a consitutional amendment banning abortion, gay marriage, etc. simply because there isn’t enough support across the country to push those efforts through the required state legislatures and the politicians love to have those issues to talk about. If abortion and gay marriage were unconstitutional and there was a bright line amendment to the Constitution that gave every man, woman and child the right to carry any firearm they wanted anywhere they wanted anytime they wanted, the right wing politicians would lose wedge issues to campaign on.

nurse&mother

October 11th, 2010
2:57 pm

Aquagirl, why are you so hostile? BTW, not all Republicans disagree with stem cell development. Please do your homework. One loses credibility when one generalizes. I could make generalizations about Democrats, but I won’t. Peace out.

Aquagirl

October 11th, 2010
3:03 pm

Gosh, Jane, I’m the harpy? I’m not writing off paraplegics because they aren’t a big enough voting block.

You’re right, the right-wing will be gaining in these elections. Gay-bashing is much more fashionable than healing the sick. Keep representin’! :)

CitizenJane

October 11th, 2010
3:05 pm

SwedeAtlanta, Are you aware of the California vote on gay marriage? I wouldn’t even BEGIN to assume that the Catholic Hispanics there could be considered right wing, would you? Since when did it become a Republican state?

As a matter of fact, I support gay marriage. And, as another matter of fact the constitution does give every man, woman and child the right to carry firearms. What is your point?

CitizenJane

October 11th, 2010
3:07 pm

Aquagirl, you are as a matter of fact, an insufferable harpy.
Where did I “write off paraplegics because they aren’t a big enough voting block”? A quote from me would be welcomed. As a matter of fact, I submitted an alternative to heal those “paraplegics” using skin cells. Gay bashing? Where?

CitizenJane

October 11th, 2010
3:08 pm

BTW, Dick Cheney supports gay marriage. Obama doesn’t.
Chaps a little, dunnit?

Iconoclast

October 11th, 2010
3:08 pm

Adult stem (bone marrow) cells, do not have the ability to replicate all damaged tissues or functions in the human body. Really people, if it hasn’t gestated in a human womb, it’s neither human nor is it “life”. In-vitro, it’s a self-perpetuating bio-chemical reaction with no tether to a beating heart to feed and calibrate it. It’s a watch without a spring (or battery).

nurse&mother

October 11th, 2010
3:10 pm

Unfortunately, our government has deduced us to a two party system. There are many folks who are fiscally conservative, yet socially liberal. Yes, Aquagirl, believe it or not, not all “Republicans” fit the stereotypical molds. I take offense to your labeling me a gay basher just because I tend to vote “Republican”. I fully support my sister who is gay and other gays. If the system was set up different, maybe I could find a candidate who was socially liberal but just didn’t believe it was the government’s job to pay for EVERYTHING.

Swede Atlanta

October 11th, 2010
3:19 pm

Citizen Jane,

You missed my point entirely. I said there will never be an amendment to the U.S. Constitution (that supercedes the constitutions of the various states) banning abortion or gay marriage or gives bright-line rights regarding the carriage and use of firearms.

Why?

1. Because those opposed to gay marriage continue to decrease in number as they see that heterosexual marriages do not fall apart when gays are afforded the same rights to marry.

2. Because a plurality of Americans while they may be personally opposed to abortion (i.e. wouldn’t have one themselves) believe it is a decision to be left to the mother (and arguably the father).

3. Last but not least, amending the U.S. Constitution is a very long and difficult process. One would have thought an amendment providing a bright-line rule that women were to be treated equally to men would be a slam-dunk but not so. The Founders made amending the Constitution difficult for a reason.

4. As to firearms, there is no current Amendment that gives every man, woman and child the right to carry any and all firearms anytime they want and anywhere they want. There is an Amendment that has been perverted by the current court (conveniently not reading the part about “a well regulated militia”) into giving an individual right. But the Court made clear this is not a boundless right and left it to the lower courts to figure it out. None of the Bill of Rights has ever been recognized as being limitless and without bounds. So too the right to bear arms.

Aquagirl

October 11th, 2010
3:26 pm

nurse& mom, if you read my posts, I refer to “wingnuts” not Republicans in general. However, Republicans–apparently you included—are willing to toss gays, sick folk, raped 13 year olds, and everyone else under the bus to nominate someone like Nathan Deal. The wonderful fiscal conservative who ran out of the free-spending Congress and can’t run a business without sweetheart contracts from the State. You fully support your sister, but support a party that treats her as unable to make her own adult decisions? Yikes. Your sister is just incidental, just like anyone else run over by your own party. That’s creepy.

Jane, you agree with Ralph this is a wedge issue—I did misspeak. You don’t even consider paraplegics people, they’re “wedge issues.” Holy cow. And you wonder why I sound hostile about anti-science kool-ade drinkers?

Truth Sayer

October 11th, 2010
3:27 pm

Swede Atlanta – The Right to Bear Arms is an individual right just as the other nine are individual rights.

Ellen

October 11th, 2010
3:28 pm

If you are against embryonic stem cell treatments, don’t have them.

David

October 11th, 2010
3:29 pm

Hey @slotl, I can come up with an equally inane “scientific” argument: Leave a baby unattended in a crib for 3 hours; try that with an embryo.

How about giving a true scientific definition of when life begins (empirical, testable, etc.)?

Truth Sayer

October 11th, 2010
3:31 pm

Ellen – we are against ESTT because they destroy a human life! If you are against Dog Fighting then do not participate in it, but let me fight my dogs. This is the same logic that you are attempting to use. Why do we give more credence and consideration to animals than we do to our own human species – nevermind that it is just an embryo – it is a human life.

CitizenJane

October 11th, 2010
3:31 pm

SwedeAtlanta, I have no idea why you’re discussing Constitutional Amendments vs. State’s rights. (If we want to get into that, we can discuss Arizona’s latest-dust up over enforcing their own laws (which btw, mirror Federal laws completely)

We could also get into the founder’s meaning behind “well regulated militia” being EVERY man woman and child (like Switzerland) but, we won’t do that here.

Truth Sayer

October 11th, 2010
3:32 pm

David – you cannot have life with just sperm and you cannot have life with just an egg. You must have both to have life. When the two meet, life begins. There really is no argument here.

CitizenJane

October 11th, 2010
3:32 pm

Aquagirl, you’re such a typical leftist. You’re twisting in the wind here and creating staw man arguments. If you’d like to stay on topic, we can have a civil discourse. If not, whatevs.

TiredofBickering

October 11th, 2010
3:34 pm

I’m so tired of the back-and-forth bickering that is well represented in this commentary. I’m a Christian and yet very excited about this research. I’m troubled slightly that some people who have abortions might feel more justified in their minds for killing a potential person if their baby’s cells are used to help others, but I agree that unfortunately, embryonic stem cells are readily available and we might as well use our God-given intelligence and judgment to determine if this resource can be put to good use to help others.

CitizenJane

October 11th, 2010
3:42 pm

TiredofBickering, unfortunately, we have the G*d given right to discuss issues in our country. I’m sorry, if this upsets you.