SAN FRANCISCO — Federal regulators Thursday approved what would be the first transplant of fetal stem cells into human brains.
The transplant recipients will be children who suffer from a rare, fatal genetic disorder.
The Food and Drug Administration said that doctors at Stanford University Medical Center could begin the testing on six children afflicted with Batten disease, a degenerative malady that renders its young victims blind, speechless and paralyzed before it kills them.
An internal Stanford review board must still approve the test, a process that could take weeks.
The stem cells to be transplanted in the brain aren't human embryonic stem cells, which are derived from days-old embryos. Instead, the cells are immature neural cells that are destined to turn into the mature cells that make up a fully formed brain.
Parkinson's disease patients and stroke victims have received transplants of fully formed brain cells before, but the malleable brain cells that would be used in this test have never been implanted.