Enrollment has begun for the first clinical trial to test a therapy developed from human embryonic stem cells.
The trial’s primary aim is to assess the safety of Geron Corp.’s experimental oligodendrocyte progenitor cells, which have been in development for about a decade. They were derived from some of the earliest human embryonic stem cells ever created.
Oligodendrocytes are cells that insulate nerve fibers with myelin, allowing electrical signals to be transmitted to and from the brain. These cells are damaged in patients with spinal cord injuries, resulting in paralysis. Making replacement cells out of embryonic stem cells is a long-held goal for many scientists, including neuroscientist Hans Keirstead, whose research team helped develop the treatment at UC Irvine.
In rats, the experimental cells – known as GRNOPC1 – helped restore the essential myelin sheath around nerve cells in the spinal cord. Treated animals regained their ability to walk and run, though they did so with a noticeable limp.