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Regenerative Medicine

December 6, 2012 | By Michael Hiltzik
The signs are not encouraging. On Thursday, a blue-ribbon committee of the National Academy of Sciences issued its report on its yearlong critical review of California's $6-billion stem cell program, the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine. The report will be formally presented to CIRM at a meeting Dec. 12. The review committee found that embedded conflicts of interest on the CIRM board "threaten to ... undermine respect for its decisions. " The lack of independent, disinterested members on a board made up mostly of officials of institutions in line to obtain CIRM grants or advocates for patients of specific diseases "erodes confidence" in the board's ability to handle its strategic responsibilities, the panel added.
October 17, 2012 | Michael Hiltzik
StemCells Inc. has a history not much different from those of dozens, even hundreds, of biotech companies all around California. Co-founded by an eminent Stanford research scientist, the Newark, Calif., firm has struggled financially while trying to push its stem cell products through the research-and-development pipeline. It collects about $1 million a year from licensing patents and selling cell cultures but spends well more than $20 million annually on R&D, so it runs deeply in the red. On the plus side, StemCells Inc. has had rather a charmed relationship with the California stem cell program, that $3-billion taxpayer-backed research fund known formally as the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine.
October 9, 2012 | Eryn Brown and Jon Bardin
Two scientists who upended fundamental beliefs about biology by demonstrating that every cell in the body has the potential to grow into every other type of cell have won the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine. Sir John Gurdon and Dr. Shinya Yamanaka were honored Monday for "the discovery that mature cells can be reprogrammed" to return to a very early state of development, the Nobel committee said in its citation. Their research is still years away from yielding a clear breakthrough in medical treatment.
May 30, 2012
Re "Tobacco tax? Yes, but not this one," Column, May 27 In his article opposing Proposition 29, Michael Hiltzik makes a number of misleading statements about Proposition 71, the voter-approved measure funding stem-cell research. No ads for Proposition 71 promised miraculous cures. They promised good science, and that is what is being funded, with more than 62 promising therapies for 40 different diseases on their way to clinical trials. The stem-cell agency has conflict-of-interest rules as strict as any government agency.
January 21, 2012 | By Michael Hiltzik
  What are the chances that the prestigious Institute of Medicine will get an objective and balanced view of California's stem-cell program when it takes public testimony about the program at a hearing Tuesday in San Francisco? About 418 million to one. That's the estimation of the California Stem Cell Report. The report's proprietor, David Jensen, toted up the value of the grants received from the program by Tuesday's witnesses or their employers. Total: $418 million.
December 7, 2011 | Michael Hiltzik
For years, Geron Corp. had claimed to be in the vanguard among California companies engaged in stem cell research. So it was something of a stunner when it announced Nov. 14 that it was abandoning the stem cell field completely. Geron's shares fell 20% the next day, but that was probably nothing compared with how far spirits must have fallen at the California stem cell agency, which just a few months earlier had made its highest-profile investment ever by awarding Menlo Park-based Geron a $25-million loan to help fund the first human trial of stem cell-based spinal cord therapy.
November 21, 2011 | By Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times
For patients paralyzed by spinal cord injuries, Geron Corp.'s stem cell research was the shining hope. The biotech firm showered scientists with millions of dollars to develop a treatment to reverse spinal damage. The therapy was the first treatment derived from embryonic stem cells to be cleared by the Food and Drug Administration for testing in humans. But last week, Geron abruptly pulled the plug on its pioneering trial and the rest of its stem cell business, including early work on treatments for heart ailments, diabetes and other diseases.
July 9, 2011 | Thomas H. Maugh II
Andemariam Teklesenbet Beyene left a Stockholm hospital Friday, breathing through a manufactured trachea that was built with his own stem cells. The 36-year-old Eritrean geology student at the University of Iceland in Reykjavik had suffered from an advanced case of tracheal cancer, and tumors were threatening to block his windpipe and choke off his supply of oxygen before the artificial trachea was implanted June 9. Dr. Paolo Macchiarini of Karolinska University Hospital decided there was no time to wait for a donor trachea, so he assembled a team to build one. Since the artificial trachea was made with Beyene's own cells, he hasn't needed anti-rejection drugs that would have suppressed his immune system and made him vulnerable to other infections.
July 8, 2011 | By Chris Woolston, HealthKey / For the Booster Shots blog
Angina relief and an artificial windpipe. No doubt about it: Stem cells have had a big week.  But any time stem cells show up in the news, there’s bound to be a lot of controversy and misunderstandings. Researchers at Northwestern University in Illinois published a study  showing that stem cell injections into the heart can help reduce angina attacks , presumably by spurring the growth of new blood vessels feeding the heart.  And Swedish doctors announced that they had given acancer patient a brand new windpipe grown in a lab using his own stem cells.
July 7, 2011
The new head of California's stem cell research agency, which has a staff of 50, not only makes more money than the governor, he makes twice as much as the chief of the National Institutes of Health, which has 17,000 employees. Does that make him overpaid? Not necessarily. But it does make the board that hired him remarkably tin-eared about politics. Times staff writer Jack Dolan reported Tuesday that Jonathan Thomas, picked as chairman of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine in June, ranks high on the list of the state's highest-paid employees, taking home $400,000 a year.
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