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Stem Cells

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.
November 21, 2011 | By Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times / for the Booster Shots blog
Last week, as the 2012 election season heated up, three researchers reported on American attitudes toward federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. Their conclusion: If American politicians listen to majority opinion, federal funding for stem cell funding is more secure than if they heed the party lines, in which case the field may be in for more turmoil. Robert J. Blendon, Minah Kang Kim and John M. Benson, all affiliated with the Harvard School of Public Health, wrote the perspective article, which was published in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine.  The piece described a polling review project sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
November 15, 2011 | By Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times / for the Booster Shots blog
Biotech company Geron Corp. announced Monday that it would cease work on its stem cell programs, citing financial reasons. The Menlo Park, Calif.-based biotech company was a leader in the field and had been conducting a Phase 1 clinical trial of a human embryonic stem cell-based therapy for patients with spinal cord injuries.  Four patients had participated thus far in that effort, which was designed to test the new treatment's safety.  GRNOPC1, as...
November 14, 2011 | By Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times / for the Booster Shots blog
It's long been an article of faith that human heart muscle, once damaged, cannot regenerate.  But findings from two clinical trials, presented Monday at the American Heart Assn.'s Scientific Sessions in Orlando, Fla., suggest that isn't the case. Two teams of researchers found that stem cells harvested from a patient's own heart were able to reverse damage from a heart attack. Dr. Roberto Bolli, director of the division of cardiology at the University of Louisville in Louisville, Ky., and colleagues presented initial results from an ongoing clinical trial that treated 16 heart attack patients with infusions of cardiac stem cells that had been harvested from their own hearts during bypass surgery.  Their trial was also described in an article published simultaneously by the journal The Lancet .   Dr. Eduardo Marbán, director of the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles, discussed final results from another Phase 1 trial in which doctors harvested cardiac tissue using a minimally invasive technique, cultivated stem cells from the tissue and administered them to 17 study subjects.
November 7, 2011 | By Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times
Ever since scientists started talking about the medical potential of embryonic stem cells, curing Type 1 diabetes has been one of the dearest dreams. When researchers announced in 1998 that they had derived stem cells from human embryos, their landmark report flagged juvenile-onset diabetes as a disease that might be treated by stem cell transplants. In the run-up to the 2004 vote on California's Proposition 71, diabetes was repeatedly mentioned as a target by scientists campaigning to form a state-backed stem cell agency.
October 20, 2011 | By Mitchell Landsberg, Los Angeles Times
As chairman and chief executive of her own company, Dr. Robin Smith is a significant player in the world of biopharmaceutical products and research. Self-confident, poised and well traveled, she is used to dealing with movers and shakers. But when she negotiated an agreement with her company's latest business partner, she didn't deal directly with the top executive. He is, after all, the pope. In an agreement that tends to elicit the response "Really?," the Vatican recently signed a $1-million compact with Smith's New York company, NeoStem, to collaborate on adult stem cell education and research.
October 6, 2011 | By Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times / for the Booster Shots blog
Scientists announced Wednesday that they had created stem cells from human clones, adding DNA from adult cells to the genetic material in unfertilized eggs.  The cells weren't normal -- they contained three sets of chromosomes: two from the adult cell and an extra from the egg. They would not be fit for use in stem cell therapies.  Still, their creation marked a first in stem cell research and may point the way toward treatments for diseases such as diabetes,...
October 6, 2011 | By Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times
For the first time, scientists have used cloning techniques — inserting genetic material from adult cells into unfertilized human eggs — to create embryonic stem cells. The advance, reported Wednesday in the journal Nature , moves scientists one step closer to their goal of developing therapies to treat maladies including diabetes, Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease, researchers said. In the world of stem cell research, the achievement marks an important step, but only a step.
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