Stem cell research may still be in its embryonic stage (it’s impossible to avoid the inevitable pun), but all eyes are on Menlo Park firm Geron as it prepares to run its first test on a human patient, using embryonic stem cells. It is hoped that the patient, now being treated at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta for a severe spinal cord injury, will get some sensation and motion restored. The early testing, however, is intended more to assess the safety of the treatment rather than its recuperative value. Even if it is successful, many more years of testing lie ahead.
Geron is taking advantage of a window in legislation regarding the controversial treatment, which uses which cells harvested from human embryos, usually collected after failed in-vitro fertilization attempts. Geron is, so far, the only company in the U.S. licensed by the FDA to test the cells on humans. The first course of testing will run on patients with complete spinal cord injuries. If the treatmen proves safe, the company hopes to expand testing to patients with neck and partial spinal cord injuries.
Investors have been keeping close watch on the developments, and Geron shares rose 6.4 percent to $5.67 on heavy volume on Monday. The stocks were later trading at $5.75 in after-hours trading. The news of Geron’s clinical trials also had an impact on the shares of other companies developing embryonic stem cell treatments, even though the treatments are dogged by controversy and could still face legal challenges.
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