California stem cell agency funds stem cell clinical trial

A researcher removes a new batch of Embryonic Stem Cells from deep freeze to be thawed before being worked on
A researcher removes a new batch of Embryonic Stem Cells from deep freeze to be thawed before being worked on Darren Hauck/Getty Images

The California agency in charge of distributing money for stem cell research has approved funding for a clinical trial of a human embryonic stem cell treatment. It’s the first time the agency has underwritten a human clinical trial of a stem cell treatment. The treatment has roots at UC Irvine.

The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine will give $25 million to a clinical trial that will test embryonic stem cells as a treatment for spinal cord injuries.

UC Irvine scientist Hans Keirstead led the team that came up with the treatment. It involves injecting human embryonic stem cells into a damaged spine.

In lab rats, those cells migrated to the injured area, wrapped around damaged neurons and started creating new tissue to replace the old. The treated lab rats regained their ability to walk.

Now, Northern California-based Geron will use the new grant to help test the treatment on humans. It’s the first FDA-approved clinical trial of a human embryonic stem cell treatment.

Geron will study a handful of people with recent spinal cord injuries to see whether the cells are safe for humans.

The money from the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine comes from Proposition 71, which voters approved in 2004. That measure established the agency and $3 billion in bonds to fund stem cell research in California.

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