Oct 11 Doctors have begun testing human
embryonic stem cells on a patient for the first time, Geron
Corp. (GERN.O) said on Monday. [ID:nN11175966]
Geron has the first U.S. Food and Drug Administration
license to use the controversial cells to treat people, in this
case patients with new spinal cord injuries. Following are some
facts about stem cells:
* Stem cells are the body's master cells, the source of all
cells and tissue, including brain, blood, heart, bones and
* Embryonic stem cells come from days-old embryos and can
produce any type of cell in the body.
* Scientists generally harvest embryonic stem cells from
embryos left over after in-vitro fertilization attempts at
fertility clinics. They can also be produced using cloning
technology. Geron worked with IVF surplus embryos.
* Scientists hope to harness the transformational qualities
of stem cells to treat a variety of diseases, including
injuries, cancer and diabetes.
* Geron's cells will be used to treat patients with recent
spinal cord injuries in the hope the cells can help heal the
damaged nerves before disability becomes permanent.
* The issue has been controversial because some people
believe the destruction of any human embryo is wrong.
* U.S. legislation called the Dickey-Wicker Amendment
forbids the use of federal funds for the creation or
destruction of human embryos for research.
* President George W. Bush restricted the use of federal
funds to only a few batches of already-existing human embryonic
stem cells in 2001. President Barack Obama lifted the
restriction in 2009 and asked the National Institutes of Health
to decide which embryonic stem cells could be used in federally
* A federal judge in August enjoined the NIH from paying
for human embryonic stem cell research after a lawsuit by two
researchers who said the Obama Administration's funding of the
work violated Dickey-Wicker and took money away from other
types of stem cell research. [ID:nN2462374]
* A U.S. appeals court allowed federal funding to continue
last month pending the outcome of the case. [ID:nN28118865]
* States such as California, New York, Connecticut,
Maryland, Illinois, Massachusetts and New Jersey acted on their
own to fund this research during the years of the Bush
restrictions. Institutions such as Harvard University also set
up separate operations to pursue the research using private
* Many other companies are pursuing stem cell research
including Stemcells Inc STEM.O, Advanced Cell Technology
ACTC.OB, NeuralStem CUR.A, Aastrom Biosciences Inc
ASTM.O, Reneuron Group Plc (RQE.L), Osiris Therapeutics Inc
(OSIR.O), Neostem Inc NBS.A, Cytori Therapeutics Inc
(CYTX.O), iZumi Bio Inc and International Stem Cell Corp
* Researchers have discovered how to make embryonic-like
cells from ordinary cells, called induced pluripotent stem
cells. Opponents of embryonic stem cell research say research
can focus on this field, but most experts in the field agree
that all approaches must be pursued.
(Reporting by Maggie Fox; Editing by Jerry Norton)