* Doctors inject second patient with spinal cord injury
* Study testing safety of treatment
CHICAGO May 10 U.S. doctors have begun
treating a second patient injected with human embryonic stem
cells in the spine as part of a landmark Geron Corp (GERN.O)
clinical trial testing the cells in spinal cord injuries.
The patient, who is not being identified, will undergo a
progressive course of rehabilitation at the Rehabilitation
Institute of Chicago after receiving an injection of stem cells
at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Northwestern officials said
"We are very excited to announce the second enrollment in
this milestone study, which is the first to evaluate the
effects of cells derived from embryonic stem cells in subjects
with severe spinal cord injuries," Dr. Richard Fessler, who is
leading the study, said in a statement.
Geron's stem cells come from human embryos left over from
fertility treatments. They have been manipulated to become
precursors to certain types of nerve cells.
It is hoped they will travel to the site of a recent spinal
cord injury and release compounds that help the damaged nerves
in the cord regenerate.
The Phase I trial will not be aiming to cure patients but
to establish that the cells are safe to use. But the team will
also look to see if the stem cells improve patients' control or
sensation in the trunk or legs.
Under the guidelines of the trial, the patients must have
very recent injuries.
The first person to get an injection of the cells more than
six months ago has not had any serious side effects. Fessler
said it is still too early to say whether the patient has had
any improvement in sensation and muscle control.
In animal studies, stem cells being used in the study have
shown they can restore the protective myelin coating to damaged
nerve cells that have lost their ability to conduct electrical
The stem cells also have shown nerve-growth stimulating
properties leading to restoration of function in animals with
acute spinal cord injury.
Geron's shares gained 11 cents, or 2.25 percent, to close
at $5 on the NASDAQ stock exchange on Tuesday.
(Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen in Chicago; Editing by Paul