Novel stem cell treatment helps paralyzed patients feel again

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Embryologist Ric Ross holds a dish with human embryos at the La Jolla IVF Clinic February 28, 2007 in La Jolla, California.

Two clinical trial patients, paralyzed with chronic spinal cord injuries, have regained some sensation after undergoing stem cell treatments led by a California biotech company and researchers from the University of Zurich.

The clinical trials by Newark, California-based StemCells, Inc involved three patients, two of whom regained some feeling after scientists injected them with purified human neural stem cells.

The neural stem cells are essentially adult stem cells that can renew and replicate into cells of the nervous system. They were derived from donated fetal brain cells, which dont require the controversial destruction of embryos, a company spokesman said.

The news comes ten months after another California biotech company Menlo-Park-based Geron Corporation surprised and disappointed many in the field when it abandoned its stem cell division including its highly-touted research into an embryonic stem cell treatment for spinal cord injuries.

The three patients in the University of Zurich trials had suffered complete injury to the thoracic - or chest-level spinal cord, which left each them with no function or feeling below the injury.

Four to nine months after their injuries, scientists at the University of Zurich transplanted 20 million stem cells into each patient's spinal column at the point of injury.

Six months after treatment, two of the patients can feel heat, electrical and touch stimuli below the location of the injury, according to results presented by researchers this week at the 51st annual International Spinal Cord Society meeting in London.

The reappearance of sensation was deemed rather unexpected by Dr. Armin Curt, principal investigator for the clinical trial at the Spinal Cord Injury Center at Balgrist University Hospital, University of Zurich.

Novel stem cell treatment helps paralyzed patients feel again

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