Stem cell treatments reaching patients

Neurosurgeon and stem cell researcher, Joseph Ciacci M.D. will soon start a clinical trial of stem cells to treat paralysis from spinal cord injury.

After many years of waiting, a flood of new regenerative-cell therapies is finally reaching patients. Hundreds of clinical trials for these experimental treatments are under way across the world.

In the United States, 774 trials with stem or other regenerative cells are open to patients or soon will be, according to, which lists government-approved clinical testing in this country and abroad. Of that total, 147 are taking place in California.

One of the most difficult tests involving stem cells repairing spinal-cord damage that has caused complete loss of movement and sensation below the injury site is set to begin soon at UC San Diego.

Patients in that study will get injections of fetal-derived neural stem cells in and around the injury site, along with physical therapy and immune-system drugs in case theres a reaction to the stem cells. The trial will use a device that delivers precisely targeted micro-injections of cells to the targeted areas.

The clinical trial will test safety and look for early signs of efficacy, said Dr. Joseph Ciacci, a UC San Diego neurosurgeon leading the testing.

A study published a year ago found that in rats with spinal-cord injuries, the neural stem cells significantly improved movement in the hind paws. Ciacci, who co-authored that study, saw the cells proliferate and fill in a spinal-cord cavity that had resulted from the injuries. Such results supported testing the therapy in people, he said, but he declined to say whether he expected to see any improvement in those patients.

I really dont know, because its not been done, Ciacci said.

The clinical trial is expected to start in June. Its intended for adults 18 to 65 years old who suffered their injury at least one year ago but no more than two years ago. For more information, visit or call Amber Faulise at (858) 657-5175.

Another type of stem cells, mesenchymal stromal, might be described as the duct tape of regenerative cells. Generally derived from bone marrow, they are being tested for treatment of pulmonary fibrosis, multiple sclerosis, kidney transplants, liver cirrhosis, osteoarthritis of the knee, stroke and many other conditions. Worldwide, 226 trials are being conducted with these cells, including 45 in the U.S. and 12 in California, according to

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Stem cell treatments reaching patients

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