This time has finally come. An undisclosed newly-injured complete paraplegic has been injected with hESCs (human embryonic stem cells) in the USA’s first FDA approved (yet privately funded) treatment using hESCs. Will it work? Of course it will. The real question is when can I (and you) get the treatment.
This study was initiated first and foremost by Dr. Hans Kierstead, a molecular researcher from UC-Irvine who developed a treatment for spinal cord injury using hESCs in 2005. Huge freaking deal. Here is his rat model on the same treatment that’s now being tested in the undisclosed paraplegic (currently residing at Sheperd, a SCI rehab center in Atlanta, Georgia. Don’t picket the poor guy you crazy Southern Evangelicals!). The treatment will regrow myelin, the sheath surrounding the nerves that transmits the nerve signals. The myelin becomes permanently damaged when you sustain a spinal cord injury, and is the reason paralysis occurs.
Geron, a biotech company in California, bought Dr. Kierstead’s work in 2007. And now, thanks to the FDA approving it, the study has become legitimized, and if successful, will be able to be approved by insurance companies. To keep up-to-date on the status of this very lucky man, Geron’s site can be accessed here – About GRNOPC1
Why use a guy who’s only been injured for 2 weeks? Easy. He has zero scar tissue on the injury site, which will allow the stem cells to get where they need to go with ease. And don’t worry, they say he was severely injured. They’re not wasting this treatment on someone with just a bruised spinal cord, who may get partially better on their own anyways. His cord was either ripped partially, or completely. End of the line, my friends.
When will we know if it works? Within months, if not sooner. hESCs are amazing like that.
And for fun, since stem cells are seriously inspiring stuff, here is GORGEOUS stem cell art
Omigosh, this makes me so hopeful yet at the same time still miles away…