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King's College London - Health: More than a medical matter





UK scientists announce ground-breaking stem cell therapy trial

19 January 2009

By Ailsa Stevens

Appeared in BioNews 491

Glasgow-based scientists have announced plans to trial a pioneering stem cell therapy for treating stroke patients later this year. The researchers hope that the therapy, which involves injecting embryonic stem cell (ES cells) into the brain, may help to reverse the symptoms of stroke, including mobility problems and reduced mental function.

Four groups of three stroke patients will be recruited for the trial. All four groups will receive an initial injection of two million stem cells and, over the course of two years, three out of four of the groups will have their dose slowly increased to 20 million cells, which the researchers believe could be enough to kick-start regeneration of the damaged brain tissue.

Dr Keith Muir, the consultant leading the trial at the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow, said the trial was a 'world first'. 'If it works, as it has done in animal model systems, it may allow new nerve cells to grow or regeneration of existing cells and actual recovery of function in patients who would not otherwise be able to regain function,' he said.

The primary focus of the trial is to assess safety, however the researchers are optimistic that some of the patients may benefit from the therapy. Around two thirds of stroke patient suffer some kind of permanent brain damage, which can not be treated through rehabilitation schemes. The trial gives hope to the 250,000 people in the UK living with severe disabilities caused by strokes.

'You can reorganise the brain, you can help that reorganisation with physiotherapy, but you cannot cause new nerve cells to grow. The hope with stem cell therapy is that by putting in new cells and new tissue that you can further improve on that recovery,' Dr Muir told the BBC.

The trial has been fiercely opposed by pro-life groups, who believe that an embryo has equivalent moral status to a child or adult human, because the stem cells involved are obtained from aborted embryos. ReNeuron, the stem cell research company funding the trial, were refused a licence to carry out the trail in the US two years ago, where ES cell research has remained highly restricted under the Bush administration. Having satisfied the UK regulators - the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency - they now have approval for the trial in Britain.

 

SOURCES & REFERENCES
The Daily Telegraph | 19 January 2009
 
Glasgow leads stem-cell test on stroke damage
The Times | 18 January 2009
 
BBC News Online | 18 January 2009
 

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The UK Gene Therapy Advisory Committee (GTAC) has given ReNeuron, a British biotech company, permission to begin the first ever clinical trial into using embryonic stem cells as a stroke treatment this year... [Read More]
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16 February 2009 - by BioNews 
In BioNews 491 we reported that a Glasgow-based team had announced plans to trial a pioneering stem cell therapy, which they hope could help reverse the symptoms of stroke. The article said: 'The trial has been fiercely opposed by pro-life groups, who believe that an embryo has equivalent moral status... [Read More]
26 January 2009 - by Antony Blackburn-Starza 
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has allowed the biotech firm, Geron, to begin clinical trials using embryonic stem (ES) cells to help treat spinal cord injury sufferers who have become paralysed from the chest down. The product known as GRNOPC1 will be tested for its... [Read More]

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