lcorner.gif (165 bytes)




Can Stem Cells Cure Stem Cell Research
Frequently Asked Questions US Government Policy
Stem Cell Research Links What Are Stem Cells


Stem Cells and Diseases



The Promise of Stem Cells

Studying stem cells will help us understand how they transform into the dazzling array of specialized cells that make us what we are. Some of the most serious medical conditions, such as cancer and birth defects, are due to problems that occur somewhere in this process. A better understanding of normal cell development will allow us to understand and perhaps correct the errors that cause these medical conditions.

Another potential application of stem cells is making cells and tissues for medical therapies. Today, donated organs and tissues are often used to replace those that are diseased or destroyed. Unfortunately, the number of people needing a transplant far exceeds the number of organs available for transplantation. Pluripotent stem cells offer the possibility of a renewable source of replacement cells and tissues to treat a myriad of diseases, conditions, and disabilities including Parkinson's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, spinal cord injury, burns, heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis.


Clinical Trials for Stem Cell Therapies:



Human embryonic stem cells:

Scientists have been able to do experiments with human embryonic stem cells (hESC) since 1998, when a group led by Dr. James Thomson at the University of Wisconsin developed a technique to isolate and grow the cells. Although hESCs are thought to offer potential cures and therapies for many devastating diseases, research using them is still in its basic stages.

The NIH funded its first basic research study on hESCs in 2002. Since that time, biotechnology companies have built upon those basic foundations to begin developing stem cell-based human therapies. There are currently two active clinical trials using cells derived from human embryonic stem cells, both being conducted by a biotechnology company called ACT. The company has laboratories in Marlborough, Massachusetts and corporate offices in Santa Monica, California. ACT has begun enrolling patients for Phase I (safety and tolerability) clinical trials of two hESC-derived stem cell products:

  1. The first ACT trial is testing the safety of hESC-derived retinal cells to treat patients with an eye disease called Stargardt's Macular Dystrophy (SMD).
  3. The second ACT trial is testing the safety of hESC-derived retinal cells to treat patients with age-related macular degeneration.

    In January, 2012, the investigators published a preliminary report on the first two patients treated with hESC-derived cells: third patient was treated on April 20, 2012.

  4. A third clinical trial using hESC-derived cells was halted on November 14, 2011. The trial was being conducted by a biotechnology company called Geron, located in Menlo Park, California. Four patients with recent spinal cord injuries had been enrolled for its clinical trial of a hESC-derived therapy. The trial was testing the safety of using hESC-derived cells to achieve restoration of spinal cord function. Oligodendrocyte progenitor cells derived from hESCs were being injected directly into the lesion site of the patient's injured spinal cord. On November 14, Geron announced that it was discontinuing its stem cell programs to concentrate on cancer programs.

Bone marrow stem cells:

Bone marrow contains blood-forming stem cells (hematopoietic stem cells) that have been used for decades to treat blood cancers and other blood disorders. Umbilical cord blood is another source of hematopoietic stem cells that is being used in treatment. You can see a list of diseases that may currently be treated with hematopoietic stem cells at the website of the National Marrow Donor Program.  You may also search for clinical trials testing "bone marrow stem cells" or "umbilical cord blood"  on the Clinical website.


Human spinal cord stem cells:

A biotechnology company called Neuralstem, with corporate headquarters in Rockville, Maryland is conducting a clinical trial testing the use of human spinal cord stem cells to treat Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The company obtained FDA approval to conduct a Phase I trial (safety and tolerability study), and began enrolling patients in January 2010. 12 participants have received lumbar transplants, and in March 2012, the second participant received an injection in the cervial region. Click here to learn details about this trial as listed on the Clinical website.


Human mesenchymal stem cells:

Osiris Therapeutics (Columbia, Maryland) is conducting 3 different Phase 2 clinical trials with a product from adult mesenchymal cells (called Prochymal). The three trials are for:


  1. protecting pancreatic beta islet cells in adults and children with newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes; in partnership with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
  2. repair of heart tissue following a heart attack, and
  3. the repair of lung tissue in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Osiris is also conducting Phase 3 testing of Prochymal for acute graft versus host disease (GvHD) and Crohn's disease.


Participating in Clinical Trials

Scientists are testing the abilities of many different types of stem cells to treat certain diseases. You can search for clinical trials using stem cells (or other methods) to treat a specific disease at



Could stem cells someday help treat paralysis?Thursday, October 21, 2010Tags:healthbeat, sylvia perez
Comment NowEmailPrintReport a typo
Sylvia Perez
More: Bio, News Team October 21, 2010 (CHICAGO) (WLS) -- In a landmark trial, researchers have begun using embryonic stem cells to treat a paralyzed patient.

The stem cells have been at the root of hope and controversy for years.

There has been little hope that a severely damaged spinal cord can be fixed. For patients such as actor Christopher Reeve, a cure did not come in time.

Researchers at a small hospital in Atlanta, Georgia have injected the first patient with embryonic stem cells.

The next patient might receive the experimental treatment right here in Chicago.

Almost one year ago, Kankakee County Sheriff's Deputy David Stukenborg's life was shattered, along with his spine.

"Catastrophic blow out," said Stukenborg, describing the auto accident that paralyzed him. "You could hear the tire explode, and the car flipped multiple times."

Stukenborg was on his way to a 911 call when his tire blew. The call turned out to be a prank.

"I broke C5, shattered C6, and broke C7," said Stukenborg, referring to the vertebrae involved in his injury.

With the help of a robot at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, Stukenborg is working to regain some movement.

He has an incomplete spinal cord injury, which means his cord was not severed.

Researchers hope to enroll patients with injuries like Stukenborg's in a landmark trial. The ultimate goal is to see if embryonic stem cells can reverse damage. The first phase is to determine if the procedure is safe.

Northwestern Medicine in Chicago will play a role

"This is first and foremost a safety study: to prove that it can safely be done in humans," said Northwestern Medicine neurosurgeon Dr. Richard Fessler.

For years, scientists have been holding out hope that stem cells could repair damaged spinal cords by helping to regenerate damaged nerves.

The cells are obtained from human embryos no longer needed in in-vitro fertilization procedures.

Extracting the cells destroys the embryo, which is the biggest controversy. Critics say it is the destruction of human life and should not be supported with federal research dollars.

Geron Corporation is the first to get federal approval to use embryonic stem cells to treat people.

Laboratory studies have shown that animals with limited use of their hind legs were able to walk again within weeks of being injected.

"The biggest misconception probably is that it's going to be a magic bullet, that we are going to do one experiment, we're going to cure paralysis, and that everything will be wonderful," said Fessler. "That's not the case."

Patients must meet very specific criteria. The injury has to be located in the thoracic spine between T-3 and T-10. The cord can not be severed, and the injury must be recent, happening within the last 11 days.

Therefore, as unnerving as it sounds, the next possible participant in the trial probably has not been injured yet.

Even though this phase is just to measure safety, doctors will still look for signs of unusual improvement.

"To try to differentiate what is natural recovery and what is coming from this intervention," said RIC rehabilitation physician Dr. David Chen, describing the goal of the process.

Stukenborg does not qualify for this clinical trial, but he says it offers hope for anyone with paralysis.

"Until you have been in a position that's similar to mine, you can't really put a value on it," said Stukenborg. "It's just great."

Up to 10 patients with spinal cord injuries will be enrolled in the study.

As of now, Northwestern does not have a patient for the study, but even though this research is underway, the national debate is far from over.










Resource Links




Connected With



© Copyright 2011 Discover My Mobility All Rights Reserved