Embryonic stem cells used in first trial for spinal cord injury

June 16, 2017

Embryonic stem cell therapy has garnered a lot of controversy. President George W. Bush's administration banned federal funding for research using newly created embryonic stem cells, citing ethical concerns that these cells represented viable human life. That ban was overturned by the Obama administration. However in late August U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth ruled that federal funding of embryonic stem cell research did violate a 1996 law prohibiting the use of taxpayer dollars for such work. The Obama administration appealed that decision.

Dr. Richard Fessler of Northwestern University and Northwestern Memorial Hospital, who is leading the trial said, ???I think it's likely that 50 percent or even 75 percent of patients we evaluate will not meet the criteria [for the trial]??¦ What will happen is some individuals will experience some kind of spinal cord injury??¦??? If the injury is the right kind -- the spine is crushed but not severed, the patient does not have an infection or a history of cancer and if the injury occurs in the right spot in the middle of the back -- the patient's doctor might recommend they be included in the trial he said. Patients offered a chance to be in the trial have only 11 days from the time of their injury to decide, Fessler said. ???We have to transplant them within 14 days of the injury??¦We have three days of preoperative testing we have to do before we can do the transplant. They have to be given the offer and make their decision by day 11,??? he explained.