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First human trial of stem cell treatment underway

Controversial study begins treating its first patient in the US.

File photo of stem cell research.
File photo of stem cell research.
Image: Nati Harnik/AP/Press Association Images

SCIENTISTS IN THE US HAVE begun the first human trial of controversial stem cell treatment in Atlanta, Georgia. The patient has requested anonymity.

The patient, paralysed as a result of severe spinal injuries according to the Telegraph, is receiving the treatment from a privately funded company called Geron.

Treatment involves injecting the patient’s area of damage with embryonic stem cells from embryos left over from fertility treatments.

The embryos are destroyed in the cell harvesting process.

Candidates sought for Geron’s study must have suffered a paralysing spinal injury less than 14 days before treatment began so as to maximise the its effectiveness, according to the company.

AFP reports that Geron has been involved in stem cell research for 11 years, and the company’s president, Thomas Okarma, described the clinical trial as a “milestone for the field of human embryonic stem cell-based therapies”.

The study aims to show that stem cell treatment is safe, and ultimately aims to encourage damaged spinal nerve cells to grow and repair, allowing patients to recover from their injuries.

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