Geron ESC therapy heals spinal cord damage in rats

Geron's clinical stage embryonic stem cell treatment was used to restore the limb function of rats--a preclinical development that may allow the biotech company to expand the scope of its trial to include cervical damage.

Geron obtained the FDA's first approval to test an ESC treatment in humans. But regulators restricted the investigation to thoracic spinal cord damage. Cervical damage was excluded because it had yet to be tested in animals. Cases involving spinal cord injuries are about evenly split between cervical and thoracic damage.

"People with cervical damage often have lost or impaired limb movement and bowel, bladder or sexual function, and currently there's no effective treatment. It's a challenging existence," said UC Irvine scientist Hans Keirstead, a primary author of the study. "What our therapy did to injured rodents is phenomenal. If we see even a fraction of that benefit in humans, it will be nothing short of a home run."

The treatment relies on ESCs that are transformed into spinal cord cells that create myelin, nerve fiber insulation that is damaged in an injury, which can lead to paralysis.

- check out the UCI release

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