Regenerating Medical Miracles

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ACSH staffers were glad to read that biotech firm Geron will initiate the world s first human clinical trials using embryonic stem cells to treat patients paralyzed by spinal cord injuries. Pluripotent embryonic stem cells, which are able to convert into any cell in the body, will be injected into patients spines in the hope of enabling them to recover feeling and movement.

ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross believes the clinical trials are a medical breakthrough, and embryonic stem cells may possess various clinical applications in the near future. These stem cells have the potential to reverse diseases that have so far been resistant to intervention, such as strokes, heart attacks and neurological and muscular disorders, he says.

Since muscle and nerve cells are not endogenously regenerated by the human body, stem cell research is devoted to getting the body to initiate its own regeneration system, Dr. Ross says. For example, if you put stem cells in the milieu of myocardial (heart) cells, they ll grow into them, which can be a great therapy for scar tissue as the result of a heart attack.