December 30th, 2010
05:16 PM ET
Editor’s note: This week, The Chart is taking a closer look at the most important health stories of 2010. Each day, we'll feature buzzwords and topics that came to the forefront over the past year.
From the start, 2010 was a fascinating year for stem cell research.
Back in January, we learned that the first adult patient in the United States had cells grown from 8-week-old stem cells directly injected into the spinal cord.
A few months later, researchers published a study showing that induced pluripotent stem cells, or IPS cells, could be used to produce baby pigs. Pigs physiologically resemble humans much more than mice, so this could potentially tell us more about human illnesses. It will also allow scientists to grow pigs that can provide dependable body parts, such as heart valves and islet cells, for humans.
Even the Vatican got into the stem cell business when it announced that it was investing in a New York-based company that conducts research with "adult" stem cells. By financially supporting this type of stem cell research, about which it has no ethical qualms, the Vatican means to show it is not opposed to the field as a whole.
In August, federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research, which was expanded by an executive order signed by President Obama in 2009, came to a halt. A U.S. District Court judge granted an injunction because embryonic stem cell research inherently involves the destruction of embryos.
One month later, the U.S. Court of Appeals temporarily lifted the ban until it ruled on the decision. The case was argued earlier this month, and a decision is expected early next year.
The biggest news this year came in October, when it was announced that a person, for the first time ever, had been injected with cells developed or grown from human embryonic stem cells.
By agreeing to be the first person to have these experimental cells injected, this anonymous man or woman is a true medical pioneer. What makes this person even more remarkable is that, according to the clinical trial protocol approved by the Food and Drug Administration, he or she had to agree to be part of this experiment within two weeks of becoming paralyzed below the chest.
The company sponsoring this trial, Geron Corp., did not receive any federal funding for its research, and by developing a clinical trial protocol or blueprint that the FDA could sign off on, it paved the way for the field to advance beyond the animal testing phase.
Just a month after Geron's experiment began, the FDA approved the second clinical trial using cells derived from human embryonic stem cells. In this case, cells will be injected into the eyes.
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.