New trial may be step forward for spinal cord injuries
Stem cells as seen on a computer screen.
April 16th, 2014
03:55 PM ET

New trial may be step forward for spinal cord injuries

In what may be another step forward in treating spinal cord injuries, a safety trial will begin this year on the practice of injecting stem cells directly into the injury site, Neuralstem Inc. announced Wednesday. 

The Maryland company said the University of California, San Diego's Institutional Review Board had approved its clinical trial protocol, which also has approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

The first eight patients who will be enrolled will be paraplegics who had a thoracic spinal cord injury one to two years ago and have no motor or sensory function below the point of their spinal cord injury.

Thoracic spinal cord injuries are rare, according to the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, because of the protection afforded by a person's rib cage. In addition to the loss of function in legs, patients also experience a loss of physical sensation, bowel and bladder problems and sexual dysfunction. However, in most cases, function of the arms and hands are not affected.

It's the latest trial designed to inject stem cells into patients' spines. The trial is supposed to show that the drug - stem cells, in this case - is safe, although researchers hope to provide some benefit as well. FULL POST

Stem cells vs. heart attacks
November 6th, 2012
01:47 PM ET

Stem cells vs. heart attacks

For years it was thought that most damage from a major heart attack was permanent:  Dead tissue turns to scar tissue, leading to the heart muscle’s gradual deterioration.

But now, there is growing optimism that stem cell therapy may help patients with damaged hearts return to a fully functional life, based on results from early studies.

Of course, larger studies have to confirm the results and the devil is in the details. Those details were on display in a series of five presentations Tuesday at the American Heart Association conference in Los Angeles.

Most promising was long-term data on 20 patients with severe, long-term heart failure stemming from past heart attacks.  These patients not only improved dramatically after receiving an infusion of their own heart stem cells, but continued to get better two full years after treatment.

“That’s from just one injection of these cells,” says Dr. Roberto Bolli, the lead researcher and chief of cardiology at the University of Louisville.  Such improvement is virtually unheard of, he explains.  With standard care, “we know that these patients don’t get better with time because once you have a scar, you have a scar.” FULL POST

Stem cells help deaf gerbils hear
Could stem cell treatments one day replace hearing aids? Research is still preliminary.
September 12th, 2012
01:01 PM ET

Stem cells help deaf gerbils hear

About 37 million Americans have some level of hearing problem, and science hasn't come up with a perfect solution to restore this valuable sense.

Help may be on the way, at least in theory. A team of researchers reports in the journal Nature that they have used embryonic stem cells to restore some hearing in impaired gerbils. But more investigation is necessary before the technology can move to humans.


Everyone has two main sensory cell types associated with hearing: the hair cell and the auditory neuron. Hair cells take sound and make it into an electrical signal. Neurons pick up the signal and transfer it to the brain, so you know what you're hearing.

Most deafness is caused by a problem in one or both of these cells, said Marcelo Rivolta, senior author of the study and stem cell biologist at the University of Sheffield, United Kingdom. The cells are usually created during the embryonic stage of development.


February 13th, 2012
08:56 PM ET

Patient's own stem cells help heal heart

A patient's own heart cells can be used to regrow new heart tissue and help undo damage caused by a heart attack, according to early research published on Monday.

Scientists at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore were able to treat 17 heart attack patients with cells grown from their own heart tissue. Not only did this show that the procedure was safe, it also showed that the cells can help reduce scarring and even cause new heart muscle to grow.

When a person suffers a heart attack, he or she is often left with huge areas of scarring in the heart. Scarred heart muscle doesn't pump blood as well as it used to, putting stress on other parts of the heart to make up for the deficit. The damaged area also doesn't conduct electric current as well, leading to an abnormal heart rhythm, which can cause more problems. Heart attack patients often go on to develop heart failure.

Wanted: Partner for a stem cell pioneer
A researcher holds up a container with stem cells at the University of Connecticut's Stem Cell Institute in 2010.
November 17th, 2011
01:38 PM ET

Wanted: Partner for a stem cell pioneer

It appears that the economy, not controversy, is shutting down the first clinical trial to use cells derived from human embryonic stem cells in humans. Due to the "current environment of capital scarcity and uncertain economic conditions," Geron CEO Dr. John Scarlett said his company will be focusing on developing cancer treatments instead.

In January 2009, after many years of research, Geron became the first company to get FDA approval for human trials using cells grown from human embryonic stem cells.  The the FDA asked for more research, which led to final approval in July of last year.  Three months later, a 21-year-old nursing student from Alabama became the first human to be injected with these cells.

The purpose of this trial was to determine safety.  Embryonic stem cells have the ability to turn into any type of cell. Cells that had been coaxed into becoming nerves cells were injected into patients who had  just suffered a spinal cord injury that paralyzed them from the chest on down. Patients had to receive these injections within two weeks of being paralyzed.


Doctor: We can change the world with human embryonic stem cells
December 30th, 2010
05:17 PM ET

Doctor: We can change the world with human embryonic stem cells

Editor’s note: This week, The Chart is taking a closer look at the most important health stories of 2010. One was stem cell research, a topic with which Dr. John McDonald  is very familiar. McDonald is director of the International Center for Spinal Cord Injury at Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore. The longtime stem cell researcher, who was one of Christopher Reeve’s physicians, provides his perspective on the first human clinical trial of embryonic stem cell research.

By Dr. John McDonald
Special to CNN

We are living in an amazing time.

This year marked what just a decade ago many believed would be an impossible feat - the first human has been injected with cells from human embryonic stem cells (hES). hES cells, and embryonic stem cells in general, are one of the greatest scientific tools for discovery of the 21st century.

The clinical trial brings together the best we have to offer in central nervous system research to address the difficult problem of spinal cord injury.


Filed under: 2010 Year in Review • Stem Cells

2010 Year in Review: Stem cell research
December 30th, 2010
05:16 PM ET

2010 Year in Review: Stem cell research

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.


FDA approves second human embryonic stem cell trial
November 22nd, 2010
07:15 PM ET

FDA approves second human embryonic stem cell trial

For only the second time in history, the Food and Drug Administration has approved human trial of a therapy developed from embryonic stem cells.

William Caldwell, CEO of Massachusetts-based Advanced Cell Technology (ACT), tells CNN that 366 days after filing the application, the FDA granted approval for his company to start a clinical trial using cells grown from human embryonic stem cells.  The treatment will be for an inherited degenerative eye disease.

"Were still absorbing the fact that we finally got the approval" says Caldwell.  "The real work lies ahead."  Getting the trial going is the next big step, says Caldwell.  He hopes the first patients can be enrolled by the first quarter of the next year.


November 8th, 2010
05:50 PM ET

Scientists convert skin to blood

Researchers at Canada's McMaster University report that they've figured out how to make blood out of human skin.

The breakthrough could eventually mean that patients needing blood for surgery, cancer treatment or treatment of blood conditions like anemia will be able to have blood created from a patch of their own skin to provide transfusions, the university said.

Skin cells that are removed from the patient can be multiplied in a petri dish and converted into a large quantity of blood cells, which themselves can be multiplied, lead researcher Mick Bhatia told CNN. FULL POST

Post by:
Filed under: Stem Cells

October 11th, 2010
03:30 PM ET

First human injected in human embryonic stem cell trial

After years of animal trials, the first human has been injected with cells from human embryonic stem cells, according to Geron Corporation, the company which is sponsoring the controversial study.

"This is the first human embryonic stem cell trial in the world," Geron CEO Dr. Thomas Okarma tells CNN.

Geron is releasing very few details about the patient, but will say that the first person to receive cells derived from human embryonic stem cells was enrolled in the FDA-approved clinical trial at the Shepherd Center, a spinal cord and brain injury rehabilitation hospital in Atlanta, Georgia.  This person was injected with the cells on Friday.


   older posts »
About this blog

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.