The time has finally come and it’s time for rejoicing. The first trial of the use of stem cells in humans has started. Stem cells hold great promise in the treatment of all kinds of diseases from diabetes to Alzheimer’s disease. And as soon as we can get around all of the obstacles that the conservatives are putting up in congress, the sooner we can begin to use them in earnest.
Stem cells are cells that have a blank slate. That’s what makes them so valuable in the fight against disease. They can be “programmed” to become any type of cell in the body. They have great potential in transplant research and growing new tissue.
I have diabetes. One day there may be a cure if stem cells can be used to make beta cells that produce insulin. Likewise, they could be used to grow new tissue in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients or new spinal cord tissue in people who can’t walk because their spinal cords have been injured.
According to CNN: “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.”
Few details are known at this time about the first patient, but we do know that he was being treated at a spinal cord injury hospital in Atlanta, Georgia. He received the cells on Friday. The first trial was actually scheduled for 2009, but it was determined that further research was needed, so the trial was stopped.
To be eligible for the study, a patient must be totally paralyzed below the chest with a complete severing of the spinal cord. The process is amazing. The stem cells are programmed to make new spinal cord tissue just like they were in the womb. In essence they should “grow” a new spinal cord and the person should be able to walk again.
The only concern is that the doctors have to be able to turn off the process when it is finished. If you have an unchecked growth of cells that’s called cancer.
Since the work is in the very early stages, the scientists don’t expect a complete cure, but they do feel that they can regenerate some of the man’s cells that insulate his spinal cord.
Who knows. If the research is successful, one day we may be able to regrow limbs just like the lizards. We may even go them one better and regrow organs as well.