Stem Cell Research Gets Thumbs Up | NBC New York

Stem Cell Research Gets Thumbs Up

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    Former president Bush embargoed embryonic stem cell research, but the new Obama administration is friendly to the controversial procedure.

    A U.S. biotech company says it plans to start this summer the world's first study of a treatment based on human embryonic stem cells — a long-awaited project aimed at spinal cord injury.

    The company gained federal permission this week to inject eight to 10 patients with cells derived from embryonic cells, said Dr. Thomas Okarma, president and CEO of Geron Corp. of Menlo Park, Calif.

    The patients will be paraplegics, who can use their arms but can't walk. They will receive a single injection within two weeks of their injury.

    The study is aimed at testing the safety of the procedure, but doctors will also look for signs of improvement like return of sensation or movement in the legs, Okarma said.

    Whatever its outcome, the study will mark a new chapter in the contentious history of embryonic stem cell research in the United States — a field where debate spilled out of the laboratory long ago and into national politics.

    While some overseas doctors claim to use human embryonic stem cells in their clinics, stem cell experts said they knew of no previous human studies that use such cells.