Despite public perception, embryonic stem cells have not to date been put into a human body. Why not? Because they tend to form tumors. That will all change later this year when Geron Corporation, a California biotech company, begins an embryonic stem cell treatment trial in up to 10 patients with spinal cord injuries.
Here are some points about this trial from stem cell expert, Dr. David Prentice:
- The trial is not a treatment but experiments with humans to test for safety.
- Numerous animal studies have documented the tendency for these cells to form tumors.
- Patients will have to be monitored for the rest of their lives for tumor formation.
- Immunosuppressive drugs will be required as the patients are receiving cells with the DNA of a different person, the embryo.
Dr. Prentice also points out that adult stem cells are already working to improve patients with spinal cord injuries. There are no ethical or rejection problems using adult stem cells.