The Guardian sees hope in first human stem cell trials

The Guardian ran a story about stem cell research that could be more or less summed up as follows: It’s started.

They profiled Marcus Hilton, who was the first person in the UK to receive a transplant of cells created from human embryonic stem cells. In his case, he received the transplant in his eye as part of a clinical trial for a form of blindness.

The story explains why the eye is such a good target for early trials (the immune system is unlikely to enter the eye and reject the stem cells). In the U.S. two forms of blindness are also under investigation in clinical trials involving embryonic stem cells.
The story goes on to quote Peter Coffey, who has a Research Leadership Award from CIRM to work on another possible stem cell-based therapy for blindness. The story quotes him talking about the pace of research:

To an excitable public and to patients hoping for cures, it may seem that the talk has been going on for a long time and there ought to be treatments on the shelves pretty soon. In fact, experts say, the field has moved at a spectacular speed.
“To go from what was zero back in 1989 when the first human embryonic stem cell was derived – and not even for human use – to human trials is immensely fast,” says Coffey.

[Editor’s note: James Thomson first isolated human embryonic stem cells in 1998 not 1989.]

The story is worth a read for its insights on the challenges ahead for stem cell-based therapies and for an update on the most likely targets for those therapies.


3 thoughts on “The Guardian sees hope in first human stem cell trials

  1. The article says – Coffey's backers are the Californian Institute of Regenerative Medicine, the Medical Research Council and drug company Pfizer but, he says, “I'm not seeing it as a race.” ACT's work has helped them a little.

    Does the CIRM agree with this quote?

    If ACT's treatment goes on the market first then they will get most of the revenue.

    How will the State of CA recoup the 20 Million spent between Coffey & Humayun?

    How is it not a race?

  2. The stem cell-based therapies for blindness being developed by ACT and Coffey/Humayun described in The Guardian story are just two of the many approaches under development. Until those therapies are widely available to patients we won’t know which is most effective.

    Think of the first chemotherapy drugs. We certainly wouldn’t say that after the first drug hit clinical trials all further cancer research as a waste of money. Instead, what we’ve learned is that with every new approach scientists discover something about the disease and the therapy and can continue honing their approach. That’s the process that has brought us second-generation therapies that are more effective and with fewer side effects than the first to market.

    Also keep in mind that the best therapy for one patient might not work for another. There are many forms of blindness, progressive stages of the disease, and patients themselves differ. Having more than one approach available means doctors can offer the most effective therapy for each patient.

    Whether the best stem cell therapy for blindness is one being developed now, or a next generation therapy, the work of ACT, Coffey/Humayun and others is paving the way for those who are blind to one day see their loved ones.

  3. Hello,

    Stem cells are presently considered the best source for muscle regeneration. These are extracted from different organs of the human body, and then inputed into patients’ body after culture and differentiation. Thanks a lot for creating this type of valuable site…

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