April 20, 2024

Next year, says Geron, embryonic stem cell trials will begin. We hope

Critics jeer on

Christopher Reeve

One of the most convincing advocates of human embryonic stem cell research, quadriplegic actor Christopher Reeves, died without seeing any substantial progress towards a cure for spinal cord injury. However, he was buoyed up by the hope that hESC research at Geron Corporation might help him walk again. Geron has announced many times that it would soon start human hESC trials — but so far no trials have begun. The latest announcement came last week when it announced that the trials would begin next year. Its share price rose 4.2% at the news.

Dr David Prentice, of the Family Research Council, a critic of embryo research, has been logging Geron’s announcements since 2002 and found that trials were going to begin “next year” every year since 2004. He argues that “the obsession with embryonic stem cells has obscured the real hope for patients–adult stem cells. Peer-reviewed evidence of adult stem cell success for spinal cord injury patients has already been published by groups in Portugal, in Australia, in Ecuador,and in Brazil”. The trials with embryonic cells have usually been delayed over safety concerns, as they could cause tumours. —Forbes, Oct 30

Michael Cook