Despite the discouraging news from New York this week, there have been some small advances towards clinical applications of embryonic stem cells. Novacell, a small San Diego biotech, has developed a process which turns human embryonic stem cells into pancreatic cells which could cure diabetes. The company says that it hopes to begin animal tests in 2008 and human clinical trials in 2009. According to the New York Times, however, “such timeline projections by companies often prove overly optimistic”.
And at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, researchers have found that transplanting human embryonic stem cells into the spinal cords of rats bred to duplicate Lou Gehrig’s disease delays the start of nerve damage and slightly prolongs their lives. Their study was published in the journal Transplantation. The lead researcher cautioned that clinical applications are still distant.
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