After 20 years of preparation, a British researcher has announced that he will use adult stem cells to try to cure or at least help patients with spinal cord injury. Professor Geoffrey Raisman, of University College London, says that he will test the regenerative ability of cells from the nose on 10 patients in a pilot study. The first group will be mostly teenagers whose arm has been paralysed after a motorcycle accident when the nerves were pulled out of the spinal column. Animal trials have been very promising.
“I don’t know that it will work, but I think it will work,” Professor Raisman told the Guardian. “I have been patient. I didn’t jump in the dark. I have grown through the research all these years. It was in 1985 I discovered the cells. It has taken 20 years before I felt we had the technology to apply this to people.”
The cells will come from the patients themselves, not embryonic stem cells. This “will avoid the need to use embryonic tissue, to find donor individuals, foreign stem cells, the immune response or to use powerful designer drugs with unknown side-effects,” he said.
Professor Raisman describes himself as a maverick researcher who took the unpopular path of using adult stem cells rather than drugs to heal nerve breaks. “What we’re proposing could be carried out by any very modestly equipped hospital with neurosurgery. There are no patents. It makes it a very unpopular form of research. We’re producing a procedure where the patient is their own cure. You can’t patent a patient’s own cells, thank God.”
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