First Stem Cell Clinical Trial Described

DETROIT, Oct. 4 (UPI) — Fetal stem cells have been injected into the spines of six Lou Gehrig’s disease patients as part of the first clinical trial of its kind, scientists say.

The trial, headed by Dr. Eva Feldman, a University of Michigan neurologist who is pioneering the research under way at Emory University in Atlanta, is among several being showcased at the World Stem Cell Summit in Detroit, The Detroit News reported Monday.

The treatment is being used on patients who can no longer walk, Feldman said, and it’s been shown to be safe

Other clinical trials that will be highlighted at the summit include one starting this month by California-based Geron Corp., which began enrolling patients with spinal cord injuries in the first stem cell trial using embryonic stem cells.

The gathering will hear of clinical trials to treat diseases, regenerative medicine against aging, ethical lessons learned and more, its organizers say.

The summit is bringing together researchers, industry leaders, government officials and advocates from 30 countries, the News reported.

More than 100 experts will present findings on research efforts using adult and embryonic stem cells to treat disease to an expected 1,200 attendees through Tuesday. The conference began Sunday.

The summit opened with a public education day at the Detroit Science Center to explain the science with microscopes to peek at stem cells, educational packets for teachers and games for children, the Detroit Free Press said.

Wayne State University researcher Graham Parker helped present “Stem Cells 101″ to children including his own daughter Rebecca, 7.

The summit comes amid continuing opposition to embryonic stem cell research as opponents continue efforts to stop the work with legislative attempts and a federal lawsuit seeking to ban federal funding.

Michigan was chosen to host the summit because voters in 2008 approved Proposal 2, which allowed researchers to do embryonic stem cell research.

“This is an exciting time in stem cell research,” said Sean Morrison, director of the University of Michigan Center for Stem Cell Biology.

“On one hand, we are finally starting to deliver on some of the opportunities created by Proposal 2 and the world is coming to see what’s happening in Michigan,” he said.

“On the other hand, the federal courts could soon do serious damage to the field by blocking federal funding. It never seems like we get off the roller coaster.”

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