To much celebration and media play, the first human trial of embryonic stem cells has begun.
With a grand total so far of one patient.
“I don’t understand [having] human trials because the animal studies aren’t very convincing,” David Bennett, a University of Alberta neuroscientist renowned for his experimentation with spinal-cord injuries, told me for my AOL News piece today. “My gut feeling is that it’s a scam,” he said.
My article explains why the company behind it, Geron, felt compelled to proceed. It comes down to one word: money. In part, they’ve been spending on this work for 15 years with no human experimentation. Stockholders don’t like that.
But there’s much more to the Geron “scam.”
For example, Geron says it will only treat patients injured in the preceding two weeks. Yet that’s when injured spinal cords are spontaneously generating new cells in an effort to heal.
Studies in cats with completely severed spines show that with mere treadmill exercise, as one found, all of them could walk again without assistance, though sadly their mouse-chasing days were behind them.
Even if none of Geron’s patients shows any improvement in sensation or mobility, sensitive tests like electromyography or one mercifully abbreviated to SEP can detect increases in cell growth or something called plasticity.
That would give Geron a chance to claim success when there was none.
Meanwhile, there has already been success using adult stem cells to treat human paralysis. But money for these trials has steadily been diverted to, yes, ESC work.
Incidentally, Bennett has 106 citations in MedLine, but nobody else in the media quotes the real experts. Instead, they go to the “old reliables” who just happen to have millions of dollars invested in embryonic stem cell research. Which is why, unfortunately, you read stuff like this here first.
(See insert: In studies, cats have routinely had severed spinal chords heal to where they could walk unassisted, though Mike’s cat prefers to lay down and “monitor” him in – more ways than one. [Model credit: Aspen H. Cat])