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08/03/2010

Geron Gets Green Light…Are the Floodgates Opening?

With the FDA approval of the first human stem cell trial from the Geron Corporation, there can be no doubt that dozens of other human clinical trials will quickly follow on its heels for approval for hESCs to be used in human beings to treat everything from spinal cord injuries to Alzheimer’s Disease to cancer.

What I doubt is the hype I read on the Huffington Post blog that “If these hESCs are safe, and perform as hoped, that injection will be the 21st century’s “shot-heard-round-the-world”.”

It would be a mistake and a disservice to this research, just as it has been to adult stem cell research, research with iPSCs, or any other area of research to advocate now, on the precipice of human trials, that this single study is the game changer.

If we have learned anything from the progress of previous human clinical trials in gene therapy and other areas, it is that the progress is likely to be anything but swift and anything but definitive. The results will be debated and disputed in the scientific literature.

But I too am hopeful that this first step down the path of actual stem cell therapies (not the false, misconceived use of the word perpetuated by those who want to prey on the hopes of patients without treatment options) will soon result in the gathering of data that will some day lead to cures for those conditions and diseases that are currently incurable.

But that day is likely to be a long way in the future (a few years anyway) and until then, it is best to keep hopes lofty, but interpretations of the science realistic.

Summer Johnson, PhD

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