Adult Stem Cells Already Help Spinal Cord Patients, FDA Embryonic Trials Not Needed

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 26, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Adult Stem Cells Already Help Spinal Cord Patients, FDA Embryonic Trials Not Needed

by Steven Ertelt Editor
January 26
, 2009

Washington, DC ( — The Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of embryonic stem cells in human trials for the first time. While the trials involve controversial embryonic cells that have problems with tumors and immune system rejection, the use of adult stem cells has already proven safe for spinal cord patients.

Despite grave concerns that problems such as the causing of tumors and immune system rejection issues haven’t been solved, the FDA approved the trials last week.

It gave Geron Corp., based in California, permission to conduct the first-ever human trial for a treatment derived from the controversial cells. The trials will involve 10 spinal cord patients.

However, the safety of adult stem cell transplants in spinal cord injury patients has already been proved in two clinical trials involving studies in Australia and Portugal.

The Australian research group reported its findings in the August 2008 edition of the medical journal Brain, saying that “transplantation of autologous olfactory ensheathing cells into the injured spinal cord is feasible and is safe up to one year post-implantation.”

In Portugal, a group headed by Carlos Lima also used autologous olfactory stem cell transplants and put them into the spinal lesions of paraplegic and tetraplegic patients.

In a July 2006 Journal of Spinal Cord Medicine article, they wrote that adult stem cells are beginning to offer the most hope for those paralyzed from spinal cord injuries.

Lima’s team’s adult stem cell research showed restored motor function and sensation in a few paralyzed patients using adult stem cells obtained from a patient’s own nose.

Lima and his research team demonstrated that a patient’s own adult stem cells and olfactory mucosa can treat paralysis caused by spinal cord injury.

"Every patient had improvement in ASIA motor scores," Lima wrote in his team’s paper. "This study shows that olfactory mucosa autograft transplantation into the human injured spinal cord is feasible, relatively safe, and potentially beneficial."

Mark Pickup, a disability rights activist in Canada, commented on the Lima study in a statement sent to He said he wants to see funding of stem cell research go to adult stem cells instead of embryonic because they provide the most hope for paralyzed people like him.

President Barack Obama has said he will sign a bill Congress will likely send him that would force taxpayers to fund embryonic stem cell research, which involves the destruction of human life.

"Not one human therapy has come out of embryonic stem cell research while 72 therapies have come from non-embryonic research," he said.

"As someone who can potentially benefit from stem cell therapy (I am triplegic with advanced multiple sclerosis) I want research dollars to go where the most promise lies not the least promise," Pickup added.

Related web sites:
Dr. Lima’s research paper –

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