GE Teams With Cloning Company Geron for Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 30, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

GE Teams With Cloning Company Geron for Embryonic Stem Cell Research

by Steven Ertelt Editor
June 30
, 2009

Washington, DC ( — General Electric Company is teaming up with Geron, a biotech firm that engages in human cloning, to form what could be the largest embryonic stem cell research conglomerate. The team wants to use the controversial research to determine whether some medicine are toxic.

Embryonic stem cells can only be obtained by destroying human life and pro-life advocates oppose that.

They also point to the successes seen in adult stem cell research and iPS cells, adult stem cells which are reverted to an embryonic-like state. Unlike embryonic stem cells, these cells have been successful in helping patients with a myriad of conditions.

GE and Geron will use existing embryonic stem cell lines to develop sample human cells that drug companies can use to test the toxicity of new drugs in the development process before animal testing or human trials.

"This could replace, to a large extent, animal trials," GE spokeswoman Konstantin Fiedler told Reuters. "Once you have human cells and you can get them in a standardized way, like you get right now your lab rats in a standardized way, you can actually do those experiments on those cells."

She said GE and Geron could have cells, which will be or liver cells derived from stem cells, potentially as early as the first part of next year.

Because GE and Geron plan to use embryonic stem cells from the National Institutes of Health registry, their work would be eligible for taxpayer funding.

President Barack Obama recently rescinded the protections President Bush put in place to prevent taxpayers from being forced to fund embryonic stem cell research with their tax dollars.

In January, the FDA gave Geron Corp., based in California, permission to conduct the first-ever human trial for a treatment derived from the controversial cells.

But Evan Snyder, a neuroscientist who heads up the stem cell research center at the Burnham Institute for Medical Research in San Diego warns that the research, which involves 10 spinal cord patients with injuries the company hopes to treat with an experimental drug containing embryonic stem cells, may not be ready for humans.

"There’s a lot of debate among spinal cord researchers that the pre-clinical data itself doesn’t justify the clinical trial," Snyder, who is working on using neural stem cells himself, says.

Snyder says the mice Geron used to conduct pre-human trial research had more excessive injuries that scientists would normally prefer to see prior to trying the procedure on human patients.

He suggests that Geron should have done experiments involving larger animals before seeking FDA permission to use the controversial embryonic stem cells in humans.

Those concerns existed as early as 2005 and may not have been addressed.

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