But first, the full disclosure. We didn’t fund this work, but we did award this company a Disease Team award to continue the trial. The trial is based on work by our grantees Aileen Anderson and Brian Cummings at the University of California, Irvine. Anderson is also a collaborator on the disease team award.
Having said that, here’s what StemCells Inc is reporting about the trial. They were initially testing their stem cells in three people who had received spinal cord injuries in the mid-chest region four to nine months before the transplants. None of the three had any sensation below the injury.
At six months after getting the transplant, two people started to be able to feel touch below the point of the injury. Now, at one year after the transplant, the two patients continue to have slight improvements in the ability to feel beneath the point of the injury and the third patient is stable.
Keep in mind that for this type of early stage clinical trial, the most important factor scientists are monitoring is safety. This is the first time the cells have been tested in people rather than in animals or in a lab dish, and people are very different than animals. That’s why the company used a very low dose of the cells and only tested them in a small number of people.
A press release from the company quotes Martin McGlynn, President and CEO of StemCells Inc.
"While we need to be cautious when interpreting data from a small, uncontrolled trial, to our knowledge, this is the first time a patient with a complete spinal cord injury has been converted to a patient with an incomplete injury following transplantation of neural stem cells. We are encouraged that the cells appear to convey clinical benefit in such severely injured patients.”The company is going to be tested the cells in more people, this time in some people who don’t have complete injuries.
For more information about stem cell research for spinal cord injury and a complete list of the awards we fund, see our spinal cord injury fact sheet.
Image by Ed Yourdon