Advances in stem cell research

An article in the MIT Technology Review lists what could be the first real breakthrough in medicine made through scientific stem cell research into a possible effective treatment for people with paralysis.

Professor Hans Keirstead of the University of California-Irvine has made paralyzed rats walk again thanks to being injected with healthy brain cells, collected from a mixture created by the scientist and his team with human embryonic stem cells. Keirstead's goal is to apply his therapy to humans by 2006.

If he can meet his roadmap, Keirstead will have developed the first human embryonic stem cell treatment ever performed on humans.

In an interview with the Technology Review, Keirstead says he was "surprised, excited and humbled" with the progress made. "I just want to see a single person whose condition improves thanks to something that I have created"

Keirstead has converted stem cells into specialized cells that get brain signals through the spinal cord. These new cells have then repaired the rat spine several weeks after it was injured.

The state of California just approved $ 3 billion in funding to fund stem cell research. Right now Keirstead's team of scientists is still experimenting with rats to ensure that the injected cells do what they are supposed to do without causing side effects. "I would not want toenails to grow inside the brain," said the researcher.

You can read the entire interview here.

Video: A Brief History of Stem Cells

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