Stem Cell Trials Planned in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong


Hong Kong - Scientists throughout 14 mainland China cities, Taiwan and Hong Kong are now preparing for what will be the largest embryonic stem cell clinical trial in the world. Beginning in 2008, over 400 patients with spinal cord injuries will be injected with stem cells from umbilical cord blood. They will be given lithium to help stimulate cell regeneration.

The goal of the procedure is to help them grown new nerves "fibers" and "bridges" which will hopefully allow the patients to recover sensation.

Stem cells are the body's "master cells" which can be found in the human body's blood and tissue.  They can come from either adult or embryonic sources. It's speculated that stem cells are capable of regenerating dead cells and can be used as a treatment for serious diseases such as Alzheimer's, cancer, and diabetes.

The doctors have already agreed upon the method of delivering the stem cells into the spinal cords, and are giving the patients phase one treatments, which includes lithium, believed to boost cell regeneration.

Neurological motor and sensor scores will measure the success of the patients. If the patients can recover sensation, it will be measured by touch, pain, and strength of the muscles.

China is allocating significant resources to stem cell research.  And due to the Bush administration's opposition to embryonic stem cell research, China is attracting much attention to these trials.  The clinical trial will be closely watched by U.S. researchers and scientists that are very upset at the stopping of (embryonic) stem cell research in this country.

Embryonic stem cells are considered the most powerful, but most controversial research.  And federal funds prohibit embryonic testing in the U.S.

Additionally, many U.S. researchers don't trust research carried out in mainland China.  Hong Kong gives credibility to this research it otherwise wouldn't have. 


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