Patients with spinal cord injuries will be first 1) ___ to receive repair cells derived from embryonic stem cells. The first ever clinical trial using stem cells derived from embryonic stem cells (ESCs) received the go-ahead, from the FDA on January 23, 2009. Geron Corporation, a company based in Menlo Park, California, hopes to mend the spines of patients paralyzed from the chest down by 2) ___ injury sites with stem cells that restore connections and repair damage. This marks the beginning of what is potentially a new chapter in medical therapeutics, one that reaches beyond pills to a new level of healing: the restoration of organ and tissue function achieved by the injection of healthy replacement cells. The trial had been “on clinical hold” for years over concerns that the cells could form 3) ___, but the FDA is now satisfied that this risk is low enough to allow the trial to proceed. Ethical concerns have also dogged the trial, because obtaining the cell lines involved destruction of embryos. US president, George Bush, had prevented research using such cells for eight years. The new president, Barack Obama, promised in his inaugural address to “restore science to its rightful place”, so approval of the trial could be an early sign that he will lift all of the previous restrictions on stem-cell research, first imposed in 2001. Hundreds of trials are already under way around the world with stem cells derived from adult or 4) ___ tissue, but these cells are limited in the types of tissue they can turn into and repair. The spine repair trial could open up a new era in medicine because embryonic stem cells are the only type that generate all 200 or so 5) ___ of the body. Geron says that the main objective is to prove the cells are 6) ___, especially given the FDA’s earlier misgivings over the cancer risk. But for one year after treatment, the company will also look closely for any recovery of function and movement in the lower 7) ___ lost through the injury. In all, the patients will be monitored for 15 years. If the cells appear safe, it could open the floodgates for a host of other trials using cells originally derived from ESCs. Geron itself has developed such cells for treating heart attacks, diabetes, bone damage, arthritis, liver failure and 8) ___.

ANSWERS: 1) humans; 2) injecting; 3) tumors; 4) fetal; 5) tissues; 6) safe; 7) body; 8) cancer

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