A Fall for Stem Cells Injunction Halting Stem Cell Research Funds May Have Far-Reaching Consequences

(STEPHEN BROZAK and LARRY JINDRA, M.D. ABC News) There is some anticipation that this fall will be an important season for the debate on embryonic stem cell research. On Aug 30, 2010 a Washington, DC district judge (Lamberth), issued a temporary injunction halting all federal funding for basic research into embryonic stem cell technology. The injunction states there is a legitimate basis for arguing the matter in court. A full hearing will soon decide the final outcome. If the decision is upheld, federal funding for embryonic stem cell research will cease, in a similar manner to the previous funding moratorium on this research during the Bush administration.

According to this article, Judge Lamberth’s decision “reflects the lack of awareness in the U.S. around research and development of embryonic stem cells”. This statement was made because subsequent to the ruling, the price of numerous stem cell company stocks fell, including of companies working in the area of adult stem cells. These companies in no way should be affected by the controversy surrounding embryonic stem cells.

The article highlights the important difference between these two stem cell types. Embryonic stem cells are generated from a fertilized egg in vitro. These stem cells are highly undifferentiated and form tumors when administered into immune deficient mice called teratomas. The other type of stem cells, adult stem cells, are derived from sources such as bone marrow, menstrual blood, cord blood, placenta, and fat. These cells do not generated tumors and have been used therapeutically in the treatment of many diseases. To date, the only use of embryonic stem cells in humans has been by the company Geron that is generating oligodendrocytes from embryonic stem cells for use in the treatment of patients with spinal cord injury.

Geron has spend years trying to attain FDA approval for its approach. A temporary approval was granted under the Obama administration which was rapidly rescinded. Subsequently the trial was allowed to continue, however no data has been reported at the time of writing.

Adult stem cell companies include Osiris, who are working on bone marrow derived mesenchymal stem cells for treatment of heart failure, graft versus host disease, and Crohn’s Disease, Pluristem, who are working on placental mesenchymal stem cells for treatment of critical limb ischemia, and Medistem Inc, who are using menstrual blood derived Endometrial Regenerative Cells (ERC) for treatment of the same condition.

The authors of the article are Stephen Brozak, president of WBB Securities, an independent broker-dealer and investment bank specializing in biotechnology, medical devices and pharmaceutical research and Dr. Lawrence Jindra who is director of research for WBB Securities.

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