This past week was a wacky and wild one for the stem cell field. All kinds of crazy things happened all in one week.
What does it all mean?
Stem cells the new steroids for sports? Reports surface this week that NY Yankees pitcher Bartolo Colon, had received a non-FDA approved stem cell treatment for arm problems outside the U.S. Colon, who has been pitching great so far this year, received the transplant of his own stems in his native Dominican Republic. While MLB seems more obsessed with whether hGH was involved in the procedure, the story’s far greater impact is the question of stem cells entering the realm of performance enhancing drugs. Keep in mind that the FDA considers stem cells a drug. Stay tuned as this could get ugly quickly.
Sean Morrison moves from Michigan. Top stem cell researcher, Sean Morrison, has left Michigan for Texas. This is definitely a loss for Michigan. While it may simply be that Sean was looking for a new opportunity or that Texas made him an offer he couldn’t refuse, another factor certainly was the not-so-positive climate in Michigan in terms of support for stem cell research. Texas also snagged cancer superstar researcher, Ron DePinho from Dana Farber. Look for Texas to scoop up more top name researchers in the coming year as they compete with California for top stem cell and other researchers.
Second patient enrolls in Geron trial. A second patient has enrolled in Geron’s Phase I Clinical Trial for its hESC-based drug GRNOPC1 for the treatment of spinal cord injury. This is good news, although I think we all wish that things could move forward more rapidly. This trial is very important for testing safety. Hopefully Advanced Cell Technology (ACT) will start their trials in their near future now that it appears they are fully ready. It is possible that ACT’s trials will be completed before Geron’s because the patient criteria are far more straightforward.
Bad week for iPS cells. A paper came out in Nature that we just blogged about indicating that iPS cells may not be immunoprivileged even when transplanted into genetically identical recipients. There are limitations to this study as it was only done in the context of teratoma, but it still puts a lot of holes in the assumption that iPS cells can be used for patient-specific therapies without immunosuppression.