Embryonic stem cells: authorisation of the 1st clinical trial in Europe

For those interested in question concerning the use of human embryonic and adult stem cells:

"On 22 September 2011, the American biotechnology company Advanced Cell Technology (ACT) announced the forthcoming launch of the first clinical trial to be carried out in Europe using human embryonic stem cells (Cf. Press Review of 22-26/11/10). Authorised by the British Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and the Gene Therapy Advisory Committee, this trial is designed to find a treatment for Stargardt disease, a form of macular degeneration leading to blindness in young people. It will be carried out at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London.

In November 2010 in the United States, ACT had already undertaken a first clinical trial, for the same disease, based on by-products of human embryonic stem cells. Two American patients took part. "We are very pleased with the results and we are currently programming two new trials on two other patients", states Bob Lanza, Chief Scientific Officer at ACT.

There is considerable debate in Europe and the United States on the use of human embryonic stem cells in the search for treatments. These cells are in fact taken from the human embryo in the first days of its development and their collection involves its destruction.

In an opinion column in the French medical daily Le Quotidien du Médecin, Prof. Claude Huriet comments on the discovery made by Prof Luc Douay and his team who managed to produce blood from adult stem cells (Cf. Press Review of 02/09/11). He writes that this will put an end to the confrontation in the field of regenerative medicine between those in favour of the use of human embryonic stem cells and those working on adult stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS). This second approach, writes Prof. Huriet, "was rejected by researchers whose often aggressive reactions, reported in the media, were marked more by ideological considerations than based on objective scientific argument. (...) Twenty years later, with research on the embryonic cells having shown their limits for therapeutic uses, adult stem cells are henceforth ‘the cells of hope’". This opposition between researchers in France had the "indirect consequence in our country of delaying awareness of the advantage of using placental blood cells, now proven." Prof. Huriet notes that the current results clearly confirm "the expertise acquired by researchers in reprogramming the mechanisms of cell division." They also show that "while innovations in the field of the life sciences arouse ethical reactions often regarded as obstacles to innovation, it sometimes happens that these ethical objections stimulate the imagination of researchers and finally lead to progress! Who could quarrel with that?" he asks."

Source: AFP 22/09/11 - Le Quotidien du médecin.fr 22/09/11
Permission: Gènéthique/Press review-19/09/11 - 23/09/11

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