After decades of waiting, researchers from the University of Copenhagen and the city hospital Rigshospitalet look all set to carry out the first ever stem-cell tests on humans.
The joint research group involves some of the world’s leading stem cell researchers, including the internationally-renowned American brain and stem cell researcher professor Steve A Goldman, who will be leading the efforts, most probably experimenting on people suffering from sclerosis.
“Two years ago we succeeded in implementing stem cells – which can generate white matter – in mice,” Goldman told Videnskab.dk.
“Now the time has come for humans and we hope that the first trials will get underway in 2015. The hope is that, using stem cell therapy, we can repair much of the damage that the illness has caused.”
From diabetes to Parkinson's
An article by Goldman and a handful of other international researchers published in the scientific journal Science revealed some of the diseases the stem cell therapy will be be tested on. They include liver and blood diseases, diabetes and nerve/brain diseases such as Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, epilepsy and sclerosis.
Goldman underlined that numerous successful trials involving animals have already been accomplished and that the next natural step involves human testing.
And while there are still a number of obstacles that stand in the way of the researchers’ goals – such as approval from the authorities and approved facilities to make cells for human use – Goldman remains optimistic.
“Generally, you have to say that we have so much understanding of stem cells and stem cell therapy today that the obstacles are of a more practical than scientific character,” Goldman said.
Waiting on NY movement
Before the trials can begin in Denmark, researchers must first experiment by inserting embryonic stem cells into the brains of sclerosis patients. This research will take place in New York and is awaiting the approval of the relevant US authorities.
Should this research be approved and end up being successful, researchers will move forward with trials in Denmark that will involve cultivating the patients’ own stem cells to be then inserted into their brains.
“People have expected stem cell therapy to arrive for years,” Goldman said. “But now we are nearing the end of the tunnel, and in a very few years, we can expect to use stem cell therapy in the treatment of a number of illnesses.”