American scientists have begun testing embryonic stem cells on a patient for the first time. The groundbreaking, federally-approved clinical trial involves injecting millions of the cells into a patient who suffered paralysis after a recent spinal cord injury, reports Reuters. Scientists hope the stem cells will regenerate nerves in the patient's crushed spinal cord, though the goal of this trial, privately funded by California biotech firm Geron Corp, is to establish the procedure's safety.
Scientists fear failure could spell disaster for the field but if the trial is a success, later trials will judge the therapy's effectiveness. "It's great news—my hat's off to them for being the first," said a doctor at Advanced Cell Technology, which is awaiting FDA approval for a stem cell trial. "It ushers in a new era for stem cell therapy. We hope to follow them into the clinic very soon."