Asterias stem cell therapy shows promise in spinal cord injury patients
- AST OPC-1, developed by Asterias Pharmaceuticals, is the first product developed from human embryos to be tested on humans, according to Reuters.
- The company reported Monday that the therapy improved patient mobility in spinal cord injury (SCI) patients in a small trial.
- Biotimes Inc. owns 70% of Asterias.
There is an interesting backstory here. Asterias bought this therapy from Geron in 2013. Geron decided to stop development of AST OPC-1 in 2011, because of backlash related to the abortion debate.
Now that Asterias has picked up the therapy and continued development, preliminary results have been promising. When researchers injected two million of the therapeutic stem cells into patients, improved mobility was noted. Then, in a subsequent study, SCI was reduced in the first patient and two other patients were able to resume rehabilitation.
With respect to upcoming clinical trials, Asterias' goal is to show recovery of mobility in four out of 10 SCI patients, versus the two out of 10 who currently recover without treatment. Later this year, Asterias plans to release safety data.
The big takeaway is that this therapy could have a sufficiently regenerative approach to improve mobility, but not necessarily restore full function. However, another positive point is that successful development of this stem-cell therapy bodes well for regenerative treatments for cancer, Parkinson's disease, and other conditions.