Blog scientist
Oceans on brink of mass extinction: study
Brain exercises delay mental decline
Meaning of life changes across cosmos
Ancient Nubians drank antibiotic beer
First mission to touch the Sun
There's gold in them thar bacteria!
Low vitamin D linked to schizophrenia
Weight loss may be toxic: study
Pilbara find points to earliest life
Researchers uncover dance moves to impress
Visual trickery key to luring lover
Scientists find short-sightedness gene
Artificial 'skin' can sense pressure
Study confirms antibiotics mess with gut
Phone chatter could power mobiles
Stowaways found hitching ride on seaweed
Fishing could feed millions more: report
Amateurs make an astronomical impact
Study reveals new piece in autism puzzle
Genome map may help devil fight cancer
Report says ozone layer depletion stopped
Moon's surface at saturation point
Gene sweeps nets female cancer clues
Australia birthplace of astronomy: study
US doctors usher in 'dawn of stem cell age'
A patient in the United States has become the first person in the world to be treated with human embryonic stem cells.

The development is being described by one researcher as the dawn of a new age in medicine.

The results of the procedure are now being eagerly awaited around the world by doctors and scientists hoping that embryonic stem cells can be used to treat conditions ranging from heart disease to diabetes and blindness.

Professor Chris Mason of University College, London, says if successful, it could be a very significant breakthrough.

"There is no doubt that this is the dawn of the stem cell age," says Mason.

"This is the first time that the really most potent stem cells have been allowed to be used in man. And this is an exciting, exciting day.

"We can only do so much to animals, now's the time to see if they really work in man."

Mason says the treatment is a "morale booster" for clinicians, researchers, and especially patients.

"These are the cells we believe have the most potential," he says.

"They can form all the cells of our body - all 200 different cell types - and they can form them in vast numbers.

"So if we are successful with the therapy it can be really manufactured at the scale required, it's a very significant breakthrough."
Nerve regeneration

The patient has asked to remain anonymous. Not even their age or sex is being released.

But to qualify for the study he or she must have suffered a paralysing spinal cord injury no more than 14 days before being treated.

The embryonic stem cells that were injected had been manipulated so they have become precursors to certain types of nerve cells.

The hope is they can travel to the site of the injury and release compounds that will help the damaged nerves in the cord regenerate.

Tests in animals show that injections of the cells can improve their ability to walk and move after sustaining an injury.

The biotech company Geron Corporation is behind this trial.

It used stem cells taken from embryos left over from fertility treatments.

Dr Stephen Duncan, the director of the regenerative medicine program at the Medical College of Wisconsin, says the patient test is an important milestone.

"We've known from laboratory studies that the potential of human embryonic stem cells is enormous," says Duncan.

"But until you show you can actually translate the laboratory findings into the clinics, you are really speculating that they can be used therapeutically.

"So I think what this trial does is provide this first step towards realising the potential of human embryonic stem cells with a new method to treat patients with a variety of diseases."

The use of human embryonic stem cells is highly controversial and many pro life groups in the US are opposed to this treatment.

Geron Corporation is privately funded and no federal money has been used.

In phase one of this trial doctors will establish only whether the treatment is safe to use.

Geron will need to do more trials in the coming years to assess whether the treatment is effective in repairing spinal cord injuries.

In a statement, Geron's president and CEO, Thomas Okarma, described this trial as a "milestone for the field of human embryonic stem cell based therapies".

Census charts world beneath the seas
Wonder carbon nets pair Nobel Physics Prize
Focus on chest for CPR: study
Bull ants have right eye for the job
Carbon chemistry pioneers share prize
Ancient galaxies found in modern universe
Solar surprise for climate models
Study predicts end of world as we know it
Rare plant has biggest genome yet found
Astronomers find long-lost lunar rover
Flight paths may be bad for the heart
Complex Haitian quake triggered tsunamis
US doctors usher in 'dawn of stem cell age'
Changing demographics impact CO2 levels
Sleeping in lit room leads to weight gain
Harsh conditions create sterile workers
Study finds pigeons love a flutter
Humpback whale beats long-distance record
Survey to dive deep into Australian waters
Bad jobs affect mental health
Hubble captures suspected asteroid crash
Mysterious pulsar has astronomers in a spin
Native rice may hold key to food future
Future LEDs may be what the doctor orders
Bilingualism good for the brain
Organ consent needs thought transplant
Cavemen ground flour, prepped veggies
Fossilised iceblocks shed light on early life
Water on Moon bad news for astronomy
Human eye evolved to see dark world
Wind could have parted sea for Moses
CERN scientists spot potential discovery
Malaria crossed to humans from gorillas
Horny find uncovers Triceratops' predecessor
Time passes quicker for high flyers
Da Vinci's ornithopter takes flight
Software smart bomb aimed at Iran: experts
High oestrogen levels may impact brain
Quantum leap towards computer of the future
Study finds predictive power of search
Cardio routine can nurture sweet dreams
Restored Apollo 11 footage to be screened
'Extinct' animals back from the dead
Astronomers find home away from home
Study locates our sense of direction
Records reveal First Fleet's wet welcome
Dinosaurs taller thanks to thick cartilage
Free mammograms 'should start at 40'
Grunting slows opponent's reaction time
Colour preferences shaped by experience
Father of IVF wins Nobel prize
Happiness more than gene deep
Visit Statistics