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Open Access Highly Accessed Commentary

New perspectives in human stem cell therapeutic research

Alan Trounson

Author Affiliations

California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, 210 King Street, San Francisco, CA, 94107, USA

BMC Medicine 2009, 7:29  doi:10.1186/1741-7015-7-29

Published: 11 June 2009

Abstract

Human stem cells are in evaluation in clinical stem cell trials, primarily as autologous bone marrow studies, autologous and allogenic mesenchymal stem cell trials, and some allogenic neural stem cell transplantation projects. Safety and efficacy are being addressed for a number of disease state applications. There is considerable data supporting safety of bone marrow and mesenchymal stem cell transplants but the efficacy data are variable and of mixed benefit. Mechanisms of action of many of these cells are unknown and this raises the concern of unpredictable results in the future. Nevertheless there is considerable optimism that immune suppression and anti-inflammatory properties of mesenchymal stem cells will be of benefit for many conditions such as graft versus host disease, solid organ transplants and pulmonary fibrosis. Where bone marrow and mesenchymal stem cells are being studied for heart disease, stroke and other neurodegenerative disorders, again progress is mixed and mostly without significant benefit. However, correction of multiple sclerosis, at least in the short term is encouraging. Clinical trials on the use of embryonic stem cell derivatives for spinal injury and macular degeneration are beginning and a raft of other clinical trials can be expected soon, for example, the use of neural stem cells for killing inoperable glioma and embryonic stem cells for regenerating β islet cells for diabetes. The change in attitude to embryonic stem cell research with the incoming Obama administration heralds a new co-operative environment for study and evaluation of stem cell therapies. The Californian stem cell initiative (California Institute for Regenerative Medicine) has engendered global collaboration for this new medicine that will now also be supported by the US Federal Government. The active participation of governments, academia, biotechnology, pharmaceutical companies, and private investment is a powerful consortium for advances in health.