The Trend Towards Ethical Stem Cell Success Continues

Eugene C. Tarne  

Two recent developments involving the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) again serve to underscore the reality that adult and other non-embryonic avenues of stem cell research are advancing at a far more dramatic pace toward providing actual therapeutic benefits for patients than is human embryonic stem cell research (hESCR).


The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently announced approval for a clinical trail of an adult stem cell approach for treating heart damage.  The trail is a result of research that received a $5.5 million “Disease Team Award” grant from CIRM in 2009.   Disease Team Awards were specifically established with the intent to speed the process of bringing research to clinical trails.



“This is the first time that research by a CIRM-funded Disease Team has resulted in an Investigational New Drug (IND) approval from the FDA, a critical step in testing promising therapies in patients,” said Ellen Feigal, MD, Senior Vice President for Research and Development at CIRM.  She continued: “It’s a reflection of the initial progress being made in advancing scientific discoveries towards potential therapies for patients.”



It is also a reflection of how adult stem cells are showing far more therapeutic potential for actually treating patients than embryonic.



And it also reflects the reason why, as a recent Lozier Institute study reported, CIRM has been moving away from its initial funding preferences for hESCR and toward a marked preference for adult/non-embryonic stem cell research.



That preference for funding adult/non-embryonic stem cell research was again confirmed by a second development: the most recent round of CIRM grants.



On July 26, CIRM announced its second round of grants in the “Disease Team Award” category.



As noted in the earlier Lozier Institute study, the first round of grants under this category, in October, 2009, witnessed a marked departure by CIRM away from a funding preference for hESCR and towards adult and other non-embryonic stem cell research.



That pattern continues in the July round of grants.  Of eight research projects selected, only one involved hESCs.  The seven others all used adult stem cells or other non-embryonic approaches[1].   Of the $150 million awarded, $20 million went to the hESC project, while the remaining $130 million went to the adult stem cell and other non-embryonic projects.



Some politicians and patient advocacy groups may still be enamored of the ever dwindling therapeutic prospects for hESCR and still be dazzled by the hype the research generated in the past.



But again, as the CIRM grant making patterns and other developments continue to suggest, the past hype of hESCR is giving way to today’s very real therapeutic promise of adult and other non-embryonic avenues of stem cell research.



[1] Two of the teams selected appear to use cells derived from fetal tissue.


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