Stem Cell Therapies Are Nearly Ready for Humans

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Stem Cell Therapies Are Nearly Ready for Humans

Over the past 150 years, no aspect of life has changed more than healthcare.  The array of diagnostic tools, preventive measures, and cost-effective therapies available to humans in the developed world boggles the mind. 

Using the World Economic Forum’s timeline, we know that the second industrial revolution gave birth to antibiotics, vaccines, x-rays, modern surgery, and the large-scale pharmaceutical industry.  The third industrial revolution brought us genetic engineering, NMRs, CAT scans, PET scans, widespread organ transplants, and the Human Genome Project.  Now, the fourth industrial revolution promises to bring forth a whole array of new bio-medical technologies, including personalized medicine, gene therapies, and stem cell therapies. 

Since their discovery in 1998, stem cells have dominated the headlines in scientific journals.  However, they have not yet delivered significant benefits to human patients.  That’s not too surprising; the time required for such a new and revolutionary discovery to impact real-world healthcare is difficult to compress.

But finally, we’re beginning to see breakthrough therapies move from the laboratory into clinical trials.  In fact, the Trends editors insist that stem cell therapies are at the “pre-take-off” stage reached by vaccines and antibiotics in the 1940s, just before they revolutionized our lives. 

Consider a few examples.

California-based International Stem Cell Corporation (ISCO) announced in December that the Therapeutics Goods Administration of Australia had approved a “regulatory submission” from ISCO’s Australian subsidiary to initiate a Phase I/IIa clinical trial of its human neural stem cells in patients with moderate to severe Parkinson’s disease.1 

Currently, there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, which is the second most common neurodegenerative disease.  It mainly affects the motor system and is more common in older people, with most cases occurring after the age of fifty.  In 2013, Parkinson’s disease resulted in about 103,000 deaths globally, up from 44,000 deaths in 1990.

According to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, seven to ten million people worldwide live with Parkinson’s, with as many as one million of those in the United States.  That’s more than the combined total of people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, and Lou Gehrig’s disease...

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