Spinal Confusion

...an attempt to clarify confusing and innacurate information in science articles

Friday, November 25, 2005

To Walk Again - Forbes

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The article details three companies -- BioAxone, Novartis, and Biogen Idec -- who have plans in place to start human trials to treat spinal cord injuries without stem cells within two years. With the tragedy surrounding Dr. Hwang Woo-Suk's recent resignation as director of the World Stem Cell Hub, the article attempts to keep hope alive for those with spinal cord injuries and their families.

BioAxone has a trial currently underway on a drug called Cethrin (BA-210). Not much is mentioned about BioAxone's treatment, but their site has more info If you know someone whose injury is newer than 7 days, give BioAxone a call. The numbers are at the link.

The other therapies discussed are for chronic, or long-term, injuries.

The article glosses over the history of paralysis to where we are at now; from nerves cannot regenerate to successful models of animal regeneration. A more complete look at one researcher's journey, Martin Schwab, is available at Novartis' site. It is well worth the read, as it provides an informative overview of where the field is now and what obstacles still exist.

If you don't like to have endings ruined, I suggest reading it (PDF) before you proceed.

Novartis is currently testing a therapy in monkeys to regenerate axons and restore some function. Assuming things go well, they plan to start human trials early next year. (Coincidentally, so does Geron. I can see the headline now: Ethical Cure vs. Embryonic Stem Cells.)

Biogen Idec is working on a similar non-stem cell treatment along with Stephen Strittmatter at Yale, with hopes of starting human trials in two years.

Other companies are in the early stages of developing promising, non-embryonic stem cell treatments.

Merck, with partner Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, is working on a treatment in their labs. Genentech, based on early results, is testing a cancer drug's effect on spurring nerve growth.

All-in-all, there's a good bit going on. The South Koreans were dealt a serious blow with the recent ethics violations, but this Forbes article shows that hope still exists without embryonic stem cells.