Thursday, 17 November 2011

Stem Cells: Geron Dumps Stem Cell Research

Geron have announced that they will drop development of stem cells for the treatment of spinal cord injury. Why is this important for MS? Well, Geron are a US biotechnology company that have been pioneering the use of stem cells for repair of nerve tissue. Success in spinal cord injury would be of immense importance to studies in MS.

They state that financial problems (income generation) are the reasons for moving the focus away from stem cells. This is a blow to anyone that believes in this approach as progress in this area may be slowed. They have stoppped further development of clinical trials. Geron have treated a few people and have not encountered any safety issues yet, but had also not seen any benefit yet either. They are now looking to offload this part of the business and one wonders if the EU decision to restrict commercial exploitation of stem cells reported a few weeks ago influenced this decision.

However, using stem cells to regrow nerves is the hardest ask. First they have to get into the nervous tissue then they have to become nerves and then they have to re-grow the correct connections. This is going to be difficult because the default of human central nervous system is not to regrow nerves, so any stem cell has to got to go into an environment designed to prevent nerve regrowth. Then importantly it will have to regrow perhaps very long distances, which takes us years from birth to adulthood to do. So in a repair situation it may take years to grow from the spine to the feet. So the clinical trials would need to be immensly long to show positive benefit. Then the connections of the nerves have to become hooked up so that they work properly and do not cause problems of incorrect stimulation that could lead to pain or other phantom symptoms.

It will be much easier ask to try and replace myelin forming cells, which we think would help prevent nerves from dying and the nerve processes do regrow and connect to nerves to get functional recovery (Synaptic plasticity reported previously in the blog). One way is to transplant cells and hope that they become oligodendrocyte or engineer them to become oilgodendrocytes that may myelin, another way is to make cells surviving in or around the MS lesions to start myelination.

These studies are in their infancy but things are moving in the right direction.


  1. The following research, titled "Heterogeneity of spinal cord pathology in multiple sclerosis and variants: A study of postmortem specimen from 13 Asian patients"

    states that:

    "Dissociation of axonal injury, demyelination, and immune cell infiltration contradicts the general belief that axonal injury is a sequel to demyelination and immune attack orchestrated by T cells (mainly

    Could you comment on that?

  2. Dear Anon 1:34 or should I say Vasilis Vasilopoulos

    I could comment on that but not sure I should as I really don't see what this random question has to do with this thread.

    There are lots of different theories, maybe I choose to talk about the concensous one at the moment so that I do not appear too left-field

    Maybe I will comment on neuromyelitis optica included in the above article which is common in Asians verses Europeans. There a target disease causing antibody to an water channel in astrocytes (aquaporin 4) is known and thought by many to be different from MS, maybe I will comment on antibody hypersensitivities, maybe I will comment on our own work on astrocytic directed immunity in MS, or maybe neuronal mediated effects or maybe you will need to wait until it is published

    Maybe we will do a feature of MS pathology such as different suggested lesion types including oligodendrocyte necrosis and ischaemia (problems with blood flow) as a central tenet or the ones with immune cells in them.
    Maybe even give some birth for other ideas

    I got the link about your vision
    of MS, but I think we all can guess where your views are based aware without this.

    It is a 77 page document and I have started to read it. However to be honest it is not top of my daily agenda and is bedtime reading. I have sent to some people more specialised in pathology than myself, but they too will be busy.

    However I have had a response from one from someone who was aware of this thesis and they stated "Too many ideas not enough data"

    It is all well and good to make hypothesise but then there is the need to do something about it. The author of the work you refer to published a paper in the 1980's with a vascular hypothesis. He has had plenty of time to put meat on that idea. Armchair scientists are as helpful as back-seat drivers.

    I am not totally familiar with the hundred plus year old papers that the thesis is based upon and am not about to spend hours getting them to check facts. On first look through the reference list there is hardly anything that is newer than 20 years old most of it over 50 years old and the MRI information is hardly addressed.

    But once I had read it I will need to digest it and decide whether to comment on it, but hounding me evokes the Newton response "equal and opposite". So you've blown it.

  3. The spirit of the (iron) maiden finally banned me.

    It's all about remyelination as a prevention of neurodegeneration. The aforementioned research from Japan, which consists of raw data, not theories, argues against your line of thinking.

    As for the hypothesis of Dr.Schelling, you once told me that you will try to keep an open mind. Well, opened mindness is all about ideas. Data do not need proof, only explanation.

  4. For every line of thinking there is often a counter line of thinking. However the paper you show does not at all argue against remyelination as an appropriate aim. As you will note demyelination was a feature of the cases reported.

    I accept that this paper is
    proporting to document a vascular problem is some instances and that this could influence nerve survival that would not be dependent of remyelination, but don't get tied into beliefs that their needs to be one problem and one solution as different things are occuring at differnt times, look at MRI. These ideas are not mutually exclusive.

    As to the hypothesis of Dr. Schelling I have not read the whole document yet, so no minds have been closed but you have made your point.

    Data do need explaination, but one needs to assess whether the data is sound (as we can cherry pick) before you bother to explain.I say if you put S**t in you get Sh*t out
    (excuse my language)

    What is needed is some weight of evidence amongst pathologists (I am not a pathologist) about
    what they believe is happening and what indeed they are seeing.

    I can hypothesise that ships sailing the Altantic cause MS after all ships have gone across the doubt about that. They brought back tobacco...smoking. MS risk factor
    However, you can see the ships are irrelevant.

    This constant sniping doesn't do you any favours, it causes habituation by us and other bloggers. You have made you point, we have listened.

  5. There is no point banning you because ,as you have shown here you appear as Anon,

    However, if G takes down the blog then you get the ultimate ban! You get silence, no answers to any questions even if they are sensible.

    Therefore choose these questions/comments sensibly, when there is something constructive to say. If you know the anwser then you don't need to ask the question.

  6. So you know it looks like your (VV) posts are sometimes spammed by Google
    No idea why of how this is done.


Please note that all comments are moderated and any personal or marketing-related submissions will not be shown.