Human embryonic stem cells hold enormous promise for transplantation medicine because they can potentially produce unlimited quantities of any cell or tissue in the body. In addition, they may be genetically altered to improve therapeutic value, for instance, to prevent immune system rejection by transplant recipients. Examples of cells that Geron may develop for transplantation therapies include heart muscle cells for use in repairing the tissue damage inflicted by heart attacks, blood forming cells for use in bone marrow transplantation procedures for cancer patients, and nerve cells for use in treating patients with Parkinsons disease, stroke or Alzheimers disease.
Human embryonic stem cells also represent a new technology for pharmaceutical research and development. Geron plans to generate a variety of different cell types for use in drug screening and toxicology testing. In addition, hES cells can potentially be engineered to create in vivo models of human disease for drug development as a superior alternative to current mouse models. For example, brain neurons derived from hES cells might be engineered to develop the characteristics of Alzheimers disease and used to discover effective drug treatments.
Human embryonic stem cells should also further our understanding of embryonic development with potential applications toward the treatment of infertility and premature pregnancy loss, and the diagnosis and prevention of birth defects.
Finally, hES cells open the door to a new field of research -- the genomics of
human developmental biology. Until now, early genetic events in human embryology
have been largely inaccessible to direct observation. Research with hES cells may
lead to the discovery of novel genes that fundamentally control tissue
differentiation. These gene products could result in the development of
therapeutic drugs and proteins with potential applications in wound healing, stroke,
Contact: David Greenwood