CHICAGO (STMW) — A second person, this past weekend, became the recipient of a human embryonic stem cell transplant for those who suffer spinal cord injuries. WBBM’s Mary Frances Bragiel has more on these trial transplants.

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While it’s an embroyonic stem cell study at this point, Dr. Richard Fessler of Northwestern Memorial says the trial still offers hope.

Dr. Fessler says the criteria to get into the study is rigorous. The patient must have the transplant within 14 days, the injury must be mid spine and have suffered complete paralysis.

The key aim of the study is to see whether the cells can safely be transplanted, Fessler said. It will take a year or two to know if the patient has benefitted from the treatment, but Fessler said he doesn’t anticipate that he’ll be able to walk.

“We take baby steps first,” said Fessler. “This is the first one. Generally, you don’t hit a home run the first time you swing the bat. We wouldn’t be doing this if we didn’t have hope. But I don’t want to instill false hope…I’m not going to go to one of these patients and say, ‘We’re going to give you a transplant and you’re going to walk.’ ”

The first patient received the transplant 6 months ago in Atlanta. The patient in this current case is only described as a male who was involved in a car accident.

Researchers hope ultimately to be able to replicate the results of tests they’ve had with lab rats, in which the stem cells helped to recoat damaged nerve cells and to stimulate nerve growth. The rats “were able to ambulate, not normally, but effectively,” Fessler said, in studies funded by Geron Corp., which developed the cells and is also funding the human study.

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