Embryonic Stem Cells Trials Launching In China

Credit: National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Credit: National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Following regulatory changes in 2015, in the coming months two trials targeting Parkinson's disease and age-related macular degeneration will begin in China

In 2015 China adopted new regulations to facilitate the safe use of stem cells in trials - dealing with a previous unclear framework allowing unproven therapies to be marketed. As a result of these changes two new trials are set to begin very soon. 

The first of these trials is targeting Parkinson's disease by depositing roughly 4 million immature neurons derived from human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) into the brains of enrolled patients. The second will involve using retinal cells, again derived from hESCs, and transplanting them into the eyes of patients with age-related macular degeneration. These trials follow a similar format as previous efforts in Australia, the US and South Korea, and both will take place at the First Affiliated Hospital of Zhengzhou University in Henan province. 

What lies ahead?

While work has been completed on primates suggesting there is improvement after the injection of these immature neurons in a Parkinson's model, some commentators question the use of immature cells which are not firmly committed to becoming dopamine neurons. An international consortium of stem cells scientists are planning to begin a series of trials for Parkinson's disease over the coming years using various methods of stem cell therapies. At this point in time, the future is certainly looking brighter for cell based therapies.  

Read more at Nature