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Game Changer for the Human Genome Sector?


Hopes for a cure for Lou Gehrig's disease have emerged in recent trials where neural stem cells injected into the spine during experimental surgery have shown to slow the progression of ALS' devastating symptoms.

MINYANVILLE ORIGINAL The long-awaited, even miraculous breakthrough represents a major evolution in stem cell research that could spur interest in the sector.

Current big pharma players in stem cell research include GE Healthcare (GE) where Stephen Minger, head of GE's R & D captured the evolving story: "When you see companies like Pfizer (PFE), GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), and GE invest in stem cells and regenerative medicine, it suggests a level of maturity. It is still high risk, but it is a calculated risk."

Pfizer and Athersys (ATHX) have partnered to develop a stem cell therapy to treat inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Another Pfizer study is looking at a stem cell-based treatment for macular degeneration. Stem cell studies for the treatment of diabetes and cancer are also underway at Johnson & Johnson in partnership with Novocell, Inc, a privately held biotech firm.

"Nothing Short of Miraculous": Hope Looms Large on the ALS Horizon

Now the world watches as great news for the ALS community continues to emerge. Up until now, 'hope' has never been a word associated with the disease. Known to be progressive and fatal, it strikes with unrelenting ferocity, attacking a patient's nerve pathways to the muscles, until eventually a victim is left paralyzed and robbed of all mobility. Fatality occurs when the muscles that control breathing can no longer function.

Yesterday the spotlight turned once again to patient Ted Harada as he went home to recover from experimental breakthrough surgery that could halt, even cure, his ALS. He continues to attract widespread attention. To date, Harada's progress has been featured on CNN, CBS, FOX, Crain's, Gizmodo, Newsweek magazine, and many other media networks.

Last year, in an interview with CNN, Harada said, "It's been nothing short of miraculous. I cannot begin to explain the difference it has made."

Mr. Harada, a 37-year-old father of three, is the third person this summer to receive as many as three doses of highly specialized neural stem cells. The trials, conducted by Emory Univesity in Atlanta, GA, utilize specialized neural stem cells injected into the spinal cord to provide enough support, by releasing growth factors, to prevent motor neurons from dying.

Harada's dramatic improvement could be the game-changing catalyst that will involve Big Pharma's serious interest in the stem cell therapy industry. Up until now, concerns about safety and efficacy have deterred companies from entering the arena with more than only nominal investment capital.

The cells used in Emery's surgical injections are produced by a Rockville, Maryland-based company, Neuralstem (CUR), noted for its success in isolating embryonic stem cells from the brain and spinal cord. "These cells can nurture the dying motor neurons back to health, or make them healthier and slow down the degenerative process," says Richard Garr, CEO of Neuralstem.
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