Asterias Stem Cell Therapy Helps Paralyzed People in Small Study

  • All five patients show improved upper limb motor control
  • Company approved to start giving a larger dose to patients

Asterias Biotherapeutics Inc.’s experimental therapy derived from human embryonic stem cells appeared to help five out of five paralyzed patients regain some feeling and motor control in their arms, hands and fingers, according to an interim look at results from an early study.

The research already has met its key effectiveness goal, with two patients posting an improvement of two motor levels within 90 days, the Fremont, California-based company said in a statement. All five patients showed some benefit. There were no serious side effects attributed to the treatment in the study, which is being funded in part by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

The amount of improvement was greater than in an earlier group of three patients who received an 80 percent lower dose of the stem cell therapy known as AST-OPC1. All of the patients, who had lost all movement below the site of their injuries, were infused with the cells two weeks to a month after suffering damage to the upper spinal cord. The findings after six months should be available in January, and the company already has received approval to begin studying a higher dose, Asterias Chief Executive Officer Steve Cartt said in the statement.

The interim results were presented at the annual meeting of the International Spinal Cord Society in Vienna, Austria. The study testing escalating doses of the stem cell therapy will include 35 patients with C-5 to C-7 injuries to their lower cervical nerves who experience severe paralysis of the upper and lower limbs.