Circumstances surrounding this study show all the signs of repeating phenomena surrounding other, highly publicized first in human trials. My book picks up on these signs as harbingers of challenge. Take, for example, the way the initiation of the study itself is seen as a milestone- as a visible sign of medical progress. This presents a regulatory decision as a stand in for study results; it confuses desire with results. And so, I worry when people like Alan Trounson, president of California Institute of Regenerative Medicine, say things like "I think it's a very important milestone for the whole industry... It's very important that they get on and treat the patients...." I also worry when I hear that share prices in Geron rose by 17% on news of the decision- as if permission to study a product is evidence of the product's promise.
The New York Times article reports that Advanced Cell Technology is seeking permission to test another embryonic stem cell derived tissue in human beings- this time for an eye condition. Approval of Geron's trial will surely blaze a path for the latter- though the ethical justification for proceeding in such research may prove more difficult than for spinal cord injury
(photo credit: Brennan G. Wills, 2010)