UPDATE 1-StemCells plans chronic spinal cord injury trial

* Trial expected to start in early 2011

* StemCells expects to enroll about 12 patients

* Shares rise nearly 5 percent
(Adds share price)

By Deena Beasley

LOS ANGELES, Nov 15 (BestGrowthStock) – StemCells Inc (STEM.O: ) has
filed for Swiss regulatory approval for the first clinical
trial of its nerve stem cells in patients with spinal cord
injuries as much as a year old, the company said.

It expects to enroll about a dozen patients whose injuries
are between three and 12 months old.

“To date, the focus has been on the acute spinal cord
injury phase,” StemCells CEO Martin McGlynn said in a telephone
interview. “That’s an important area to address, but the
largest unmet need is those who have passed that immediate
acute phase of injury.”

The shares of the company, based in Palo Alto, California,
were up about 5 percent at $1.07 in early afternoon trading on
Nasdaq.

About 1.3 million Americans have chronic spinal cord
injuries, but most studies have shown any treatment must take
place within days after the injury to do any good.

StemCells said the relevant ethics committees have approved
the trial, which it plans to conduct in Switzerland due to the
expertise of the investigator and the institution it selected,
as well as the strong network in Europe for spinal cord
patients and referrals.

A study published earlier this year showed mice treated
with StemCells’ nerve stem cells — which are extracted from
aborted fetuses — were able to walk better than those treated
with ordinary human skin cells or a placebo, even when the
treatment came weeks after their injury.

The cells are a form of stem cell, the master cells of the
body. These are technically adult stem cells, taken from the
partly developed brains of fetuses and tested for qualities
showing they are destined to form particular types of nerve
cells.

Animal trials have shown the cells migrate along the spinal
cord to the point of injury and then differentiate into neurons
and specialized cells that create the insulation necessary for
proper transmission of nerve impulses from the brain to below
the level of the injury.

Patients in the StemCells trial will receive a single
infusion of cells into the spinal cord. Results are expected
within months of the treatment.

Geron Corp (GERN.O: ) launched the first trial of human
embryonic stem cells last month, but that study is of patients
with new spinal cord injuries. [ID:nN11175966]

Geron’s stem cells come from human embryos left over from
fertility treatments. They have been manipulated so they have
become precursors to certain types of nerve cells.
(Editing by Dhara Ranasinghe; editing by Andre Grenon)

UPDATE 1-StemCells plans chronic spinal cord injury trial