Stice Comments on first stem cell treatment for human administered in Atlanta

Published: October 10, 2010

First stem cell treatment for human administered in Atlanta

McDevitt comments on stem cells on Atlanta's Fox 5

Published: October 9, 2010

Posted: Oct 11, 2010 10:40 PM EDT


For the very first time, embryonic stem cells are being used on a human with a spinal cord injury and it's happening at Shepherd Center in Atlanta. 

It's the first study approved by the Food and Drug Administration to test the controversial therapy. Some are calling it a major breakthrough in medicine using embryonic stem cells.

But there are others who say there is no need to use embryonic stem cells when adult stem cells have been proven to work.

Inside Shepherd Center a patient, paralyzed with a spinal cord injury, is hoping that a procedure using embryonic stem cells will help.

The patient is the first ever to be injected with millions of embryonic stem cells.

"This is a huge landmark in the field," said Dr. Todd McDevitt, a stem cell engineer at Georgia Tech. 

Dr. McDevit says he received his training from the Geron Corporation , the California company conducting the research. The trial will study about a dozen patients and could take two years for the drug to be tested for safety and doctors to study its effectiveness.

McDevitt says the cells that were injected come from cells derived from invitro fertilized embryos.

"They were donated, left over embryos that were not going to be used for implantation," said Dr. McDevitt.

McDevitt says using embryonic stem cells holds more promise than adult stem cells because they're more versatile and can morph into any type of cell.

"There is not an adult cell type that has been successfully used to treat spinal chord repair because those cells can't turn into the cells for a spinal cord, whereas embryonic has the potential to turn into these cell types," said Dr. McDevitt.

While the patient Shepherd Center is the very first human, the Geron company says it has used the treatment in animal trials and in many cases, paralyzed rats have regained some movement.

Still, there are those who call the research just plain wrong because it involves destroying human embryos.

"Its life at its earliest beginning," said Catherine Davis of Georgia Right to Life. "Someone has to die in order for this experiment to happen."

Davis says more emphasis should be put on adult stem cell research.

"Why go there when adult stem cells has such great promise and has done so many good things for a lot of people including spinal cord injuries?" asked Davis.

Shepherd Center is one of seven sites across the country where the therapy will be used. It is the first to use it on a patient.


Record Attendance at the Buzz on Biotechnology Open House

Published: September 17, 2010

On Saturday September 18th, GA Tech hosted its Buzz on Biotechnology High School Open House. This annual science fair is organized entirely by graduate students from Bioengineering and Bioscience Unified Graduate Students (BBUGS) education and outreach committees to encourage high school students to indulge in their scientific curiosity. This year there was a record turnout with students from all over the Atlanta metro region.
After the Open House, Dr. Manu Platt, an EBICS co-PI, spoke to students from Langston Hughes High School who brought a busload of 40. He talked about his journey to becoming a professor and enlightened the students on the process of applying to college and graduate school. Many students and chaperones said it was the best part of the day!