University Plans Human Stem Cell Trials
By Associated Press
March 23, 2004.
ST. PAUL -- The University of Minnesota is awaiting approval by the U.S.
Food and Drug Administration to begin several months of clinical trials
into the therapeutic use of stem cells in humans.
The university would be the first public research institution to conduct
human clinical trials with stem cells, said James Battey, chairman of the
Stem Cell Task Force for the National Institutes of Health.
"This is the cutting edge of implementation," Battey said of the
In one set of trials, researchers will use stem cells taken from adults.
Another set of trials will use stem cells harvested from embryos, state
lawmakers were told Monday by John Wagner, clinical research director at
the university's Stem Cell Institute.
Wagner said the university is in the process of briefing the FDA, the NIH
and the United Nations on the human clinical trials. "This is a tremendous
undertaking for a tremendous gain," Wagner said.
Neither Wagner nor other university officials present would comment
further on the upcoming trials.
The announcement came during a presentation to the House Higher Education
Finance Committee. The summary, presented by Wagner and Frank Cerra, vice
president of the academic health center, was designed to let lawmakers
know what the university has done with adult stem cells and what it hopes
to do with embryonic stem cells.
The university has long been a leader in cellular biology research and
applications, Cerra said. Some of the basic science needed for stem cell
work originated at the university, he said, and the university has
invested in technology and faculty to further this research area.
"The possibilities are only limited by our imagination and the scientific
work we are able to perform," Cerra said.
While the university has actively recruited prominent stem cell
researchers in the past few years, Cerra said there is a search under way
to recruit a brain stem cell researcher.
The university's status as a public institution means that any embryonic
stem cell research will be transparent and accountable, Cerra said.
Researchers decided to pursue stem cell research, he said, and not
allowing it could mean an exodus of talent from the institution and the
"If Minnesota scientists don't perform this cutting edge research, someone
else will," he said.
Legislation is making its way through the Minnesota Senate and House for
and against embryonic stem cell research.
While research already has been done at the university regarding adult
stem cells, Wagner said embryonic stem cells, combined with knowledge of
the human genome, could offer a pre-emptive strike against many diseases.
Taken from an unused human embryo, embryonic stem cells could be used to
repair damaged tissue from a heart attack or cancer, he said.