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First neural stem cell transplant into patient with sensory function below level of spinal cord injury.

NEWARK, Calif., September 27, 2012--StemCells, Inc. (STEM) announced that the first patient with an incomplete spinal cord injury has been enrolled in the company's Phase 1/2 clinical trial in chronic spinal cord injury and transplanted with the company's proprietary HuCNS-SC neural stem cells.

The patient, a Canadian man who suffered a thoracic spinal cord injury from a sports-related accident, was administered the cells at Balgrist University Hospital, University of Zurich, a world leading medical center for spinal cord injury and rehabilitation. This is the first patient in the second cohort of the trial, which will be comprised of four patients who retain some sensory function below the level of trauma and are therefore considered to have an incomplete injury.

Earlier this month, the company reported that interim six-month data from the first patient cohort in the Phase 1/2 clinical trial continued to demonstrate a favorable safety profile, and showed considerable gains in sensory function in two of the three patients compared to pre-transplant baselines. Patients in the first cohort all suffered a complete injury to their spinal cord, leaving them with no neurological function below the level of injury. Following transplantation with HuCNS-SC cells, there were no abnormal clinical, electrophysiological or radiological responses to the cells, and all the patients were neurologically stable through the first six months after transplantation.

Changes in sensitivity to touch, heat and electrical stimuli were observed in well-defined and consistent areas below the level of injury in two of the patients, while the third patient remained stable. The changes in sensory function were confirmed objectively by measures of electrical impulse transmission across the site of injury, each of which correlated with the clinical examination.

The Phase 1/2 clinical trial of StemCells, Inc.'s HuCNS-SC purified human adult neural stem cells is designed to assess both safety and preliminary efficacy. Twelve patients with thoracic (chest-level) neurological injuries at the T2-T11 level are planned for enrollment, and their injuries must have occurred within three to twelve months prior to transplantation of the cells. In addition to assessing safety, the trial will assess preliminary efficacy based on defined clinical endpoints, such as changes in sensation, motor function and bowel/bladder function.

All patients will receive HuCNS-SC cells through direct transplantation into the spinal cord and will be temporarily immunosuppressed. Patients will be evaluated regularly in the post-transplant period in order to monitor and assess the safety of the HuCNS-SC cells, the surgery and the immunosuppression, as well as to measure any recovery of neurological function below the injury site. The company intends to follow the effects of this therapy long-term, and each of the patients will be invited to enroll into a separate four year observational study after completing the Phase 1/2 study.

The trial is being conducted at Balgrist University Hospital, University of Zurich, a world leading medical center for spinal cord injury and rehabilitation, and is open for enrollment to patients in Europe, Canada and the United States.

Neural Stem Cells For Dry AMD

In related news, the company announced on October 4 that the first patient in its Phase 1/2 clinical trial in dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD) has been enrolled and transplanted. The trial is designed to evaluate the safety and preliminary efficacy of the company's proprietary HuCNS-SC product candidate (purified human neural stem cells) as a treatment for dry AMD, and the patient was transplanted with the cells yesterday at the Retina Foundation of the Southwest (RFSW) in Dallas, Texas, one of the leading independent vision research centers in the United States. AMD afflicts approximately 30 million people worldwide and is the leading cause of vision loss and blindness in people over 55 years of age.

Studies in the relevant animal model demonstrate that the company's neural stem cells preserve vision in animals that would otherwise go blind and support the therapeutic potential of the cells to halt retinal degeneration. Unlike others in the field, the company is looking to intervene early in the course of the disease with the goal of preserving visual function before it is lost.

In February 2012, the company published preclinical data that demonstrated HuCNS-SC cells protect host photoreceptors and preserve vision in the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) rat, a well-established animal model of retinal disease which has been used extensively to evaluate potential cell therapies. Moreover, the number of cone photoreceptors, which are responsible for central vision, remained constant over an extended period, consistent with the sustained visual acuity and light sensitivity observed in the study. In humans, degeneration of the cone photoreceptors accounts for the unique pattern of vision loss in dry AMD. The data was published in the international peer-reviewed European Journal of Neuroscience.

Age-related macular degeneration refers to a loss of photoreceptors (rods and cones) from the macula, the central part of the retina. AMD is a degenerative retinal disease that typically strikes adults in their 50s or early 60s, and progresses painlessly, gradually destroying central vision. According to the RFSW website, there are approximately 1.75 million Americans age 40 years and older with some form of age-related macular degeneration, and the disease continues to be the number one cause of irreversible vision loss among senior citizens in the United States with more than seven million at risk of developing AMD.

The Phase 1/2 trial will evaluate the safety and preliminary efficacy of HuCNS-SC cells as a treatment for dry AMD. The trial will be an open-label, dose-escalation study, and is expected to enroll a total of 16 patients. The HuCNS-SC cells will be administered by a single injection into the space beneath the retina in the most affected eye. Patients' vision will be evaluated using both conventional and advanced state-of-the-art methods of ophthalmological assessment. Evaluations will be performed at predetermined intervals over a one-year period to assess safety and signs of visual benefit. Patients will then be followed for an additional four years in a separate observational study. Patients interested in participating in the clinical trial should contact the site at (214) 363-3911.

HuCNS-SC cells are a highly purified composition of human neural stem cells that are expanded and stored as banks of cells. The company's preclinical research has shown that HuCNS-SC cells can be directly transplanted in the central nervous system (CNS) with no sign of tumor formation or adverse effects. Because the transplanted HuCNS-SC cells have been shown to engraft and survive long-term, there is the possibility of a durable clinical effect following a single transplantation. StemCells believes that HuCNS-SC cells may have broad therapeutic application for many diseases and disorders of the CNS, and to date has demonstrated human safety data from completed and ongoing clinical studies.

Contact: http://www.stcmccllsinc.com
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Title Annotation:In The Clinic...
Publication:Stem Cell Business News
Date:Oct 8, 2012
Words:1120
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