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Stem Cell Trials Coming Soon

Two clinical embryonic stem cell trials are about to begin in China, Nature News reports. Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Zoology's Qi Zhou is leading both efforts, it adds

In one, surgeons at the First Affiliated Hospital of Zhengzhou University will be injecting embryonic stem cell-derived neuronal-precursor cells into Parkinson's disease patients' brains. As Parkinson's is marked by low dopamine production, the investigators hope that the neuronal-precursor cells will mature into dopamine-producing cells, according to Nature News.

Scripps Research Institute's Jeanne Loring and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center's Lorenz Studer both tell Nature News they are concerned that the investigators are using neuronal-precursor cells rather than more differentiated cells as the precursor cells could develop into other types of cells. However, a member of an Australian research team that followed a similar approach says 97 percent of the neuronal-precursor cells become dopamine-producing cells.

For the other trial, Nature News says that Zhengzhou surgeons will insert embryonic stem cell-derived retinal cells into eyes of age-related macular degeneration patients.

It adds that these trials are the first to be conducted under China's new rules regulating stem cell treatments, which say that such work must use certified cell lines and can only take place at certain hospitals.