Skip to content
    Font Size

    Stem Cell Clinical Trials: 11 Key Areas

    What's happening as stem cell treatments are tested in people.

    Parkinson's Disease

    Two clinical trials of stem cell treatments are listed on the National Institutes of Health's clinical trials web site. One of those trials is in China, using stem cells from patients' own bone marrow. The other trial, listed as taking place in Mexico, uses stem cells from patients' fat. Both trials are very small (20 patients for the Chinese trial and 10 for the one in Mexico). It is far too early to know if either approach will work.

    Alzheimer's Disease

    Stem cell research has been done in mice but not in people with Alzheimer's disease.

    ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease)

    • Goal: Test that safety of delivering embryonic stem cells to the spinal cord.
    • What's being done: This trial is being conducted at Emory University and is led by the University of Michigan's Eva Feldman, MD.
    • Does it work? So far, three patients have gotten the stem cell procedure. No side effects were seen, so the FDA has approved them getting a second treatment, higher up in the spinal cord. This trial is not designed to see if the procedure improves their ALS -- just to see if it's safe.

    Multiple Sclerosis

    • Goal: Use stem cells to suppress and then reset the immune system to work without MS.
    • What's being done: Clinical trials involve suppressing a multiple sclerosis patient's immune system, then transplanting adult stem cells to rebuild the immune system -- without MS. The stem cells used are those that make blood and are typically found in the bone marrow or umbilical cord blood.
    • Does it work? It's too soon to know. However, an Italian study shows some success. Researchers at Italy's University of Genoa studied 74 MS patients. First, their immune systems were suppressed. Then they got transplants of their own blood-forming (hematopoietic) stem cells. Two patients died from "transplant-related causes," the researchers report. After five years, 66% of patients had remained stable or improved. The study concluded that the therapy "has a sustained effect in suppressing disease progression in aggressive MS cases unresponsive to conventional therapies" and "can also cause a sustained clinical improvement," especially in people with the relapsing-remitting form of MS.

    Caution: Because the immune system has to be suppressed before stem cell treatment, "the benefits need to substantially outweigh the risk," states a review of stem cell treatment trials published in BMC Medicine.

    Stem cell clinical trials are also being done for other autoimmune diseases, including lupus, Crohn's disease, and rheumatoid arthritis, according to the review published in BMC Medicine. It's not yet clear how well those treatments work.

    Hot Topics

    WebMD Video: Now Playing

    Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

    Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

    Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

    Popular Slideshows & Tools on WebMD

    disciplining a boy
    Types, symptoms, causes.
    fruit drinks
    Eat these to think better.
    embarrassed woman
    Do you feel guilty after eating?
    diabetes supply kit
    Pack and prepare.
    handful of vegetables and vitamins
    Diet tips and mistakes.
    birth control pills
    Which kind is right for you?
    Remember your finger
    Are you getting more forgetful?
    sticky notes on face
    10 tips to clear your brain fog.
    Close up of eye
    12 reasons you're distracted.
    Trainer demonstrating exercise for RA
    Exercises for your joints.
    apple slices with peanut butter
    What goes best with workouts?
    woman having a good day
    Revitalize your life.

    Pollen counts, treatment tips, and more.

    It's nothing to sneeze at.

    Loading ...

    Sending your email...

    This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.


    Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

    Women's Health Newsletter

    Find out what women really need.