Asterias Biotherapeutics Inc. seemed to have helped five out of five paralyzed patients regain some feeling into their upper bodies, according to an interim look at results from the company’s experimental therapy derived from embryonic stem cells.

Patients paralyzed from recent spinal cord injuries were injected with the cell by a neurosurgeon directly into the site of the spinal cord damage within two to four weeks of injury, before scar tissue forms. The hope was that they could help restore signals from the brain through the spinal cord to the outer extremities. This therapy is known as AST-OPC1, and the cell cohort count for each patient is 10 million.

Three months after these cells were implanted, the study met its efficacy goal of two patients regaining return of two motor levels of functioning on at least one side of their body, the company said. All five people have experienced some upper proximity improvements of different degrees. These results are immediate, that even the testing company was surprised. They expected results to come out by January but it was too important not to share at the annual meeting of International Spinal Cord Society in Vienna, Austria this Wednesday.


“I am very encouraged by this first look at efficacy data in complete cervical spinal cord patients,” Dr. Shekar Kurpad, a trial researcher and director of the Spinal Cord Injury Center at the Medical College of Wisconsin, said in a statement.

This amount of improvement is greater than the results from an earlier group of three patients who received 80% lower dose of the stem cell therapy. According to Asterias Chief Executive Officer Steve Cartt, Asterias has acquired regulatory approval to begin studying an administration of higher doses, probably 20 million cell cohorts. This test would include 35 patients with C-5 to C-7 injuries to their lower cervical nerves who experience severe paralysis of the upper and lower limbs.

“It’s certainly our hope that we see at least that these gains are maintained, and we hope to see continuing improvement,” Cartt said.

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