Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Embryonic Stem Cell Treatment Ruled Out for California Jockey

California jockey Michael Martinez, whose spine was severely damaged earlier this month, will not be enrolled in Geron's clincal trials for hESC treatment, the only such in the nation.

Reporter Matt Hegarty of the Daily Racing Form wrote this afternoon,
“Specialists at Northwestern University near Chicago have decided that the rider Michael Martinez is not a candidate for a clinical trial using embryonic stem cells to treat spinal-cord injuries, according to the track physician at Golden Gate Fields, where Martinez was severely injured in a fall on Sept. 12.

“Dr. David Seftel, the physician, said that the neurosurgeons conducting the trial had concluded from Martinez’s medical records that the jockey’s spinal cord had been too severely damaged to consider Martinez for the trial. Seftel and Martinez’s family had hoped that the treatments, which have shown some promise in studies on rats, would be able to mend the rider’s severed spinal cord. Martinez is paralyzed from the waist down.

“The family received the news that Martinez would not be admitted to the trial on the same day that Martinez’s fiancĂ©, Charlotte, went into labor and was admitted to Highland General Hospital(in Oakland, Ca.), where Martinez is currently receiving treatment. The baby was expected to be delivered later on Tuesday, Seftel said.

"'It’s a day of extremely mixed emotions,' Seftel said."
The New York Daily News on Sunday carried a lengthy story on the accident, in which an 1,100-pound horse running at 35 miles an hour fell on Martinez. The story by Christian Red discussed Geron's involvement.

He wrote,
“The Menlo Park, Calif.-based biotechnology company Geron, which has been approved to conduct clinical trials of stem cell treatment on humans, after the Food and Drug Administration lifted the hold on the company's Investigational New Drug application July 30, would possibly conduct the treatment.” 
Red continued,
“But Martinez is in a race against time, even if he is eligible to get the treatment. According to Dr. Ed Wirth, the medical director of regenerative medicine at Geron, 'stem cells need to be injected between seven and 14 days after the spinal cord injury because that's the time window in which we've seen the best chance of benefit in the animal studies.'

“Geron plans to have seven facilities around the country opened to carry out these trials, and although the company has not made a public announcement, Seftel said that one of the facilities at Northwestern Universityin Evanston, Ill., is currently set up to receive applications for candidates.”
The Racing Form's story this afternoon said,
“Martinez is expected to be transferred late on Wednesday to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, which runs a rehabilitation clinic that specializes in spinal-cord injuries. Seftel and Martinez’s cousin, the rider Alex Solis, are also exploring experimental treatments with adult stem cells, though, in studies, those treatments have not shown to be as promising as the embryonic stem-cell treatments, Seftel said.”

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