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Meeting with Congress

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UCI scientist will visit Capitol Hill to share plans he has with other researchers regarding stem-cell treatments.

A leading neuroscientist and co-director of UCI’s stem cell research center will meet with members of Congress today and explain what he and his team will do when they conduct the first human trials of stem-cell therapy in the country later this year, university officials said.

Hans Keirstead, co-director of the Sue and Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center and faculty member at the Reeve-Irvine Research Center, will meet with members of Congress and their aides to explain how he plans to implement his success spinal-cord injury therapy to humans. Keirstead’s clinical trials were recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration and will be the first human trials in the country.

Palo-Alto-based Geron Corp. will run the trials.

It’s basically an informational meeting where he will meet government officials and explain to them what he’s doing, so they can go back to their colleagues and update them, company officials said.

Keirstead will join Geron president Thomas Okarma and spinal-cord-injury research advocate Robert Klein on Capitol Hill from 10 to 11:30 a.m. today. The prominent neuroscientist is also expected to meet individually with policy- and lawmakers and emphasize the importance of academia partnering with industry for advances in medicine.

Keirstead will brief congressional members on his treatment of methylprednisolone, a type of paralysis. In a lab setting, he and UCI researchers have successfully restored motion for mice when they inject stem cells into the injured mouse’s spine within hours of the injury.

Paralysis can occur when the electrical signal from the brain through the Central Nervous System, notably through the spine, is stopped, such as during an injury. In Keirstead’s therapy, stem cells are injected into the injured area and replace the disrupted nerves, restoring the electrical signal, before scar tissue can form there and make the injuries permanent.

“If we can restore the ability for a quadriplegic to move his thumb, I would be dancing around,” Keirstead said earlier this year about the research.

By Joseph Serna

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