The first patient with acute spinal cord injury has been enrolled in the world’s first clinical trial of a human embryonic stem cell-based therapy. In laboratory tests, UC Irvine’s Hans Keirstead (pictured) and Dr. Gabriel Nistor developed a technique for prompting human embryonic stem cells to form new tissue around damaged neurons, allowing the restoration of motor function. Menlo Park, Calif.-based Geron Corp. is sponsoring the trial at a number of U.S. locations; the first subject enrolled at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta. The primary objective of this Phase I study is to assess the therapy’s safety and tolerability in newly disabled patients, who will undergo treatment within 14 days of injury. “This is an exciting first step,” said Keirstead, of the Reeve-Irvine Research Center and the Sue and Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center. “I’m confident that the results will show how the power of human embryonic stem cells can be harnessed to improve human health.”