The decision marks a sea-change in US government attitudes to stem cells, as President Obama prepares to lift restrictions imposed by President Bush that hampered progress in the field. Mr Obama pledged in his inaugural address to “restore science to its rightful place”, and to end White House obstruction of stem-cell research.
Today’s ruling by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will allow doctors to inject specialised spinal cells grown from embryonic tissue into patients who have just become paralysed from the chest down. It is hoped that the cell transplants will prompt regrowth of damaged nerves, restoring sensation and movement to people who would otherwise have been paralysed for life. The treatment will be used on people a week or two after they suffer their spinal injury; it cannot help those already paralysed.