The world’s first clinical trial into the use of embryonic stem cells to treat spinal cord injury is continuing in California . Last week, another patient, the first from California, enlisted in the trial. This person has been paralyzed waist down, and is currently undergoing stem cell injection therapy at the Santa Clara Medical Valley Center.

The clinical trial is being run by Geron Corporation of California, and is a collaboration between the Stanford School of Medicine and Santa Clara Valley Medical Center. This particular trial will not be focusing on the effectiveness of embryonic stem cells to treat damaged spinal cord cells. Rather, the focus will be on seeing how safe these stem cell injections are for patients. So far, there don’t seem to have been any negative side effects from the stem cell injections. According to Geron, the three patients who have already been treated with the stem cell injections have shown no side effects, nor any complications.

That is definitely good news. The next step will be testing the effectiveness of the stem cell injections in treating patients. As maritime lawyers, we have a lot of hopes pinned on this trial. Dozens of maritime workers suffer spinal cord injuries every year in accidents on cruise vessels and cargo vessels, offshore oil rigs and platforms, shipyards and ports. Most of these injuries occur because of fall accidents. However, spinal cord injuries can also occur when a maritime worker is struck by a falling object, or by machinery.

Embryonic stem cell therapy is by far the most promising potential therapy for the treatment of maritime workers with spinal cord injuries.