By John Connolly

NEW YORK, February 13, 2008 ( – A California-based biotech company has predicted that embryonic stem-cell treatment tests on adult human beings could happen as soon as a few months from now. This is the tenth time in five years that such a prediction has been made, with researchers still awaiting the green light from the Food and Drug Administration to begin conducting the controversial research.

Geron Corporation, a leader in embryonic stem-cell experimentation, is eager to begin testing on human beings, despite the admission that any medical benefits from the treatment are likely years away at best.

Dr. Thomas Okarma, CEO of Geron Corporation, dismissed the notion of using adult stem cells instead of embryos, claiming that embryonic stem-cells are more useful.

Medical researchers working with adult stem cells have made steady progress, and have already seen great results in bone, muscle and nervous system regeneration. Embryonic stem-cells, on the other hand, have continually failed to produce results. Nevertheless, many scientists continue to ignore the adult breakthroughs, focusing their energies on gradually eroding the ethical and legal opposition to embryonic research.

“I think we could call this a dazzling success if we saw the smallest improvement in the ability of a human to do anything that they could not do,” said Dr. Arnold Keirstead, a scientist working with Geron, in a 60 Minutes interview in 2006. “If they could move a single finger, I would call that a raving success. Let’s hope it’s a lot more.”

“The natural human embryonic stem-cell is the gold standard and we have yet to see anything else come close,” Okarma said at the BIO CEO conference Monday.

Okarma said that because the FDA will have to contemplate allowing a new science permission to experiment on humans, it will most likely take time to acquire.

“This is the first time that a human embryonic stem-cell application is being submitted to the FDA, so there’s a good chance that some questions will arise,” he said.

Geron has hinted at human testing multiple times before, leaking their plans to the media in late 2004, April 2005, three times in 2006, four times in 2007, and now in February of 2008. Attorney and leading bioethics critic Wesley J. Smith says that such hints from Geron should not be given too much credibility.

“This is not to say that this will be another false alarm,” said Smith on his blog. “But it is to say that perhaps the media should be a little skeptical and report about the many false starts that Geron has previously made.”

See related coverage:

Skeptical Stem Cell Researcher Admits New Adult Stem Cell Findings Are Hopeful

Breakthrough Research Shows Hope for Bone Marrow Transplants Using Adult Stem Cells 

Another Adult Stem Cell Breakthrough: Lupus Successes

Human Embryos Sacrificed For Experiments On Rats

California Stem Cell Proponents Resorting to “Arcane” Distortions to Gain Tax Funding

FDA Mulling Permission for use of Embryonic Stem Cells in Humans Despite Previous Catastrophes