Oregon researchers are set to begin the first clinical trial in the nation using fetal stem cells to treat infants and children suffering from a rare and fatal brain disease.

The stem cells will be injected into the brain in an effort to halt the progress of the genetic disorder called Batten disease that leaves its victims blind, speechless and paralyzed before they die.

Fully formed brain cells have been transplanted to treat Parkinson’s disease patients and stroke victims but this is the first trial involving immature neural cells still capable of transforming themselves into different kinds of brain cells.

Oregon Health & Science University, which will conduct the clinical trial, emphasized it will be used only to determine whether the product is safe.

Once patients are found for the trial, a pediatric surgeon will drill holes in the child’s skull to insert a needle to inject the fetal stem cells directly into the brain, Steiner said.

However, one potential candidate for the trial is Daniel Kerner of Orange County, Calif., the 6-year-old son of Joanna and Marcus Kerner, who were featured last month on the CBS news magazine “60 Minutes.”

Link [www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/03/09/AR2006030902091.html]