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StemCells rises as clinical trial continues

NEW YORK (AP) -- Shares of StemCells Inc. rose Thursday after the company said it enrolled the first patient in a new phase of a clinical trial of its experimental spinal cord therapy.

THE SPARK: The company said it administered stem cells to a patient who suffered a thoracic — or chest-level — spinal cord injury in a sports-related accident. The man was described as having an incomplete injury, meaning he has some sensory function below the site of his injury. In the current phase of the trial, StemCells plans to enroll four patients with incomplete spinal cord injuries.

THE BIG PICTURE: The Newark, Calif., company is developing therapies based on purified adult neural stem cells. This month, the company also reported positive results from an earlier part of the trial. It said the therapy appeared to be safe, and two of the three patients in the study experienced improved sensation after treatment. Those patients had no nerve function or feeling below the sites of their injuries.

In July StemCells reported positive data from a study that tested neural stem cells in an animal model related to Alzheimer's disease.

Stem cell therapies are still an experimental field, and StemCells is a small company without any approved products.

SHARE ACTION: Shares of StemCells rose 10 cents, or 5.2 percent, to $2.03 in midday trading. The shares have more than doubled in value since mid-July, when they closed at 87 cents.