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Backed by $17 million in cash from California’s stem cell agency, researchers at UC Davis this month are launching “the world’s first clinical trial using stem cells to treat spina bifida before the child is born.”

The effort is the culmination of more than a decade of work by Diana Farmer, who is the world’s first female fetal surgeon, and her colleagues, including Aijun Wang, co-director of UC Davis’ surgical bioengineering laboratory.

California’s $12 billion stem cell agency this month highlighted the Davis effort in a blog item headlined:  “A little history in the making by helping the tiniest patients

Kevin McCormack, senior director of communications at the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), as the agency is formally known, wrote, “Spina bifida is a birth defect caused when a baby’s spinal cord fails to develop properly in the womb. In myelomeningocele, the most severe form of spina bifida, a portion of the spinal cord or nerves is exposed in a sac through an opening in the spine. Most people with myelomeningocele... see more