A U.S. biotechnology company says it has been cleared by the Food and Drug Administration to carry out the first human trials using embryonic stem cells.  

California-based Geron Corp. plans to start a clinical trial using stem cells to regrow nerve tissue in up to 10 patients with acute spinal cord injuries.

The company's chief executive says this marks the beginning of what is potentially a new chapter in medical therapeutics.

Embryonic stem cells can develop into any cell of the body. Scientists have hoped to use them to create replacement tissues to treat various diseases. However, the research is controversial because embryos are destroyed to obtain the stem cells.

Former President George W. Bush had restricted federal funding for research involving human embryonic stem cells.

President Barack Obama, who took office on Tuesday, is expected to relax these restrictions. But the biotech company says the timing of the decision to approve the study was coincidental.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters