Asterias Biotherapeutics, Inc., a San Francisco-based biotechnology company focused on the emerging field of regenerative medicine, announced receipt of Orphan Drug Designation from the U.S. FDA for its product development candidate, AST-OPC1, for the treatment of acute spinal cord injury.  AST-OPC1, an oligodendrocyte progenitor population derived from human embryonic stem cells, has been shown in animals or in vitro to have three potentially reparative functions that address the complex pathologies observed at the injury site of a spinal cord injury.  AST-OPC1 include production of neurotrophic factors, stimulation of vascularization, and induction of remyelination of denuded axons, all of which are critical for survival, regrowth and conduction of nerve impulses through axons at the injury site.  Asteria’s proprietary, industry leading platforms are based on its pluripotent stem cell and dendritic cell immunotherapy technologies.