The U.S. Food and Drug Administration cleared the way for Geron Corp. to move forward with the world's first study of a human embryonic stem cell therapy for people with spinal cord injuries, the company said Friday.

This marks the beginning of what is potentially a new chapter in medical therapeutics - one that reaches beyond pills to a new level of healing: the restoration of organ and tissue function achieved by the injection of healthy replacement cells, said Thomas Okarma, Ph.D., M.D., president and CEO of Geron.

The test's objective is to restore movement to paralyzed people by injecting stem cells directly into the lesion site of the patient's injured spinal cord, the company said.

Stem cells have the potential to develop into many different cell types in the body, according to the National Institutes of Health. They serve as a sort of repair system for the body, theoretically dividing without limit to replenish other cells as long as the person or animal is still alive.

Shares of Geron rose $2.77, or 53.17 percent to $7.98 at 11:17 a.m. in New York in Friday morning trading.