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Stem cell trial for eye diseases begins

18 July 2011
Appeared in BioNews 616

Doctors in the USA have begun treating patients in two clinical trials for degenerative eye diseases. The studies at the Jules Stein Eye Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), will test whether specialised eye cells, which have been produced from human embryonic stem cells (hESCs), can be used to treat dry age-related macular degeneration (dry AMD) and Stargardt's macular dystrophy.

First to take part was a 77-year-old woman affected by dry AMD and a 27-year-old woman with Stargardt's, who both received injections of around 50,000 eye cells called retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) cells into the back of one eye. Professor Steven Schwartz, who administered the treatments, said: 'Early indications are that the patients tolerated the surgical procedures well'.

Twelve patients suffering from each condition will be recruited to the trials and will each receive an injection of 50,000 to 200,000 RPE cells before being monitored for one year. Professor Schwartz said the primary objective of the studies is 'to assess the safety and tolerability of these stem cell-derived transplants'.

Dr Robert Lanza, chief scientific officer at Advanced Cell Technology (ACT), which is sponsoring the trial, said: 'The great promise of these cells is finally being put to the test... the initiation of these two clinical trials marks an important turning point for the field'. He said this type of stem cell research 'may provide a treatment option not only for degenerative eye disease, but for a wide spectrum of other debilitating conditions'.

Dry AMD and Stargardt's are common forms of blindness for which there is currently no cure. Both diseases are caused by degeneration of the RPE, the pigmented layer of the retina which provides nutrition and support for the light-sensitive cells of the eye. These cells eventually die due to loss of the RPE, leading to a loss of vision. ACT has engineered hESCs to form functional RPE cells hoping they will ultimately be capable of replacing those lost due to the disease, improving vision. Another round of treatment is due to begin in August.

6 February 2012 - by Ruth Retassie 
US company StemCells Inc have received Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorisation to carry out clinical trials of their treatment for one of the leading causes of blindness in over 55-year-olds...
31 January 2012 - by Rosemary Paxman 
A clinical trial testing the safety of using human embryonic stem cell (hESC) in the treatment of progressive eye conditions has been carried out by researchers in the USA...
31 January 2012 - by Dr Dusko Ilic and Dr Emma Stephenson 
Last week, Advanced Cell Technology (ACT) of Massachusetts, USA, made two important announcements regarding human embryonic stem (hES) cell-based therapies for the potential treatment of Stargardt's dystrophy and age-related macular degeneration, two devastating degenerative disease leading to blindness....
26 September 2011 - by Dr Rachael Panizzo 
UK scientists have been granted approval to begin the first clinical trial using embryonic stem cells (ES cells) in Europe, which they hope could lead to an effective treatment for a degenerative eye disease causing blindness...
26 September 2011 - by MacKenna Roberts 
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20 June 2011 - by Dr Rebecca Robey 
Two clinical trials to test whether embryonic stem cells can treat two incurable eye disorders have been launched in the USA. Twenty-four patients will be treated during the trials at the Jules Stein Eye Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)...
28 March 2011 - by Dr Sophie Pryor 
US scientists have taken an important step towards using stem cells to treat age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness in the UK. The study demonstrates, for the first time, the ability to direct human iPS (induced pluripotent stem) cells to become...
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