Page URL:

Stem cell therapy shows promise in patients with sight loss

20 November 2017
Appeared in BioNews 927

Preliminary results from two early stage clinical trials suggest that embryonic stem cells could be used to treat patients with dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

In both studies, the researchers converted human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) into retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells, which were then injected into the eyes of patients with dry AMD. The procedure was well-tolerated and one trial reported improved vision in some patients.

'There were no serious adverse events attributable to the transplanted RPE cells, including no tumour formation,' said Dr Ninel Gregori, leader of one of the trials based at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami, Florida.

'These trials were not designed for efficacy and there's no control group, so you have to take this with a grain of salt but there was increased visual improvement in the treated eye,' she added.

The second trial, by researchers in Israel, also found RPE cells derived from hESCs to be well-tolerated in patients. 'We're encouraged by the results thus far, but this is just a first step in the long road towards making regenerative cell therapy a reality in macular and retinal degeneration,' said Professor Eyal Banin, at the Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Centre in Jerusalem, who led the study.

The exact cause of macular degeneration is unknown, but it involves the loss of RPE cells in part of the retina called the macula. These cells deliver nutrients and remove waste products from the light-sensitive rod and cone cells. Without RPE cells, the rods and cones in the macula gradually die and central vision – essential for tasks such as reading, driving and facial recognition – deteriorates.

AMD currently affects more than 600,000 people in the UK and is the leading cause of vision loss. Approximately 1 in 10 people over the age of 65 have some degree of AMD.

Experts in regenerative medicine believe that macular degeneration will be one of the first conditions treated with stem cell therapy. RPE cells grown in the laboratory are very similar to those found naturally in the eye, and can be easily grown in large numbers. Furthermore, the risk of immune rejection is relatively low, as the cells are injected into an immune-privileged area of the eye.

Results from both trials were presented at the American Academy of Ophthalmology's annual conference in New Orleans, Louisiana last week.

Stem cell therapy shows promise for common cause of blindness
EurekAlert |  14 November 2017
Stem cell therapy shows promise for macular degeneration
European Pharmaceutical Review |  15 November 2017
Stem Cell Therapy Shows Promise for Retinal Degeneration
Medscape |  16 November 2017
4 February 2019 - by Paul Waldron 
Stem cells taken from dead donors have been used to restore the damaged surface of the eye in a clinical trial, which researchers say is the first of its kind...
6 August 2018 - by Caroline Casey 
A first-of-its-kind clinical trial has been announced, which will use induced pluripotent stem cells to treat Parkinson's disease patients...
9 April 2018 - by Caroline Casey 
A stem cell implant appears to be safe, suggest the results of a clinical trial for the dry form of age-related macular degeneration...
11 December 2017 - by Emma Laycock 
An efficient method to collect amniotic fluid rich in stem cells during caesarean sections has been developed by scientists in Sweden...
5 June 2017 - by Emma Lamb 
Two teams of doctors in China are to administer embryonic stem cell therapy from fertilised human embryos to treat different degenerative diseases...
20 March 2017 - by Paul Waldron 
In two different attempts to treat degenerative eye diseases with stem cells, three patients have been blinded, while disease progression has been stopped in a separate patient...
13 January 2017 - by Ayala Ochert 
Scientists have partially reversed blindness in mice using lab-grown retinas made from skin cells...
14 March 2016 - by Kulraj Singh Bhangra 
Scientists have shown that stem cells found in the eye can restore vision in children with cataracts...
5 October 2015 - by Jenny Sharpe 
A potential treatment for wet age-related macular degeneration has been carried out for the first time...
to add a Comment.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions

Syndicate this story - click here to enquire about using this story.