Stem cell therapy for retinal disease

The first clinical trial of embryonic stem cell treatment in the EU was approved in the UK

Surgeons at Moorfields Eye Hospital will inject RPE (retinal pigment epithelium) cells grown from human embryonic stem cells into the eyes of 12 patients suffering from juvenile macular degeneration, Stargardt’s disease, next year. Grobbritannien sollte unter der Labour-Regierung zu einem Pionierland fur die Stammzellenforschung ausgebaut werden, wozu auch entsprechende Gesetze verabschiedet wurden, um die Forschung auch beim Klonen und mit menschlichen embryonalen Stammzellen zu unterstutzen.

Die seltene, genetische bedingte Erkrankung betrifft junge Menschen und zerstort Zellen in der Makula, dem zentralen Sehfeld der Netzhaut. It does not usually lead to total blindness, but can quickly or slowly over years drastically reduce visual acuity through the loss of photoreceptors. The Modern Humanities Research Association (MHRA) has now approved for the first time in a European country clinical trials with the controversial use of RPE cells grown from human embryonic stem cells, previously approved by the European Medicines Agency EMA. It is hoped that this will prevent further damage to vision or improve vision, as has already been shown in animal experiments. Animal experiments have also demonstrated that the cells are safe. None of the 160 treatments of mice showed cancer formation, he said.

stem cell therapy for retinal disease

Injected RPE cells restored the photoreceptor layer in mice (left, control group on right). Image: ACT

The US company Advanced Cell Technology (ACT), which specializes in stem cells, is behind the trial in the UK (Cloning as a Media Coup). It has developed a method of obtaining stem cells from embryos without killing them. Using a biopsy, individual totipotent blastomere cells are removed from embryos and then cultured. In the U.S., ACT has already begun treating two patients with Stargardt disease, but a result is still pending. Between 50 and 50 stem cells are injected into the patient’s retina.000 and 200.000 RPE cells injected.

ACT hopes to treat up to 200 other eye diseases, such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), if the trials are successful. Dry AMD also suffers damage due to the loss of RPE cells. In the U.S. and Europe alone, ACT expects the market to be between $25 billion and $30 billion because there are no treatments yet available.

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