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Clinical Trials Begin for Stem Cell Treatment of Progressive Blindness

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The leading cause of progressive blindness may be able to be treated by using human embryonic stem cells, according to the online Medical News Today (www.medicalnewstoday.com.) On Jan. 3, 2011, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA.) announced that it has approved clinical trials of an application to treat dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD) by using retinal pigment epithelial cells derived from human embryonic stem cells. About 10 to 15 million Americans have AMD.

The company Advanced Cell Technology, or ACT, stated that they have received permission to begin a clinical trial to treat patients with dry AMD, which is the most common form of macular degeneration in the world. The other form is wet macular degeneration, which is far rarer. Dry AMD can cause great vision loss over time, and even blindness. There are no current treatments available for this disease.

During the clinical trial, 12 patients will be enrolled in the study at different clinical sites. The sites that are being considered are the Jules Stein Eye Institute at UCLA, and the Ophthalmology Department at Stanford University School of Medicine. More sites may be considered.

Dr. Robert Lanza, ACT’s Chief Scientific Officer is optimistic about this possible stem cell treatment of dry AMD. He said that only a small number of cells are needed to treat each patient. Lanza stated, “Based on our animal model studies, we are very excited about the opportunity to treat patients. In a rat model of macular degeneration, we have seen a remarkable improvement in visual performance over untreated animals, without any adverse effects. We also maintained near-normal function in a mouse model of Stargardt’s disease, a form of juvenile macular degeneration.”

The initial part of the clinical trial will focus on safety. In following trials the ACT hopes to show that the retinal pigment epithelial cells that are injected into the retinal space will be able to slow or halt the progression of the disease, and even restore some sight to the patient.

Over 10 million Europeans suffer from macular degeneration, and therefore ACT is actively seeking regulatory clearance from the European Medicines Agency in order to conduct clinical trials in Europe.

This article is for my father, who in his life, suffered from macular degeneration.

Add a Comment8 Comments

Hello Judi,
Thank you so much for that information, and yes it's ok to post a link here.

January 27, 2011 - 4:03pm

I hope it's ok to post a link here. The researchers at University of California, Irvine, are very involved in stem cell research, using adult stem cells. There are two articles here: http://www.discoveryeye.org/eye-conditions/stem-cell-potential/194-def-sponsors-retinal-regeneration.html
You probably saw the latest stem cell announcement by Advanced Cell Technology that uses embryonic stem cells. They have not yet started to recruit for that clinical trial. You can always check with http://www.clinicaltrials.gov to see when it begins and to find other clinical trials in your area. Your retinal specialist may also know if you qualify for the research.

If providing outside links is not allowed on this forum, I apologize; just let me know.

Judi Delgado
Macular Degeneration Partnership

January 27, 2011 - 1:48pm

Hi Joan,
I got it.

January 21, 2011 - 12:03pm

Thank you for your input and I certainly will follow up.
I could not see a submit button at the bottom of my screen so I hope you get this reply.

January 21, 2011 - 11:31am

I do not have an answer, but I do suggest that you go on the website medicalnewstoday.org, which is full of information, and click on "contact us" which appears in the left handed column, and then pose your question. I really hope you receive a satisfactory answer.
Good luck,

January 21, 2011 - 10:38am
EmpowHER Guest

How can I sign up to particate in the new stem cell study for wet macular degeneration. I live in Denver, Colorado. Would love to participate.

January 21, 2011 - 9:52am

Thank you for that valuable information.

January 6, 2011 - 9:00pm

This is very exciting news and though it will take them awhile to get the trials started, they are well funded, so hopefully progress will be relatively fast. One of the most encouraging things about retinal regeneration is that the adult human eye has its own retinal stem cells. These "progenitor" cells are also being used in clinical trials with some success. This is good news for those who have an issue with use of embryonic stem cells.

January 6, 2011 - 5:43pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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