Eyeing Embryonic Therapy
"Stem cells come in two forms, adult and embryonic. Whereas adult stem cells, which are found in particular organs of the mature body — the bone marrow, for example, or the brain — can only produce the specialized cells for that particular tissue type, embryonic stem cells derive from a far earlier point in development and thus have the potential to differentiate into every type of cell in the body. For that reason, human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) are considered ideal tools for regenerative medicine.
Their promise is finally beginning to be realized; in January 2012, UCLA retinal specialist Dr. Steven Schwartz and his colleagues reported the first safe clinical use of hESC-derived cells in two legally blind patients. Both patients — a woman with dry age-related macular degeneration, the No. 1 cause of blindness in the developed world, and a woman with Stargardt’s macular dystrophy, a progressive vision disorder that can lead to blindness by the third or fourth decade of life — received relatively low doses of hESC-derived retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells transplanted into the space beneath the retina of one eye each.
Dr. Steven Schwartz. Portraits by Ann Johansson.
RPE cells, which form a supportive layer beneath the retina, “are 100 percent critical for vision. When those cells go, vision goes,” said Schwartz, Ahmanson Professor of Ophthalmology and chief of the Retina Division at UCLA’s Jules Stein Eye Institute. “Both of these diseases have, as a final common pathway, the death of the RPE.” The RPE had been considered “low-hanging fruit” for an embryonic stem cell trial, he noted, in part, because the cells are terminally differentiated, can be accessed surgically and have no synaptic connections.
Four months after the injections, both patients felt they saw more clearly. The woman with macular degeneration, for example, went from being unable to read any letters on a visual-acuity chart to discerning five letters. Neither..."
woman suffered side effects such as retinal detachment, eye inflammation or abnormal cell growth.
"... As a result of that early success, Schwartz and his colleagues have transplanted RPE cells in 18 more patients and have expanded the trial to include four other top eye institutes. 'Our results have been so positive in terms of safety, that the Food and Drug Administration granted us permission to open up another cohort in the study: those with better vision,' Schwartz said. 'My hope is that this can be a meaningful first step toward regenerative medicine for the eye.' "
Great Post! I would like to thank you for your due diligence. Your postings are a pleasure for these soar eyes. There only seems to be a handful here that post in such fashion like yourself. I am true believer in this company. I look at where they were and where they are now. They survived 8 years of the Bush administration. (Not knocking the Bush Administration). They did not support the stem cell field. It was ugly financing on our past CEO part but I must believe it is what he had to do to keep the lights on. So here we are. 20 plus days away from the results of phase one. Amazing! Good Stuff! Thanks again