First Embryonic Stem Cells Used In Humans Safely Treat Dry Macular Degeneration


Dry AMD image obscures visual details: image via medicineworld.orgDry AMD image obscures visual details: image via Results for the very first human embryonic stem cell treatment were announced today in the online first section of The Lancet journal.  The first aim of the study was to determine if the stem cell transplant was a safe treatment for age-related dry macular degeneration (dry AMD), the main cause of blindness in persons over 60.  But, in addition...

... after four months of treatment, the researchers report that they have also seen some improvement in their patients' vision.

Advanced Cell Technology (ACT) developed the the human embryonic stem cell (hESC) treatment, drawing its cells from retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) specifically for the treatment of dry AMD and Stargardt's macular dystrophy (SMD).  The RPE cells were intended to line the retina.  Currently there are treatments for wet AMD, but until now, no treatment has been effective for dry AMD or SMD.

Two women, one in her fifties and the other in her seventies, who were originally classified as legally blind were given injections of 50,000 RPE cells.  After four months, the RPE cells still line the retina, and vision benefits have been observed by the investigators from ACT, and UCLA's Jules Stein Eye Institute. 

Further study on the efficacy of the hESC treatment will continue with the original two subjects and will be replicated at London's Moorfields Eye Hospital.

sources: BBC News, National Eye Institute, Wikipedia via Bloomberg Business Week


Jan 24, 2012
by Anonymous

Highly Inaccurate

Just saying "stem cells" is highly inaccurate.

Adult stem cells - those taken from a person's own body, multiplied, and reinserted in the appropriate location - have yielded more than 90 cures/treatments for diseases and serious medical conditions to date. In fact, a dear friend of mine just had a blood cancer put into remission when the doctors at Stanford replaced his marrow with his own stem cells.

The two people that have received a benefit from this EMBRYONIC stem cell transplant (It is a transplant - because it's someone else's tissue) are the most recent in a long list of experiments using hESCs that have failed miserably. Most develop tumors. Scientists have just spent so much time refusing to bow to ethical concerns to evaluate and conclude that hESCs have extremely limited usefulness.

Given their near-perfect failure rate, I don't hold out much hope that the patients in this study will experience everything they want long term. Meanwhile, entire organs are being regrown using adult stem cells.