Stem Cell Trial for Macular Degeneration Approved

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a stem cell trial for treating macular degeneration.

Advanced Cell Technology (ACT) made the announcement of the FDA’s approval for trying human embryonic stem cells for treating macular degeneration, making it the second FDA approved trial for their stem cell product.

Macular degeneration is one of the most common causes of vision loss.  According to ACT, patients suffering from dry macular degeneration will be treated with retinal pigment epithelial cells (RPE) made from human embryonic stem cells.  According to Dr. Robert Lanza of ACT, “Dry macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in individuals over the age of 55.  As the population ages, the incidence of macular degeneration is expected to double in the next 20 years.”

Earlier in November 2010, ACT won approval from the FDA to use stem cell treatment for those people suffering from a form of blindness called Stargardt’s macular distrophy.

With this announcement, there is hope a treatment may be developed for advanced cases of dry macular degeneration, wish affects an estimated 85 percent of those suffering from the degenerative eye disease according to the U.S. National Eye Institute.  Unlike wet macular degeneration that has treatments such as Lucentis and Avastin, dry macular degeneration is currently treated with a combination of vitamins and zinc to help reduce the risk of the disease and perhaps slow its progression.

ACT estimates the market for treating dry macular degeneration to be valued at approximately $25 billion and previous research with stem cell treatments showing considerable promise for those suffering from the eye disease.

Stem cells are the body’s master cells and the source of every other cell in the human body.  Embryonic stem cells are taken from days-old human embryos and are shown to be especially pliable to treatments such as what ACT has shown for its treatment of macular degeneration.