Stem cell treatment trials for patients suffering from macular degeneration began in July at the Jules Stein Eye Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Cells derived from human embryonic stem cells will be used in this macular degeneration trial in an attempt to either slow or halt the progression of both macular degeneration and dystrophy.
Twenty-four patients have been selected for this stem cell treatment and will have the cells injected into their eyes as part of this trial. It is hoped this stem cell treatment will heal the damage brought on by the macular eye diseases.
Macular degeneration damages the retinal cells in the eye. This new stem cell treatment will replace the retinal cells but it has proven to be somewhat controversial because the replacement cells are derived from human embryonic stem cells.
Advanced Cell Technology has been developing this new macular degeneration stem cell treatment for 10 years and it is hoped patients suffering from dry macular degeneration will benefit. Twelve of the patients selected have dry macular degeneration and the other twelve suffer from Stargardt’s macular dystrophy which is a version of macular degeneration affecting people 10 to 20 years old.
Each group will receive a number of stem cell treatments and be monitored for the first 12 months to determine the safety of the procedure.
Dry macular degeneration is the most common cause of blindness and the leading cause of vision loss in people aged 55 and over. The number of people expected to be diagnosed with the disease is expected to double in the next 20 years.
There is no cure or treatment currently in place for dry macular degeneration, making the potential of this stem cell treatment very exciting to those who are suffering from the eye disease.
It is hoped the new retinal cells derived from stem cells will grow and eventually restore the retina to a healthy state. This would provide a treatment for these two previously untreatable eye diseases and hope for those suffering from many other diseases.
If this stem cell treatment for macular degeneration is a success, the trial may be expanded to include more patients.