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Restoring vision with stem cells

According to The Los Angeles Times, a new stem cell method of restoring vision is to be tested by clinical trials in which embryonic stem cells will be transplanted into the retina. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted permission for clinical trials to the study initiator, the Advanced Cell Technology (ACT), a biotechnology company.

The goal of the study is to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of the new method. In the trials, 12 elderly patients with dry form of age-macular degeneration will take part.

Age-related macular degeneration is a disease causing destruction of the macula (or yellow spot), the central part of the retina. Retinal pigment epithelium cells derived from human embryonic stem cells will be transplanted to the patients’ retina. Stem cell transplantation is expected to restore the cells damaged by the disease.

In the past, the trials presupposing stem cell transplantation into the retina were performed on rat models of age-related macular degeneration in whom they resulted in eyesight restoration. Apart from this, in November 2010, FDA granted the company the license for clinical trials of the new method of treating children’s Stargardt’s disease (hereditary macular degeneration) treatment.

The technology of stem cell line production developed by the company leaves embryos intact. Cell lines are derived from a single embryonic cell harvesting of which leaves embryo alive. Thus, according to the company, the new method is in line with ethical standards. Besides, similar manipulation is routinely performed during in vitro embryo genetic testing.

Fetal stem cells treatment results depend on: disease's severity, age of the patient, adherence for the medications and regime. Treatment results, presented on this site, are individual for each clinical case.