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Sight Successfully Restored after Stem Cell Treatment

People with macular degeneration had their eyesight improved after the stem cell transplantation as research by scientists from Massachusetts company Advanced Cell Technology shows. The researchers used embryonic stem cells to treat the patients – the controversial ones from the ethical point of view and considered unsafe as the might produce tumors. The study result was published in The Lancet.

The study demonstrated not only the treatment efficacy, but also its safety. The last is very important, since many previous attempts to use embryonic stem cells in animal studies produced tumors. However, no of 18 patients that received embryonic stem cells demonstrated any negative effects 22 months after the cells implantation.

9 patients that took part in the study have Stargardt's macular dystrophy and the rest suffer from age-related macular degeneration. These diseases are the leading causes of blindness in the developed countries. The researchers implanted embryonic stem cells in one eye of each patient, while the other eye served as a control to study the efficacy of the treatment. Doses containing 50,000-150,000 cells were implanted.

As for the safety of the treatment, the researchers did not observe any signs of improper proliferation, rejection or other serious systemic or ocular issues after the implantation. However, use of immunosuppressants did affect some patients negatively, and four patients underwent cataract surgery.

 As for the treatment efficacy, ten patients had noticeable improvement in vision of their treated eye, seven did not report any changes and only one got worse. At the same time, no improvement was observed in untreated eyes. The researchers do not exclude the placebo effect as the patients and the researchers knew which eyes were treated and which not. Nonetheless, the scientists are very optimistic about embryonic stem cell treatment for eyes, since eyes do not produce strong immune response.

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.