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Stem Cell-Derived Retinal Cells Safe for Transplant

Stem Cell-Derived Retinal Cells Safe for Transplant

May also improve vision in patients with macular degeneration

TUESDAY, Jan. 24 (HealthDay News) -- Retinal cells derived from human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) can be safely transplanted into people and may improve vision in patients with diseases such as macular degeneration, according to a study published online Jan. 23 in The Lancet.

Steven D. Schwartz, M.D., from the University of California Los Angeles, and colleagues injected 50,000 retinal pigment epithelium cells derived from hESCs into the subretinal space of one eye in two patients, both of whom were legally blind. One patient was a female in her seventies with dry age-related macular degeneration; the other was a female in her fifties with Stargardt's macular dystrophy.

The researchers found that the cells survived and attached based on structural evidence. There was no evidence of abnormal growth, hyperproliferation, or rejection in either patient in the first four months. Although the investigators disagreed on the appropriate end points for patients with low vision, neither patient lost vision. Vision improved in both patients based on the Early Treatment Diabetic Retinopathy Study visual acuity chart, and visual acuity also improved from hand motions to 20/800 in one patient.

"The hESC-derived retinal pigment epithelium cells showed no signs of hyperproliferation, tumorigenicity, ectopic tissue formation, or apparent rejection after four months," Schwartz and colleagues conclude. "The future therapeutic goal will be to treat patients earlier in the disease processes, potentially increasing the likelihood of photoreceptor and central visual rescue."

The study was funded by Advanced Cell Technology, by whom several authors are employed.

Full Text (http://download.thelancet.com/flatcontentassets/pdfs/S0140673612600282.pdf )