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Small Stem Cell Study Claims Early Success in Treating Eye Disease
Date:1/23/2012

dry age-related macular degeneration. So far, the cells seem to have transplanted into both patients without abnormal proliferation, teratoma formation, graft rejection, or other untoward pathological reactions or safety signals. Continued follow-up and further study is needed. The ultimate therapeutic goal will be to treat patients earlier in the disease processes, potentially increasing the likelihood of photoreceptor and central visual rescue," wrote Dr. Robert Lanza, chief scientific officer at Advanced Cell Technology in Marlborough, Mass., and his colleagues.

"It has been over a decade since the discovery of human embryonic stem cells. This is the first report of hESC-derived cells ever transplanted into patients, and the safety and engraftment data to date looks very encouraging," Lanza added in the journal news release.

"Although several new drugs are available for the treatment of the wet type of AMD, no proven treatments currently exist for either dry AMD or Stargardt's disease. Despite the progressive nature of these conditions, the vision of both patients appears to have improved after transplantation of the cells, even at the lowest dosage. This is particularly important, since the ultimate goal of this therapy will be to treat patients earlier in the course of the disease where more significant results might potentially be expected," he added.

Scientists believe that embryonic stem cells have the ability to "differentiate" -- or grow -- into most types of cells in the human body. But the use of such cells is controversial because it involves the destruction of a human embryo.

In an accompanying editorial, Dr. Anthony Atala, a professor and director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Wake Forest School of Medicine, in North Carolina, wrote: "The potential to use human embryonic-derived cells with a therapeutic effect in patients is now finally realized ... The ultimate therapeutic goal for patients with vi
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