Stem cell therapy could ‘help the blind see within 6 weeks’

Monday, November 22, 2010

LONDON - Stem cells derived from spare IVF embryos left over from fertility treatment could help blind patients see within six weeks, according to a new study.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given the go-ahead for the controversial transplant of embryonic stem cells into the eyes of patients with Stargardt’s macular degeneration, where the light-sensitive retina cells at the back of eye are destroyed.

Robert Lanza, chief scientific officer of the US biotechnology firm, Advanced Cell Technology, said that though the trial is designed primarily to assess safety, the first signs of visual improvement may be apparent within weeks.

“Talking to the clinicians, we could see something in six weeks, that’s when we think we may see some improvements. It really depends on individual patients but that’s a reasonable time frame when something may start to happen,” The Independent quoted Lanza as saying.

Stem cell therapy is a controversial issue as “pro-life” groups such as the Roman Catholic Church are bitterly opposed to the practice, which they say involves the deliberate destruction of potential human beings.

In the current trial, the first three patients will receive injections of 50,000 embryonic stem cells, the second set will receive 100,000 cells and the highest dose will be 200,000 cells.

Lanza said, “We’ve tested these cells in animal models of eye disease. In rats, we’ve seen 100 per cent improvement in visual performance over untreated animals without any adverse effects.” (ANI)

Filed under: Science and Technology

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