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Promising results from the first humal trial of treating incurable eye diseases with embryonic stem cells

From Washington Post:

For the first time, an experimental treatment made from human embryonic stem cells has shown evidence of helping someone, partially restoring sight to two people suffering from slowly progressing forms of blindness.

In short, the authors of this study that is just published in Lancet differentiated human embryonic stem cells (hESC) into retinal pigment epithelium (RPE), a key eye tissue that is often affected in retinal degeneration. Then, they transplanted these RPE cells into two patients suffering from Stargardt’s disease and age-related macular degeneration. The purpose of the trial was to find out whether this procedure is safe. Interestingly, there was a pleasant surprise that both patients seem to have some improvements in eye sight. While there is still a lot to do before stem cells therapy will become widely applicable as a general treatment, this finding is an encouraging first sign.


Embryonic stem cell trials for macular degeneration: a preliminary report [Lancet][pdf]