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Stem cell study for eye disease

By Tim Sandle     Sep 13, 2014 in Science
Kobe - Scientists at the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology will shortly treat the first patient in using a stem cell-based treatment for age-related macular degeneration.
Age-related macular degeneration is a medical condition that usually affects older adults and results in a loss of vision in the center of the visual field (the macula) because of damage to the retina. The disease occurs in "dry" and "wet" forms. It is a major cause of blindness and visual impairment in older adults.
The Japan based RIKEN center have announced that the first ever trial to treat humans with a treatment derived from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) is set to begin during September 2014.
According to Nature, scientists will transplant sheets of retinal pigment epithelial cells derived from an age-related macular degeneration (AMD) patient’s own skin cells to replace damaged cells of the retina. The researchers have previously tested the autologous treatment in monkeys. The results of this animal trial showed that the monkeys mounted no immune response that resulted in the cells’ rejection.
Further studies in mice and monkeys have also demonstrated that the therapy is unlikely to cause tumors (this is a potential medical concern with injecting iPSCs and embryonic stem cells into the human body). To further ensure the safety of patients in this first trial, the researchers have performed genetic stability tests on the cells they plan to implant.
The experiment is to be led by CDB ophthalmologist Masayo Takahashi. The innovative surgery will be performed at the Institute of Biomedical Research and Innovation in Kobe.
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