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Age-related macular degeneration treated with a stem cell retinal patch

Researchers developed retinal eye patch made from human embryonic stem cells to treat age-related macular degeneration. Researchers grew retinal pigment epithelial cells from stem cells and used synthetic basement membrane to create a retinal patch. Phase 1 clinical trial findings are reported in the journal Nature Biotechnology.

Age-related macular degeneration is the most common cause of visual impairment in the developed world. This condition usually affects people over 50 years. Age-related macular degeneration affects central vision.

The phase 1 study investigated if the stem cell retinal patch could restore vision by regenerating diseased cells. They surgically implanted the patch into the eye of two subjects. Results showed noted improvement in vision over 12 months. Further testing using biomicroscopy and optical coherence tomography showed that stem cell retinal patch survived.  To prevent tissue rejection they had to use local immunosuppression.

“This study represents real progress in regenerative medicine and opens the door on new treatment options for people with age-related macular degeneration,” said co-author Peter Coffey, a professor at UCSB’s Neuroscience Research Institute and co-director of the campus’s Center for Stem Cell Biology & Engineering.

Reference: Cruz, Lyndon Da, Kate Fynes, Odysseas Georgiadis, Julie Kerby, Yvonne H. Luo, Ahmad Ahmado, Amanda Vernon, Julie T. Daniels, Britta Nommiste, Shazeen M. Hasan, Sakina B. Gooljar, Amanda-Jayne F. Carr, Anthony Vugler, Conor M. Ramsden, Magda Bictash, Mike Fenster, Juliette Steer, Tricia Harbinson, Anna Wilbrey, Adnan Tufail, Gang Feng, Mark Whitlock, Anthony G. Robson, Graham E. Holder, Mandeep S. Sagoo, Peter T. Loudon, Paul Whiting, and Peter J. Coffey. “Phase 1 Clinical Study of an Embryonic Stem Cell–derived Retinal Pigment Epithelium Patch in Age-related Macular Degeneration.” Nature Biotechnology, 2018. doi:10.1038/nbt.4114.

Institutions involved in research

  • The London Project to Cure Blindness, ORBIT, Institute of Ophthalmology, University College London (UCL).
  • NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, UCL Institute of Ophthalmology.
  • Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.
  • Wellcome/EPSRC Centre for Interventional & Surgical Sciences (WEISS), Charles Bell House.
  • Pfizer.
  • Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult.
  • Cells for Sight, Transplantation & Research Program, UCL Institute of Ophthalmology.
  • UCL Institute of Neurology.
  • Center for Stem Cell Biology and Engineering, NRI, UC, Santa Barbara.

Adapted from press release by the University of California Santa Barbara.

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