Nature Blogs is reporting that 2 clinical trials testing retinal cells derived from human embryonic stem cells are showing positive preliminary results. A paper published in The Lancet says that the cells appear to be safe four months after being injected into the eyes of two blind patients and describes visual improvements in the patients.
This isn’t the first trial of therapies based on human embryonic stem cells, nor does it provide the first data on these therapies in humans. It does, however, provide the first — albeit early — data from the only ongoing clinical trial of such a treatment. One trial involves patients with ‘dry’ age-related macular degeneration – AMD – the leading cause of blindness in the developed world, whereas the other is focused a juvenile form of degenerative blindness called Stargardt’s macular dystrophy. Neither condition is treatable.
The reported results are from the first patient from each of the two trials, both of which will eventually enrol a dozen patients. Final results are expected in 2013. The early-stage safety trials are sponsored by Advanced Cell Technology, a stem-cell firm in Marlborough, Massachusetts (see ‘Never say die’, a recent News Feature about Advanced Cell Technology).