|Update on ACT Stem Cell Trial|
A total of six patients have now received surgery in the embryonic stem cell trial sponsored by Advanced Cell Technology (ACT). Three patients have dry macular degeneration and three have Stargardt's, a form of macular degeneration that affects younger people. They are part of the clinical trial at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Two other research centers are approved for the clinical trial and preparing to enroll patients: Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia and Bascom-Palmer Eye Institute in Florida.
All of them tolerated the procedure well and no safety issues turned up. As reported earlier, the first patients describe improved vision. Dr. Steven Schwartz, who runs the trial at UCLA, is hopeful but cautious. No one know what the long term results will be, but he is optimistic.
One critical aspect of this trial revolves around the number of stem-cell derived retinal cells that are injected under the patient's retina. These first participants in the trial received 50,000 cells. So far, those cells have not migrated out of the patients eyes, nor have they developed any abnormalities. Future groups of patients will receive increasing numbers of cells (up to 200,000) in a single injection. The researchers will be watching very carefully for any signs of complications at these higher doses.
The most recent patient with dry AMD just received the surgery, so it will be about 6 months before we know the result of that one. By then, the earlier patients will have reached a critical 18 month post surgery point and we will know what the longer term prognosis is. The study will run through July 2013.
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