Just a few weeks ago I noted the results from an early trial of a form of retinal patch, in which the patients involved showed striking signs of improved vision, considering their age and the degree to which their macular degeneration had advanced. Today another set of clinical trial results were published by a separate group using a similar approach – human embryonic stem cells are used to derive sufficient retinal pigment epithelium cells to create a structured patch, resembling retinal tissue in at least some aspects. The patch is then implanted into the retina, and sufficient cells survive and integrate to restore some function to areas damaged by the progression of age-related macular degeneration. That two teams are seeing positive outcomes from this type of approach is good news for the broader field.
The advance over prior efforts to produce a cell therapy for macular degeneration, present in both of these trials, lies in the methodologies that allow cells to form a more life-like retinal structure prior to implantation. Cells transplanted into the retina without that support largely die before they can do much good,
Article originally posted at