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Image of eye from the BBC

ACT Report Stem Cells as "Safe"

24 January 2012

Early results from the world's first human trial using embryonic stem cells to treat diseases of the eye suggest the method is safe, say researchers. US firm Advanced Cell Technology told The Lancet how two patients who had received the treatment were doing well, four months on.

Trials of the same technique have now started at London's Moorfields Eye Hospital, though eut experts say it will be years before these treatments are proven.

The aim of these first human studies is to establish that the treatment is safe to use. The treatment takes healthy immature cells from a human embryo, which are then manipulated to grow into the cells that line the back of the eye - the retina.

Experts hope that by injecting these cells into a diseased eye, they will be able to restore vision for people with currently incurable conditions such as Stargardt's disease - one of the main causes of blindness in young people.

Advanced Cell Technology, along with the Jules Stein Eye Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, are reporting their first experiences with this treatment in human trials.

The study involved one patient with macular degeneration and another with Stargardt's disease. Both have very poor vision and were registered blind. Each was given an injection containing the retinal pigment epithelium cells into one of their eyes.

After surgery, structural evidence confirmed the cells had attached to the eye's membrane as hoped, and continued to survive throughout the next 16 weeks of the study. Most importantly, the procedure appeared to be safe, causing no signs of rejection or abnormal cell growth.

The story as reported by the BBC is linked below. A full copy of the scientific report by ACT can also be downloaded from the link below.

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