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Source: Nature // Photo: Retinal Cells Derived From Embryonic Cells

(MARLBOROUGH, Mass.) — A company that has spent more than 20 years trying to develop treatments based on embryonic stem cells is taking encouragement from small, preliminary tests of the cells in people with progressive vision loss. If the technique continues to impress in larger trials designed to assess its effectiveness, it could become the first therapy derived from embryonic stem cells to reach the market.

A study of four patients, published in Stem Cell Reports on 30 April1, shows that injection of retinal cells derived from stem cells is safe for people with macular degeneration. The report follows similar results from a trial in 18 patients that was published last October2.
Both studies were meant to assess safety only, and neither included a control group. In the latest study, conducted by researchers in Korea and the United States, three participants were able to read 9–19 more letters further on an eye chart a year after treatment — but two of the three also gained some ground in their untreated eyes.

“This bodes well,” says Robert Lanza, chief scientific officer at Ocata Therapeutics in Marlborough, Massachusetts, and an author of the study. “But I think we need to interpret this improvement cautiously until more controlled studies are done.”

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