The beleaguered embryonic stem cell field got a boost today from a clinical trial sample in which two legally blind patients demonstrated partially restored vision after getting an injection of new cells prepared by Advanced Cell Technology ($ACTC). The two subjects suffer from two types of macular degeneration, a common condition in which vision blurs as retinal cells die. And after injections of ESC-derived retinal cells, both scored better on vision tests, leaving ACT to claim bragging rights for reporting the first efficacy data in the ESC field.
"Despite the progressive nature of these conditions, the vision of both patients appears to have improved after transplantation of the cells, even at the lower dosage," says Advanced Cell Technology CSO Robert Lanza. "This is particularly important, since the ultimate goal of this therapy will be to treat patients earlier in the course of the disease where more significant results might potentially be expected."
The data from the tiny Phase I/II study by ACT, which has skirted financial disaster in the past, is being reported in The Lancet. Regulators, obviously, would require much larger trials before even considering an approval. But the news marks a bright spot after a major setback in ESC research.
The recent news that the pioneering ESC company Geron ($GERN) is selling off its programs has cast a pall over the field. Alan Trounson, who runs the California stem cell agency, said recently that Geron's decision to exit the field created "a very strong negative influence internationally." According to the California Stem Cell Report Geron has been talking with two potential bidders.
- read the press release
- here's the story from The Telegraph