AZ, UCL to partner on stem cell cure for diabetic blindness

AstraZeneca and University College London have announced a collaboration to develop medicines that use stem cells to repair damaged eyesight in diabetic patients.

Under the terms of the three-year agreement, AstraZeneca and scientists at the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology will work to identify new therapeutic tools that can modulate the regenerative capacity of stem cells. They hope to develop a compound in three to five years that can go into clinical trials and possibly reach the market in 10 years, the Guardian reports.

"These tools could be used either to manufacture transplantable material or to directly stimulate new cell growth in the eye to help restore or improve the vision of those with DR," says Marcus Fruttiger of the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, who is leading the project.

Diabetic retinopathy is the most common cause of vision impairment among people of working age in Western society. The majority of patients with Type 1 diabetes will develop retinopathy and about 20 percent to 30 percent will become blind, according to UCL. A large number of patients with Type 2 diabetes also will develop retinopathy as their underlying disease progresses.

Pfizer also has a partnership with Professor Pete Coffey of the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, for another eye condition, macular degeneration. "It's great that 'Big Pharma' is considering regenerative medicines as a serious possibility," Coffey says, as quoted by the Guardian

- read the UCL release
- get more from The Guardian