Washington: The first clinical trials that examine the use of stem cells to treat two forms of blindness
are ready to begin now that patients have been enrolled, a US company announced today.
A total of 24 patients have entered two separate trials at an eye institute in California, said representatives from the Massachusetts-based Advanced Cell Technology.
ACT was cleared by the US Food and Drug Administration several months ago to begin clinical trials of human embryonic stem cells to treat a form of juvenile blindness known as Stargardt`s disease and dry age-related macular degeneration.
Now that patients have been enrolled, the trials will begin "in the very near future," a company spokeswoman said.
The trials aim to check the safety of the treatment before moving on to see whether the therapy can help stop vision loss.
"These trials mark a significant step toward addressing what is one of the largest unmet medical needs of our time, treatments for otherwise untreatable and common forms of legal blindness," said lead investigator Steven Schwartz at University of California Los Angeles Jules Stein Eye
Dry age-related macular degeneration is the most common form of irreversible vision loss in people over age 55.
There is currently no cure for the disease, which affects around 10-15 million Americans and another 10 million people in Europe, the company said.