Embryonic Stem Cell Treatment for AMD

April 22, 2009

The Times of London reports that a team of British scientists and surgeons at the Institute of Ophthalmology at University College London and Moorfields eye hospital have developed the world’s first stem cell therapy to cure age-related macular degeneration.

The treatment involves replacing a layer of degenerated cells with embryonic stem cells that are essentially replicas of the missing cells. The stem cells are placed on an artificial membrane inserted in the back of the retina.

Once perfected in about six to seven years, the procedure could be performed on an outpatient basis in under an hour.

Pfizer has agreed to provide financial backing for continued research and will manufacture the membranes used in the procedure.

For the complete story, see the report by The Times of London.




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2 Responses to “Embryonic Stem Cell Treatment for AMD”

  • Here’s more on this story, taken from the press release issued by Pfizer Regenerative Medicine:

    Pfizer Regenerative Medicine, an independent research unit launched by Pfizer last year, has issued a press release describing its role in the collaboration and licensing agreement struck with the University College London, to develop stem cell-based therapies for treating both wet and dry age-related macular degeneration.

    Under the terms of the agreement, Pfizer will fund University College London’s preclinical research and retain exclusive worldwide rights to proceed with efficacy trials to develop and commercialize any resulting retinal pigment epithelium stem cell-based therapies.

    Pfizer will focus on clinical study design, product manufacturing (the membrane for holding the differentiated retinal pigment epithelium cells), and securing worldwide regulatory approvals.

    Ruth McKernan, PhD, chief scientific officer for Pfizer Regenerative Medicine, said, “We are excited to be working with pioneers in the field of stem cell ophthalmology from UCL. While we have much to learn about how stem cells can be used therapeutically, we are confident that this relationship will increase that understanding and help us advance to a time when our work may benefit patients worldwide.”


  • Here’s some more about what the London Group is doing, taken from their website:

    The research group, The London Project to Cure Blindness aims to make the most of human embryonic stem cells to prevent blindness and restore sight in patients with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) by 2011. Their goal is to replace damaged cells essential for “seeing” lost by diseases such as dry AMD. The researchers describe the project in more detail:

    Neuralised human embryonic stem cells (HESCs) represent a potentially unlimited source of progenitor cells for use in the repair of retinal disease. In addition to the genesis of retinal neurons, there is now compelling evidence that RPE can also be derived from undifferentiated HESCs. These ES-derived RPE cells not only appear to behave like normal RPE in culture but also have a gene expression profile more akin to primary human RPE. This is of particular clinical relevance to any RPE based transplantation strategies designed to treat AMD.

    HESCs will be used to generate precursors of retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) cells in vitro in order to provide a candidate therapeutic for age related macular degeneration (ARMD). The previously used method will be optimised with respect to RPE cells to improve both yield and reproducibility. RPE transplantation has already been shown to be capable of restoring the subretinal anatomy and improving photoreceptor function in a variety of retinal diseases. The sourcing of appropriate cell lines with the prerequisite characteristics of RPE will allow transplantation to enter the mainstream of retinal therapy at a time when the treatment of previously blinding retinal diseases is finally becoming a reality.