First Patients Undergo Stem Cell Transplantation Treatment for Stargardt's Disease and Dry Age-Related Macular Degeneration
July 15, 2011
Advanced Cell Technology, Inc. announced the dosing of the first patients in each of its two Phase 1/2 clinical trials for Stargardt's macular dystrophy and dry age-related macular degeneration (dry AMD) using retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells derived from human embryonic stem cells (hESCs). The patients were treated Tuesday (July 12) by Steven Schwartz, M.D., Ahmanson Professor of Ophthalmology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and retina division chief at UCLA's Jules Stein Eye Institute. Robert Lanza, M.D., chief scientific officer of ACT, attended the procedures. Both patients successfully underwent the outpatient transplantation surgeries and are recovering uneventfully.
Both the Stargardt's trial and the dry AMD trial will enroll 12 patients each. The purpose of the clinical trials is to determine the safety and tolerability of hESC-derived RPE cells following sub-retinal transplantation into patients with Stargardt's and dry AMD at 12 months, the studies' primary endpoint.
"This first treatment milestone is welcomed by scientists, stem cell advocates and patients hoping for cures," said Gary Rabin, interim chairman and chief executive officer of ACT. "The two trials could not have started any smoother, and we are very pleased to announce that the procedures went well. The dosing of the first patients represents an important milestone for ACT and opens the doors to a potentially significant new therapeutic approach to treating the many forms of macular degeneration. We believe that these procedures represent a key step forward in therapeutic stem cell research, and the capacity to treat a variety of devastating diseases."
Dr. Schwartz, the studies' principal investigator, explained, "One patient in each clinical trial, the Stargardt's trial and the dry AMD trial, has undergone surgical transplantation of a relatively small dose (50,000 cells) of fully-differentiated retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells derived from human embryonic stem cells. Early indications are that the patients tolerated the surgical procedures well. The primary objective of these Phase 1/2 studies is to assess the safety and tolerability of these stem cell-derived transplants. We will be carefully monitoring our patients over the course of the trials. We are privileged to be collaborating with ACT and honored to be working with these pioneering patients."
Dry AMD, the most common form of macular degeneration, Stargardt's and other forms of atrophy-related macular degeneration are usually untreatable. Safe and effective therapies are greatly needed for the treatment of these common forms of blindness. Disease progression of both Stargardt's and dry AMD includes thinning of the layer of RPE cells in the patient's macula, the central portion of the retina and the anatomic location of central vision. With RPE cell death comes the loss of macular photoreceptors and loss of central vision. Currently both conditions are untreatable and often lead to legal blindness over a multi-year course. ACT's Stargardt's and dry AMD therapies treat these conditions by transplanting RPE cells in the patient's eyes before the RPE population is lost.
Further information about patient eligibility for the Stargardt's macular dystrophy and the dry AMD studies is also available on www.clinicaltrials.gov.
Adapted from Advanced Cell Technology
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