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Stem Cell Therapy of Macular Degeneration May Improve Vision

The results of a small study that involved the use of human embryonic stem cell (hESC)-derived retinal support cells offer hope for a future treatment of macular degeneration. Researchers in Korea injected the hESCs into the eyes of four men with macular degeneration. The goal of the study was not to improve the vision of the men but to stop the loss of photoreceptor cells. Researchers were pleased when three of the men saw an improvement of two to four lines of letters on a standard vision test. The fourth study participant did not show any noticeable change. The scientists were encouraged to see that the patients' immune systems did not reject the injected cells and no tumors were formed either. Additional testing will be needed as this recent study was too small to determine whether the treatment systemically improves eyesight in patients. Phase 2 trials will begin this year using the hESC-derived cells to treat Stargardt macular dystrophy.*  

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