British experts first tested human embryonic stem cells in the treatment of yellow-spotted abiotrophy of the retina (Stargardt’s disease). Surgeons are counting on the success of the trials and approval from European regulatory bodies for wider implementation of the technique.
Due to an innovative approach based on stem cell therapy, world medicine has a chance to treat Stargardt’s disease, which until recently was considered incurable.
Pathology associated with severe damage to the retina has been identified as one of the most common causes of blindness in young people under the age of 20. Damage affects the pigment epithelium of the central retinal region, which is responsible for the clarity of the formed image. Cells are destroyed with irreversible consequences – a significant decrease in vision or its complete loss.
The experiment will be carried out by the staff of the London clinic with the participation of 12 patients diagnosed with Stargardt’s disease. It is expected that the high-quality characteristics of the material used – high tolerance, safety, effectiveness, will enable the procedure to be included in the treatment methodology of all European countries and save the eyesight of hundreds of thousands of people.
The therapeutic mechanism involves the introduction of embryonic stem cells into the retina of the eye to slow down the progress/stop the disease’s course and restore the affected areas. However, according to some scientists, the effect of the technique is doubtful, given the possibility of a destructive effect of pathology on human embryonic cells.
An easy-to-implement procedure is carried out on an outpatient basis and involves the injection of about 20,000 stem cells into the posterior eye chamber.
Similar studies will be conducted in Massachusetts and Los Angeles. Scientists will show the results of the work next year.
If practical tests are successful, the ability of the embryonic material to replace the destroyed elements of the retina will allow the optical functions of the eyes to be regenerated.
According to medical specialists, participation in experimental treatment procedures was offered to patients with a severe form of the disease, accompanied by destruction of the retina for a long time. In such patients, the likelihood of disease’s regression with restoration of photosensitivity in partially damaged tissue areas remains. Taking into account the main task of research related to the confirmation of the safety, effectiveness and good tolerance of stem material in the treatment of pathology, doctors expect to prevent the onset of blindness in patients.
Scientists also noted the status of Great Britain as one of the founders of the therapeutic theory of treatment with embryonic stem cells, which confirms the leadership of British medicine in the study of methods for the practical use of stem cells among European countries.
The representative of the Moonfields Ophthalmology Center agrees with him, who noted the high probability of success in the treatment of severe retinal diseases, as well as age-related molecular degenerative changes using embryonic material. According to the scientist, the laboratory revealed regenerative abilities of retinal tissues from embryonic material have become a good breakthrough in a new generation of medicine and a chance to use a new technique in the treatment of severe forms of ophthalmic pathologies. The success of the current research into the technology safety will allow specialists to advance even further in their work.
The leadership of British scientists in the therapeutic use of stem cells was confirmed by Chris Mason, a recognized specialist in regenerative medicine at the University of London. The scientist said that the UK’s results in this area are helping to strengthen the core of existing knowledge about cell therapy and move towards new scientific advances.
However, there were ethical opponents to the method. Thus, Dr. Josephine Quintavalle expressed doubts about the global prevalence of innovative technology, noting that many world states can refuse such experiments due to ethical considerations. Quintwalle said the search for an effective solution to the problem of incurable diseases should not be associated with the destruction of viable human embryonic cells.
All these innovative methods cannot be applied without technological, reliable medical eye equipment from leading world brands.
Meanwhile, the American company Geron recently launched a research project on the use of stem material in the treatment of spinal cord injuries. Scientists want to restore the body’s motor abilities by regenerating damaged nerve fibers with the influence of embryonic stem material.