We often take our eyesight for granted until it’s too late. More than 1.7 million people over the age of 65 are afflicted with age-related macular degeneration, taking away the precious gift of sight. The loss of function in retinal cells can lead to impairment or total loss of vision. While scientific advances to treat diseases of the eye are constantly being made, approximately 65,000 people in the United States are affected by the most common types of retinitis pigmentosa.
As its name implies, StemCells Inc. (Nasdaq: STEM) concentrates on the discovery, development and commercialization of cell-based therapeutics to treat diseases affecting the central nervous system and liver. The company today announced that its HuCNS-SC product candidate, when transplanted into a well-established animal model, can protect the retina from progressive degeneration, which can lead to the loss of vision in age-related eye diseases.
The study was conducted by Dr. Raymond Lund, a researcher and professor at the Casey Eye Institute at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) and his research team. According to Stephen Huhn, MD, vice president and head of the CNS Program at Stem Cells Inc., the study validates prior studies to address retinol disorders.
“This study confirms the results of previously published academic studies evaluating neural stem cell transplantation into the retina and provides us with the rationale to pursue clinical testing of HuCNS-SC cells for retinal disorders,” Dr. Huhn stated in the press release. “We are already conducting additional preclinical studies and a pre-IND meeting has been scheduled with the FDA for December of this year to determine the pathway to a successful IND filing.”
Dr. Lund will present the study results at a seminar sponsored by the Foundation Fighting Blindness on Saturday, November 1, 2008, at the University of California.
“The HuCNS-SC cell has proven to have very robust survival, preserving vision in our rat model at time points beyond six months,” Dr. Lund stated. “These data are very encouraging and suggest cell-based therapies for retinal degeneration can be a viable treatment approach.”
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