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Commentary

Eyes open to stem cells: safety trial may pave the way for cell therapy to treat retinal disease in patients

Reinhold J Medina, Desmond B Archer and Alan W Stitt*

Author Affiliations

Centre for Vision and Vascular Science, School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Science, Queen's University Belfast, Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast BT12 6BA, Northern Ireland, UK

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Stem Cell Research & Therapy 2011, 2:47  doi:10.1186/scrt88

Published: 7 December 2011

Abstract

A clinical trial using human embryonic stem cell (hESC) therapy for an inherited retinal degenerative disease is about to commence. The Advanced Cell Technology (ACT) trial will treat patients with Stargardt's macular dystrophy using transplanted retinal pigment epithelium derived from hESCs. Currently, no effective treatment is available for Stargardt's disease so a stem cell-based therapy that can slow progression of this blinding condition could represent a significant breakthrough. While there are some hurdles to clear, the ACT trial is a fine example of translational research that could eventually pave the way for a range of stem cell therapies for the retina and other tissues.