Blindness Cure Could Be 1st Human Stem Cell Trial

Biotech firm aims to reverse macular degeneration
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 20, 2009 5:41 AM CST
If the therapy proves effective in clinical trials, the researchers aim to use it to treat more common causes of blindness.   (Shutter Stock)

(Newser) – The first-ever clinical trials of stem cell treatment of humans could be under way early next year if a Massachusetts biotech firm wins FDA approval. Advanced Cell Technology yesterday applied for a license to use embryonic stem cells left over from IVF treatment, to aid people suffering from a rare and currently incurable disease that causes blindness in early adulthood, the Independent reports.

Another firm won approval to use stem cells to treat paraplegic patients earlier this year but those trials have been delayed while potential side effects are investigated. "It has been over a decade since human embryonic stem cells were first discovered," ACT's scientific director tells Reuters. "The field desperately needs a big clinical success." The treatment, he says, has proven effective on animals, with no side effects, and they now hope to repeat that success with humans.