Tag Archives: stem cell treatment

Pigmented epithelial cells were grown from embryonic stem cells prior to injection.

Stem cells treatment dramatically improves vision of the blind

Pigmented epithelial cells were grown from embryonic stem cells prior to injection.

Pigmented epithelial cells were grown from embryonic stem cells prior to injection.

Detailed in a recently published study, a team of ophthalmologists have successfully managed to improve the vision of both of their trial patients, which were declared legally blind due to macular degeneration, by inserting human embryonic stem cells into one eye of each person. Significant improvements were recognized shortly after the procedure, and continued to progress positively in the months that came after, as well. The other eyes that were left untreated remained in the same poor condition as prior to the operation .

Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss among the elderly, while Stargart’s muscular dystrophy, or Stargart’s disease, is a common cause of vision loss among children and young people. Drugs, laser treatment of the retina and so forth only help in slowing down the process, but the end scope of these diseases cannot be derailed, and hence are considered incurable.

Stem cell treatment has been considered an option before, however the procedure conducted by the team of scientists, lead by Steven Schwartz, an opthalmologist and chief of the retina division at UCLA’s Jules Stein Eye Institute, is the first one of its kind.

“This is a big step forward for regenerative medicine, said Dr. Steven Schwartz at UCLA’s Jules Stein Eye Institute. “It’s nowhere near a treatment for vision loss, but it’s a signal that embryonic stem-cell based strategies may work.

The operation involved injecting stem cells into one of each patient’s eye, a 78 year old woman suffering from macular degeneration and another woman, aged 51, who suffered from Stargardt’s macular dystrophy, both declared legally blind, with hopes that the cells required for proper vision will regenerate. The stem cells were treated before being injected into the patients’ eyes, as they were induced to grow into retinal pigment epithelial cells. The loss of these cells located in the pigmented layer of the retina is the leading cause of macular dystrophy.

[RELATED] Deafness cured by gene therapy

The results post the half hour surgery, in which 50,000 stem cells were injected, were remarkable – just a few weeks after the patients went from barely recognizing a hand to counting fingers, reading their own handwriting, pouring a glass of water without spilling it all over the floor and so on. In short, they were given the chance to live a normal life once more. Their vision continued to improve months after the surgery. The patients were also given immunosuppressants to prevent their bodies from rejecting the foreign tissue.

Other scientists have recently commented upon the research, admitting the results are indeed remarkable, while warning at the same time that the trial was conducted only on two persons,  and the improvements can still be considered short-term. Extensive studying on a broader range of patients and over longer time is required to accurately measure the effectiveness of stem cell treatment for this kind of operation.

According to Dr. Robert Lanza, chief scientific officer at Advanced Cell Technology and a co-author of the study, the embryo was destroyed after the stem cells were derived, but in the future, doctors will be able to derive stem cells from an embryo without destroying it.

The research was published in the journal The Lancet.

source: BBC via singularity hub

How aging can be cured in the future – a scientist’s view

If we’re to guide ourselves after Aubrey de Grey‘s telling, according to his predictions the first person who will live to see their 150th birthday has already been born, and as science advances along the decades at the current pace it does, he claims people born soon after the latter mentioned birthday will live to be 1,000.

“I’d say we have a 50/50 chance of bringing aging under what I’d call a decisive level of medical control within the next 25 years or so,” de Grey said in an interview before delivering a lecture at Britain’s Royal Institution academy of science.

“And what I mean by decisive is the same sort of medical control that we have over most infectious diseases today.”

"The Fountain of Youth" painting by Lucas Cranach the Elder. Scientists are trying to prolong life by employing cell and gene treatments.

"The Fountain of Youth" painting by Lucas Cranach the Elder. Scientists are trying to prolong life by employing cell and gene treatments.

As living standards increase worldwide, so does the life expectancy. The world’s longest-living person on record lived to be 122, while in Japan alone there were more than 44,000 centenarians in 2010. This could be counter-acted, however, by the increasing obesity trend which is sweeping the world, which due to a high comfort level and sedentary life style has exposed people to other life treating issues.

As we age, molecular and cellular damage occurs in our body in brain, with minimum recovery. Some people manage to shelter themselves through out their lives from various sources of damage (hard physical labor, stress, diseases etc.), and live longer than the average individual. Dr. de Grey sees a time when people will go to regular maintenance checks, in which their cellular and molecular damage would be then treated through various means, like gene therapies, stem cell therapies, immune stimulation and a range of other advanced medical techniques to keep them in good shape.

“The idea is to engage in what you might call preventative geriatrics, where you go in to periodically repair that molecular and cellular damage before it gets to the level of abundance that is pathogenic,” he explained.

Part of the technology necessary to employ these sorts of longevity treatments are already existing, like stem cells treatment which is used for spinal cord injuries, as well as brain and heart related medical issues. Some, though, like heart-related failures are still extremely complicated to solve, and de Grey says there is a long way to go on these though researchers have figured out the path to follow.

The most common heart failure causing diseases surface as a result of byproducts of the body’s metabolic processes which our bodies are not able to break down or excrete. Scientists are now trying to identify enzymes that handle this process of cleansing in other species, and though gene therapy to dramatically lower the risk of a patient having a heart attack or stroke.

“The garbage accumulates inside the cell, and eventually it gets in the way of the cell’s workings,” he said.
“If we could do that in the case of certain modified forms of cholesterol which accumulate in cells of the artery wall, then we simply would not get cardiovascular disease,” de Gray went on.

It’s not about making the world of the future a viable place for the elderly zombies or vegetables. One could imagine a 150 year old man to be no more than some skin hanging on to a skeleton. Dr. de Gray argues that this kind of point isn’t on par with the idea of longevity – that of expanding one’s life span, while improving the health directly proportionally.

“This is absolutely not a matter of keeping people alive in a bad state of health,” he told Reuters. “This is about preventing people from getting sick as a result of old age. The particular therapies that we are working on will only deliver long life as a side effect of delivering better health.”

Dr. de Grey’s prospects sound terribly exiting and frightning at the same time, but his credibility has been challenged in recent past years, formally by a group of nine leading scientists who dismissed his work as “pseudo science.” In response, the MIT Technology Review journal which saw de Grey’s work as forward-thinking and based on ideas yet-to-be-tested by interesting enough for other scientists to follow, offered $20,000 in 2005 for any molecular biologist who showed that de Grey’s SENS theory was “so wrong that it was unworthy of learned debate”. The prize money has never been won to this date.

De Grey’s has been relunctant to give any precise predictions on how long people would be able to live in the future, but what’s very sure about is that in the future as technology and science advance we buy ourselves even more time.

“I call it longevity escape velocity — where we have a sufficiently comprehensive panel of therapies to enable us to push back the ill health of old age faster than time is passing. And that way, we buy ourselves enough time to develop more therapies further as time goes on,” he said.

“What we can actually predict in terms of how long people will live is absolutely nothing, because it will be determined by the risk of death from other causes like accidents,” he said.

“But there really shouldn’t be any limit imposed by how long ago you were born. The whole point of maintenance is that it works indefinitely.”

First trial of embryonic stem cells in humans

In was is a historic day, US doctors have officially begun the first trial of using human embryonic stem cells, as a result of the green light they got from regulators. The controversial method has been on the table for quite a while, and now The Food and Drug Administration has given a license to Geron to use stem cells to treat people with spinal injuries. These cells have the potential of becoming virtually any cell needed, including nerve cells.

Geron, the corporation who will lead this pivotal research is based in “silicon valley”, has spent 170 million dollars to develop a treatment for spinal cord injuries and reported that after the stem cell treatment, paralyzed rats regained some of their movement. However, it is still not yet clear how well people will respond to this kind of treatment; researchers are optimistic and they have already started human trials.

“When we started working with human embryonic stem cells in 1999, many predicted that it would be a number of decades before a cell therapy would be approved for human clinical trials. This accomplishment results from extensive research and development and a succession of inventive steps.”

And a great accomplishment it is ! Hopefully, this will be just the first step, and stem cells will be applied in other sorts of clinical trials too, because the huge potential they have cannot be neglected. Still, it will take some time to see results.

Professor Sir Ian Wilmut, director of the Medical Research Council Centre for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Edinburgh, said:

“This is very exciting news, however, it is very important to appreciate that the objective of trials at this stage is to confirm first of all that no harm is done to patients, rather than to look for benefits. Once that has been confirmed then the focus moves on to development and assessment of the new treatment.”

“This is indeed a significant milestone in our journey towards the promise of stem cell-based medicines. The global stem cell and regenerative medicine community will be awaiting the results of this safety trial with much anticipation.”, added Ben Sykes, executive director of the UK National Stem Cell Network