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Embryonic Stem Cell Retinal Implants Seem Safe, So Far 91

An anonymous reader writes "A biotechnology company said Monday that results from the world's first human trial using embryonic stem cells to treat eye diseases suggested that the new procedure appears to be safe four months after the cells were injected into the eyes of two blind patients. The study also describes visual improvements in patients, and experts said the findings hold promise for treating blindness in patients with currently incurable conditions like age-related macular degeneration in older patients and Stargardt's Disease, a main cause of blindness in young people."
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Embryonic Stem Cell Retinal Implants Seem Safe, So Far

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  • by ByOhTek ( 1181381 ) on Tuesday January 24, 2012 @01:46PM (#38807831) Journal

    The eye is a very complex organ though, so we would be behind. I'm glad to see progress, but even so, 4 months is a little short-term to say "no bad health effects". Given the cells are embryonic stem cells, I'm more concerned with the 10-20 year range.

    I have one of the issues listed, and I seriously hope that they can do something about it, I'd prefer a biological rather than mechanical solution, however, four months is not a lot of time, especially when you are messing with something as important as the sense of sight.

  • by Samantha Wright ( 1324923 ) on Tuesday January 24, 2012 @02:00PM (#38808015) Homepage Journal

    While sight certainly is important, these kinds of treatments are so new that we can't really predict how long we'll actually have to watch before we really know for sure. It could be the case that in another week the new retinal tissue is chemically indistinguishable from what should have been there, or they might already be—that is, after all, the point of this trial, which is really more of an experiment.

    Suppositionally, though: given how the vision system develops in human infants, though, I would actually say that three years is probably enough time to be sure one of these treatments was a complete success. When people experience 5-10 year life spans after heart transplants, that's generally because of ancillary factors (replacement heart quality, vessels elsewhere in the body weakened by the same thing that led to the first heart giving out...) and not really the fault of the surgery (well, unless the weak spot is the point of fusion on the vessels.) Rejection happens pretty quick by comparison.

"I prefer the blunted cudgels of the followers of the Serpent God." -- Sean Doran the Younger