24 September 2011

ESCs against blindness: clinical studies in Europe

In Europe, human embryonic stem cells have also begun to be tested on humansDmitry Tselikov, Compulenta

The American biotechnology company Advanced Cell Technology has announced the imminent start of the first medical experiment in Europe using human embryonic stem cells.

The tests will take place at the Moorfields Eye Hospital in London. 12 patients with Stargardt's disease (genetically determined macular degeneration of the retina, which is manifested by a bilateral decrease in visual acuity at the age of 10-20 years – VM) will take part in them. In the future, the study will be expanded to several more European institutions.

The corresponding permission was issued by the Agency for the Regulation of Medicines and Medical Devices and the advisory Committee on Gene Therapy of Great Britain.

In November last year, the company received the go-ahead for a similar study in the United States. In the summer, she began testing the method on patients with dry age-related macular degeneration. So far, only two Americans have been treated. It should be noted that all these projects are aimed mainly at checking the safety of the method. How well it works and whether it works at all will be found out later. "So far we are very happy with the results and are preparing the next two," says Robert Lanza, chief of Science at Advanced Cell Technology.

Meanwhile, another American company, Geron, is conducting the same tests, and is also trying to cure paralysis.

Many people believe that human embryonic stem cells, which are capable of turning into any cell of the body, have a huge regenerative potential for the treatment of many disorders, from spinal cord injuries and Parkinson's disease to blindness and diabetes. But the technology has raised objections from conservative and religious opponents who don't like that obtaining stem cells involves destroying a human embryo.

Former US President George W. Bush blocked government funding for research on embryonic human stem cells on new cell lines, using religious rhetoric. In 2009, the ban was lifted by the current President Barack Obama. A furious legal battle followed, and in July of this year, a US federal judge finally dismissed the lawsuit, which again blocked government funding for research. The US National Institutes of Health welcomed the move. In 2010, this organization allocated about $40 million for these purposes, and this year it has already allocated $125 million (a tiny part of the 31 billion budget of the institution).

In addition to religious considerations, there is an opinion that stem cell treatment can lead to cancer. Advanced Cell Technology reports that so far these concerns have not been confirmed.

Prepared based on the materials of France Press: Europe's first human embryonic stem cell trial approved.

Portal "Eternal youth" http://vechnayamolodost.ru24.09.2011

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