The CBS Evening News (1/23, story 6, 3:00, Pelley) reported, “There is a new treatment for the leading cause of blindness in older people. The treatment uses embryonic stem cells and a study says that it shows promising results.”
The Washington Post (1/24, Stein, Brown) reports that the treatment has “apparently” restored “some vision for at least one and possibly two women losing their sight to incurable forms of progressive blindness.” Being that “the women were the first to volunteer for an experiment designed primarily to test the safety of injecting an embryonic stem cell therapy into people, scientists are being cautious.”
The Los Angeles Times (1/24, Kaplan) “Booster Shots” blog reports that “the patients — one with dry age-related macular degeneration and the other with a pediatric version of the disease called Stargardt’s macular dystrophy — were treated at UCLA over the summer. The therapy was developed by Advanced Cell Technology Inc., and the company funded the study.”
USA Today (1/24, Vergano) reports that “surgeons…injected 50,000 cells each into one eye of” the “two women.” The researchers found that, “four months after the injections, neither study patient had lost vision, as usually happens in progressive blindness, or showed signs of abnormal growth in their eyes, quelling fears associated with the cells that they could give rise to tumors.” The “patient with Stargardt’s macular dystrophy…saw demonstrably improved vision, while the other patient’s improvement looked more ambiguous.”
However, the Time (1/24, Szalavitz) “Heathland” blog reports that “experts said the improvement of the macular degeneration patient might be mostly psychological, because the vision in her untreated eye appeared to get better too.”
The New York Times (1/24, B7, Pollack, Subscription Publication) reports, “The paper,” published in the Lancet, “comes two months after the Geron Corporation cast a pall over the field by abruptly halting the world’s first clinical trial based on embryonic stem cells – one aimed at treating spinal cord injury. Geron, which has not published results from the aborted trial, also said it would abandon the entire stem cell field.” However, “the results reported Monday could help lift some of that pall.”
CNN (1/24, Cohen) notes that the patients “had to take anti-rejection drugs for a short period so their eyes wouldn’t reject the foreign tissue.”
The Boston Globe (1/24, Conaboy) reports, “The patients were the first in trials that will study the use of the cells in 24 people. The researchers injected the first patient in a separate trial in Europe on Friday.”
Bloomberg News (1/24, Frier) reports that “both patients have requested treatment in their other eye,” according to Advanced Cell Chief Scientific Officer Robert Lanza.
According to MedPage Today (1/24, Smith), the researchers “reported that controlled differentiation of the cells resulted in a culture of retinal pigment epithelium cells that was 99% pure and, in animals, injection of the retinal cells was not associated with tumor formation or with any other safety issues.” Also covering the story are the Wall Street Journal (1/24, Hobson) “Health Blog,” the UK’s DailyMail (1/24, Hope), BBC News (1/24, Roberts), the UK’s Press Association (1/24), the National Journal (1/24, Fox, Subscription Publication), Reuters (1/24, Begley), the Financial Times (1/24, Cookson, Subscription Publication), WebMD (1/24, DeNoon), and HealthDay (1/24, Preidt).