|Diagram to show how embryonic stem cells are differentiated|
Human stem cells were first isolated in 1998, and since that time researchers have been investigating how these special embryonic cells can be used to treat a variety of illnesses.
Recently scientists have seen encouraging results with a group of 18 patients who were followed for a median time of 22 months, and two for over three years.
“This is a promising study, and it provides a lot of hope for regenerative medicine,” said Dr. Steven D. Schwartz, a retina specialist at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the lead author of the paper. “However, there’s a lot of work to be done.”The study followed patients who were the recipients of Advanced Cell Technology, which changes embryonic stem cells into retinal pigment epithelium cells, which are the supporting cells for the light-sensing cells of the eye.
In eight of the 18 eyes that were treated, vision improved considerably. That is compared to no improvement at all in the untreated eyes.