Potential New Treatment Approach for Age-related Macular Degeneration

MAY 04, 2016
Ellen Kurek
Results of proof-of-concept studies of a stem-cell patch designed to protect age-related macular degeneration (AMD) patients from vision loss were reported by the National Eye Institute’s Kapil Bharti, PhD, at the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) Annual Meeting in Seattle, WA, on May 4, 2016. An abstract on the patch was also published in the ARVO proceedings.
Advanced AMD, one of the leading causes of blindness in elderly patients, is initiated by the atrophy of a monolayer of cells in the back of the eye. These cells are known as retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells. Researchers have reasoned that replacing RPE cells in AMD patients could protect the light-activated signal-transmitting photoreceptor neurons that overlie them from dying and thereby preserve vision. This reasoning is driving the development of a number of stem-cell-based approaches to RPE replacement that include the NEI patch.
The patch, which has been tested in pigs, contains RPE cells that have differentiated from the induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) of three AMD patients. To form the patch, these autologous RPE cells are attached to a scaffold made of a biocompatible, biodegradable polymer, poly (lactic co-glycolic) acid (PLGA). About 70,000 to 80,000 cells are needed for a 4 x 2 mm patch, and the scaffold the cells are attached to lasts about 10-12 weeks after implantation.

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