Stem cells were recently used successfully in clinical trials in Japan and the United States to treat patients with Age-related Macular Degeneration and Stargardt's Macular Dystrophy. Scientists used stem cells to grow retinal cells, which they then transplanted into the eyes of patients. The majority of patients responded well to the treatment and showed improvement in visual function for both diseases.
Scientists in Paris recently engineered a heart patch out of stem cells for a patient who had suffered from a heart attack and was in severe heart failure. They then transplanted the patch onto the heart of the patient during a bypass surgery. Within 3 months, the patient demonstrated improved heart function and even could walk 50% further during a walking test.
An ongoing clinical trial in Australia is enrolling patients and testing injections of stem cell-derived neural cells to repair and regenerate the brain of Parkinson's patients. So far, animal studies, including those done with monkeys, have shown that these injections are safe, improve mental function, and can even regenerate lost brain tissue.
Type 1 Diabetes
An ongoing clinical trial in San Diego is using stem cell-derived pancreas cells to replace β-islet cells in patients with type 1 diabetes. The cells are transplanted with a proprietary device that allows the cells to mature into β-islet cells that can produce insulin and other supporting cells. The device will protect the transplanted cells from destruction by the patient's immune system.
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