For quite some time now, researchers are continually unraveling the mysteries behind stem cells. We know, for a fact, that they have the ability to regenerate into millions of copies through a process known as self-renewal and they also have the ability to turn into whatever cell that is present in the body.
A couple of therapeutic firms are doing their research on using stem cells in the treatment and therapy of people with macular degeneration. Although initial findings look promising, it would still require a lot of time before it can be used in a practice sense (in other words, in the real world).
Most studies about stem cells as it relates to regenerative medicine are turned towards the eye among the many different tissues and organs in our bodies. The reason is that the eye is a relatively small organ, which means that it is an ideal candidate for stem cell research.
Because of its size, you only need to infuse a few cells and it becomes quite effective already. Also, the eye is not necessarily a beacon for your immune system which means that your immune response will not hinder research progress, especially if researchers are going to use allogeneic stem cell transplants.
The eye, among the many different organs in our bodies, is easily quantifiable and any change or incremental improvements are apparent and may provide a huge benefit in the name of science and research.
It is also a matter of practicality. When researchers want to track the transplanted stem cells, all they have to do is to utilize non-invasive techniques such as optical coherence tomography, for example.
OCT, you could say, is just like using an ultrasound imaging technology that provides histological details on a micro level.
Lastly, the eye is the perfect candidate for stem cell therapy research because it is relatively safe to experiment on it.
For example, if you were to transplant stem cells in the organ and if something happens, the researchers could easily do something about it as opposed to transplanting it into the person’s body.
As researchers are moving into clinical trials, there is a growing concern that should not be overlooked: safety.
Geron was the first company to get FDA approval on the use of human embryonic stem cell-based therapeutic into clinical trials. They’ve also submitted a massive 22,000-page IND application to the bureau, which is reported to be the biggest ever in FDA history.
The second company to get approval was ACT. Before they got the approval to use hESCs based therapy for the treatment of macular degeneration, they’ve presented their paper and findings that the use of such technology would not lead to tumor formation, especially when transplanting induced RPE cells.
The Food and Drug Administration only hands out the approval of therapeutics if it is deemed to be completely safe. In other words, you are not cleared for clinical trials if you are not able to prove that the procedure is entirely safe.