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Scientists Find Way to Fast-Track Production of Stem Cells that Show Promise in Treating AMD
Date:4/18/2013

Durham, NC (PRWEB) April 18, 2013

Controlling the differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells is the goal of many laboratories, both to study normal human development and to generate cells for transplantation in treating various diseases and conditions. RPE (retinal pigmented epithelial) is one important cell type under investigation as it protects and nourishes the photoreceptors and is vital in maintaining healthy eyesight.

In fact, the dysfunction and death of RPE is thought to be behind the leading cause of blindness in the Western world — age related macular degeneration.

Transplantation of RPE cells into the retina to treat AMD has been demonstrated in animals and is now being tested in clinical trials in humans. However, protocols to generate RPE from human pluripotent stem cells are time consuming and relatively inefficient. But a team of scientists at the University of California, Santa Barbara, reports in the latest issue of STEM CELLS Translational Medicine that it has found a way to isolate RPE cells as early as 14 days following the onset of differentiation.

"RPE cells are required for visual function and are a reasonable candidate for use in cellular therapy to treat macular degeneration. This study shows that it is now possible to produce homogeneous cultures in a shorter period of time," said James Thomson, a Wisconsin-based researcher who was the first to isolate human embryonic stem cells, commenting on the study.

The UCSB research team was led by Dennis Clegg, Ph.D., Peter Coffey, Ph.D., and David Buchholz, Ph.D. They based their study on earlier reports that neural retinal progenitors could be generated through the application of a handful of regulatory proteins, known as factors, that stimulate cell growth and function.

“As RPE and the neural retina arise from a common progenitor pool, we sought to determine whether this protocol could be altered to di
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