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Successful Stem Cell Therapy for Treatment of Eye Disease

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NEWCASTLE, United Kingdom, Dec. 10 /PRNewswire/ -- Newly published research, by investigators, at the North East England Stem Cell Institute (NESCI) in the journal STEM CELLS reported the first successful treatment of eight patients with "Limbal Stem Cell Deficiency" (LSCD) using the patients' own stem cells without the need of suppressing their immunity.

LSCD is a painful, blinding disease that requires long-term, costly treatment with frequent clinic visits and intensive hospital admissions. The vision loss due to LSCD makes this disease not only costly, but often requires social support due to the enormous impact on patients' quality of life. This is further magnified by the fact that LSCD mostly affects young patients.

Dr. Francisco Figueiredo, a member of the NESCI team, said, "Corneal cloudiness has been estimated to cause blindness in 8 million people (10% of total blindness) worldwide each year. A large number of ocular surface diseases, both acquired and congenital, share features of partial or complete LSCD." Chemical burns to the eye are the most common cause of LSCD.

Professor Lako said: "This study demonstrates that transplantation of cultured corneal stem cells without the use of animal cells or products is a safe and effective method of reconstructing the corneal surface and restoring useful sight in patients with unilateral LSCD.

"This research shows promise to help hundreds of people regain their sight. These exciting results offer a new treatment and hope for people with LSCD."

Professor Michael Whitaker FMedSci, Co-Director of NESCI, which is a collaboration between Durham and Newcastle Universities, Newcastle NHS Foundation Trust and other partners, said: "Stem cells from bone marrow have been used successfully for many years to treat cancer and immune disease, but this is the first successful stem cell therapy using stem cells from the eye without animal products to treat disease, an important step towards the clinic. Because the early results look so promising, we are thinking hard now about how to bring this treatment rapidly into the clinic as we complete the necessary clinical trials, so that the treatment can be shared with all patients that might benefit."

"The Newcastle team has obtained some very impressive results in patients following stem cell transplants to repair the surface of the cornea. It is hugely exciting to see that a type of stem cell therapy can now be applied routinely to treat a form of blindness," said Professor Robin Ali, FMedSci, Department of Genetics, UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, London. "These results also provide us with further encouragement to develop stem cell therapies to repair the retina in order to treat conditions such as age related macular degeneration."

A larger study involving 24 new patients is currently underway with funding from the UK's Medical Research Council.

This paper is published in STEM CELLS. Media wishing to request a copy should contact Ben Norman on Lifesciencenews@wiley.com or +44 (0) 1243 770 375

Full Citation: Kolli S, Ahmad S, Lako M, Figueiredo F, "Successful clinical implementation of corneal epithelial stem cell therapy for treatment of unilateral limbal stem cell deficiency", STEM CELLS, 2009, DOI: 10.1002/stem.276

About the Author: The first equal co-authors of this paper are Dr. S. Kolli, PhD, M.D., and Dr. S, Ahmad PhD, MB BS, who performed this work in the laboratory of Dr. Lako, PhD. The two corresponding authors are Dr. Lako and Dr. Figueiredo based at the North East England Stem Cell Institute, at Newcastle University. Their research focuses on treatment of corneal and retinal disease using stem cells.

'The North East England Stem Cell Institute (NESCI) draws together Durham and Newcastle Universities, the Newcastle-upon-Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and other partners in a unique interdisciplinary collaboration to convert stem cell research and technologies into cost-effective, ethically-robust 21st century health solutions to ameliorate degenerative diseases, the effects of ageing and serious injury. The Institute has received substantial funding and other support from the Regional Development Agency, One NorthEast and is partly based at the International Centre for Life in Newcastle.'

Media wishing to contact Dr. Lako and Dr. Figueiredo should do so via the Press Office at Newcastle University: press.office@ncl.ac.uk, +44 (0) 191 222 6972

About STEM CELLS: STEM CELLS, a peer reviewed journal published monthly, provides a forum for prompt publication of original investigative papers and concise reviews. The journal covers all aspects of stem cells: embryonic stem cells/induced pluripotent stem cells; tissue-specific stem cells; cancer stem cells; the stem cell niche; stem cell epigenetics, genomics and proteomics; and translational and clinical research. For more information, please visit: http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/121607285/grouphome/home.html

STEM CELLS is co-published by AlphaMed Press and Wiley-Blackwell.

About AlphaMed Press: Established in 1983, AlphaMed Press with offices in Durham, NC and Craigavon, United Kingdom publishes two internationally renowned peer-reviewed journals: STEM CELLS®, now in its 27th year, is the world's first journal devoted to this fast paced field of research. The Oncologist® (www.TheOncologist.com), also a monthly peer-reviewed publication, is in its 14th year and is devoted to community and hospital-based oncologists and physicians entrusted with cancer patient care. Both journals are premier periodicals with globally recognized editorial boards dedicated to advancing knowledge and education in their focused disciplines. AlphaMed Press publishes the Stem Cells Portal online (www.StemCellsPortal.com), as well as freestanding monographs and books, and is renowned for its excellence and speed in the publication of the peer-reviewed proceedings of major international symposia. For more information on AlphaMed Press, please visit www.alphamedpress.org.

About Wiley-Blackwell: Wiley-Blackwell is the international scientific, technical, medical and scholarly publishing business of John Wiley & Sons, with strengths in every major academic and professional field and partnerships with many of the world's leading societies. Wiley-Blackwell publishes over 1,500 peer-reviewed journals as well as 1,500+ new books annually in print and online, as well as databases, major reference works and laboratory protocols. For more information, please visit www.wileyblackwell.com or www.interscience.wiley.com.

Contact:
Majlinda Lako
Majlinda.Lako@ncl.ac.uk

AND

Francisco C. Figueiredo
f.c.figueiredo@ncl.ac.uk