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Stem Cell Therapy News

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Researchers in Germany have recently developed a “retina-on-a-chip” which combines living human cells with an artificial tissue-like system. The scientists describe their work as “merging organoid and organ-on-a-chip technology to generate complex multi-layer tissue models in a human Retina-on-a-Chip platform.” Ophthalmologic drugs largely rely on animal models, which often do not provide results that are translatable to human patients. In this study, researchers present the retina-on-a-chip (RoC), a novel microphysiological model of the human retina integrating more than seven different essential retinal cell-types derived from human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs).

What this means for Usher syndrome: this model can be used to test hundreds of drugs for harmful effects on the “human” retina very quickly and enables scientists to take stem cells from a specific patient and study both the disease and potential treatment in the individual’s own cells.

To develop biological approaches to restore vision, scientists developed a method of transplanting stem cell-derived retinal tissue into the retina of an animal model, a cat. Human embryonic stem cells were successfully grafted into the retina of cats. The researchers observed strong infiltration of immune cells into the graft and surrounding tissue in the cats treated with prednisolone alone. The cats treated with prednisolone plus cyclosporine A showed better survival and low immune response to the grafts. This work demonstrates the feasibility of engrafting human embryonic stem cell-derived retinal tissue into the retina of large-eye animal models. Transplanting retinal tissue in degenerating cat retina will enable rapid development of preclinical work focused on vision restoration.

What this means for Usher syndrome: This procedure may provide a platform for testing stem cell-based therapies to treat Usher syndrome patients.

ReNeuron Group plc has announced the latest updated positive preliminary results in the company’s ongoing phase 1 and 2a clinical trial of its human retinal progenitor cell (hRPC) therapy candidate in retinitis pigmentosa. All three subjects in the first group of phase 2a have demonstrated a sustained and further improvement in vision compared to their pre-treatment baseline.

What this means for Usher syndrome: This potential therapy could provide a means to restore lost vision in Usher syndrome patients.

Stem cells are cells that have the capability of becoming any type of cells in an organism and in the right environment. Researchers are trying to use stem cell therapy to replace lost photoreceptors and preserve residual photoreceptors during retinal degeneration. One of the problems is that the degenerative microenvironment that already exists in the diseased retina compromises the fate of grafted cells. The desired donor cells will need to have both proper regenerative capability and the ability to improve their own microenvironment. For this purpose, the authors of the present work used specific cell surface molecules that help to kill tumorigenic embryonic cells and at the same time enrich retinal progenitor cells. The retinal progenitors were obtained from embryonic stem cells derived from retinal organoids (three dimensional structures derived from pluripotent cells) that were grafted into retinal degeneration rat and mouse models. After three months post-treatment, those animals showed a 40% increase in healthy photoreceptor cells and a decrease in inflammatory molecules, demonstrating the importance of a healthier environment for the grafted cells.

What this means for Usher syndrome: These two features of the organoid systems, regenerative capability and generation of a healthier microenvironment, will, very likely, benefit Usher patients as an additional therapy to delay or prevent photoreceptor loss.

ReNeuron Group, a UK-based global leader in the development of cell-based therapeutics, announced positive preliminary results in the company’s ongoing Phase 1/2 clinical trial of its human retinal progenitor cells candidate therapy for the blindness-causing disease, retinitis pigmentosa (RP). All three subjects in the first group of the Phase 2 part of the trial demonstrated a significant improvement in vision at the follow-up compared to their pre-treatment baseline and compared with their untreated control eye.

What this means for Usher syndrome: A similar cell-based therapy tailored to Usher syndrome may help restore vision.

A new purple protein, bacteriorhodopsin, has made its way from a tiny laboratory in Farmington, Connecticut, all the way up to the International Space Station. Since bacteriorhodopsin is light-sensitive, researchers hope to implant it into human eyes. The thought is that the protein could be used to replace cells that die due to diseases like retinitis pigmentosa and age-related macular degeneration. To simulate the cells, the laboratory in Farmington needs to build what it is called “organic implants” by layering the bacteriorhodopsin onto a film and dipping it over and over into a series of solutions. These solutions need to have a uniform distribution that can be adversely affected by gravity. To test this, LambdaVision has secured a spot for their experiment aboard the International Space Station, using funding from the ISS National Lab and Boeing.

What this means for Usher syndrome: These “organic implants”, composed of bacteriorhodopsin, could be capable of replacing dying photoreceptors in the retina.

Researchers revealed that culturing human induced pluripotent stem cells with different isoforms of the extracellular component laminin led to the creation of cells specific to different parts of the eye, including retinal, corneal, and neural crest cells. They showed that the different laminin variants affected the cells' motility, density, and interactions, resulting in their differentiation into specific ocular cell lineages. Cells cultured in this way could be used to treat various ocular diseases.

What this means for Usher syndrome: There is the possibility of replacing the photoreceptor cells that are dying in the retina with pluripotent cells that have been grown and induced into healthy photoreceptor cells.

Since 1995, University of California, Irvine stem cell researcher Magdalene J. Seiler, PhD has pursued promising research into the development and usage of retinal sheet transplantation. The treatment is based on transplanting sheets of stem cell-derived retina, called retina organoids to the back of the eye with hopes of re-establishing the neural circuity within the eye. Recently, Seiler has received a $4.8 million grant from the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) to continue to develop a stem cell-based therapy for retinal diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa.

A group of research physicians have discovered that using stem cells from a person’s own bone marrow has reported success in improving vision for patients with Retinitis Pigmentosa. The bone marrow stem cells come from the same person; therefore, there can be no rejection. Of the 33 eyes studied, 45.5% of individual eyes improved and 45.5% remained stable over the follow-up period when they typically have been worsening. Vision improvement is 98.4% likely to be a consequence of this treatment.

A retinal implant allowed a 69 year old woman with macular degeneration to see more than double the usual number of letters on the vision chart. Luxturna, the gene therapy was approved by the FDA in 2017, corrects a mutation found in Leber congential amaurosis (LCA).

This story is designed to help you find an answer to the question: will a stem cell therapy work for me? To get an answer, Dr. Mary Sunderland of the Foundation Fighting Blindness Canada, suggests that you pay attention to three key points when you read new stories about stem cell discoveries or clinical trials...

A French biopharma company has announced their plans to carry out human trials of a new treatment that would insert genes from light-seeking algae into the eyes of patients with inherited blindness in order to help them regain sight. The treatment involves optogenetics, a technique that converts nerve cells into light sensitive cells.

jCyte, one of the leaders in developing cell-based therapies for RP, announces positive 12-month results from its Phase 1/2a clinical trial to treat retinitis pigmentosa with stem cells.

Encouraging signs this week that the FDA is serious when it granted Regenerative Medicine Advanced Therapy (RMAT) status to the CIRM-funded jCyte clinical trial for a rare form of blindness. This is a big deal because RMAT seeks to accelerate approval for stem cell therapies that demonstrate they can help patients with unmet medical needs.

Foundation Fighting Blindness Press Release (Columbia, MD) - A Cautionary Tale About the Need to Educate Patients and Advance Research to Produce Treatments with Proven Efficacy, Says Foundation Fighting Blindness

Chimeras are incredibly useful for understanding how animals grow and develop. They might one day be used to grow life-saving organs that can be transplanted into humans.

Foundation Fighting Blindness' deputy chief research officer, Dr. Brian Mansfield, explains how retinal researchers are working with induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC), a patient's own skin cells, to gain a better understanding of the RP caused by defects in the gene USH2A. This basic research provides critical information for developing future treatments.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison developed an innovative process to transform skin cells into retinal cells — cells that hold great promise for restoring vision.

ReNeuron, a stem cell development company in the United Kingdom, is planning to file for regulatory approval in late 2013 to launch a clinical trial of a stem cell treatment for people with retinitis pigmentosa

Researchers in Japan have discovered a way to coax mouse embryonic stem cells into forming an eyelike structure.

For only the second time, the Food and Drug Administration approved a company’s request to test an embryonic stem cell-based therapy on human patients. Advanced Cell Technology (ACT), based in Marlborough, Mass., will begin testing its retinal cell treatment this year in a dozen patients with Stargardt’s macular dystrophy, an inherited degenerative eye disease that leads to blindness in children.

A new stem cell therapy is now available to eye patients using subretinal placement of adult stem cells. Initial patients included an individual with Stargardts Disease and a patient with Age Related Macular Degeneration.

UC Irvine researchers have created a retina from human embryonic stem cells, the first time they've been used to create a three-dimensional tissue structure. The eight-layer, early stage retina could be the first step towards the development of transplant-ready retinas to treat eye disorders, such as retinitis pigmentosa and macular degeneration.

A research team funded by the Foundation Fighting Blindness has used cell transplantation to restore vision in a mouse model of Usher syndrome type 2A. . Never before has a cell-based treatment been used to save vision in an Usher syndrome study, in large part because no other Usher syndrome animal models have exhibited vision loss or retinal degeneration. The advancement is a critical step forward in developing a vision treatment for humans with the condition.

An international research team led by Columbia Univ. Medical Center successfully used mouse embryonic stem cells to replace diseased retinal cells and restore sight in a mouse model of retinitis pigmentosa.

The man had Limbal Stem Cell Deficiency, which is not genetic, but the technology may be applicable to Usher patients in the future.

The transplantation of stem cells that are capable of producing functional cell types might be a promising treatment for hearing impairment.

This handbook on stem cell therapies was published in 2008 but is still very relevant today.

According to Reuters, stem cells from tiny embryos can be used to restore lost hearing and vision in animals. This research holds promise for humans.