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    Bone marrow cells show promise in degenerative, ischemic retinal diseases

    Pilot study suggests a role for autologous intravitreal CD34+ cells

    Take-home message: The safety and feasibility of intravitreal autologous CD34+ bone marrow cells as a potential therapy for retinal disease were evaluated in a pilot study. Preliminary findings demonstrated the treatment was feasible and researchers intend to pursue a larger, prospective study with longer follow-up.



    Sacramento, CAIntravitreal injection of autologous CD34+ stem cells from bone marrow may be both feasible and well tolerated in eyes with degenerative or ischemic retina diseases, said Susanna S. Park, MD, PhD.

    Such conditions included age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and Stargardt’s disease, said Dr. Park, professor, Department of Ophthalmology and Vision Science, University of California-Davis Eye Center, Sacramento.

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    In an initial exploratory study, Dr. Park and colleagues prospectively enrolled six subjects (6 eyes) who had irreversible vision loss from either retinal vascular occlusion, hereditary or nonexudative AMD, or retinitis pigmentosa in a pilot study to evaluate both the safety and feasibility of intravitreal autologous CD34+ bone marrow cells as a potential therapy.1

    As the authors noted in their paper, the potential for tissue regeneration using cellular therapy exists. Other groups had already developed partially differentiated retinal pigment epithelial cells derived from embryonic stem cells and inducible pluripotent stem cells, and early studies “suggest that these cells may slow progression of retinal degeneration when injected into the subretinal space.”1

    Human bone marrow may be a useful source of stem cells that can be transplanted to “kick start” tissue regeneration. Animal models indicated they could serve as a potential therapy for certain retinal conditions because of their propensity to induce local trophic effects, Dr. Park’s group said.

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    A subclass of these cells, CD34+ cells, are unique to humans and have been used safely to treat patients with blood disorders or coronary artery disease. In animal models of retinal ischemia or other types of damage, intravitreally injected CD34+ cells rapidly incorporated into the damaged tissue. These human cells could be detected in mouse retina as long as 6 months after injection and no associated safety issues were noted.

    These results led Dr. Park and colleagues to pursue the therapy as potential treatment for degenerative or ischemic retinal disorders.

    Next: Pilot study details

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