Europe's first embryonic stem cell trial confirmed

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The first clinical embryonic stem cell trial in Europe will take place in Moorfields Eye hospital in London, the BBC reported today. Doctors will injec...

The first clinical embryonic stem cell trial in Europe will take place in Moorfields Eye hospital in London, the BBC reported today.

Doctors will inject retinal cells into the eyes of 12 patients with Stargardt’s macular dystrophy, an incurable disease that eventually leads to sight loss.

The stem cell line to be utilised was created in the United States from a donated embryo a few years ago. The embryo contained only a few cells and had grown no larger than the size of a pinhead.

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The trial will be carried out in partnership with American bio-tech firm Advanced Cell Technology (ACT), which already uses embryonic stem cell therapy to treat patients in California.

Another American firm, Geron, uses stem cells to treat sufferers of spinal injuries.

At the moment, all trials – both those carried out in the United States and the upcoming Moorfields Eye hospital trial – are conducted to test the safety of using replacement retinal cells, a vital first step before tests for effectiveness can be introduced.

Professor Chris Mason, Chair of Regenerative Medicine Bioprocessing, Advanced Centre for Biochemical Engineering, University College London, commented: "Whilst principally a safety study, it will undoubted significantly add to the growing core of knowledge on cell therapies, thus helping advance the entire field."

Embryonic stem cell therapy attracts criticism from some circles for the destruction of human embryos. Supporters note that the process may be used to treat other serious conditions, including cancer and heart disease.  

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