UCLA researchers received $5 million to further research on stem-cell based therapies for eye conditions that result in blindness.
The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine awarded the grant to researchers in the UCLA Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research and the Stein Eye Institute, who have been working to develop a treatment that will generate retinal cells typically lost in blinding eye diseases using stem cells derived from patients’ own skin cells, a university press release announced Thursday. The researchers will use the grant to submit an investigational new drug application to the Food and Drug Administration, which will be the next step toward testing the treatment on human patients in clinical trials.
Retinal diseases that affect the center of vision are the biggest cause of blindness in developed countries and are associated with the deterioration of retinal cells that maintain the photoreceptors essential to vision.
One advantage of this new treatment is that the new retinal cells can be transplanted in a minimally invasive surgery, which reduces the risk of the procedure and allows patients to recover more quickly.
The research team is led by Steven Schwartz, an ophthalmologist at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, and includes faculty from the David Geffen School of Medicine and the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics. It also includes all members of the UCLA Broad Stem Cell Research Center.