Congresswoman Diana DeGette (CO-01) today hailed the approval of the second human treatment trial using human embryonic stem cells. The test, just approved by the FDA, will be conducted by Advanced Cell Technology (ACT) and will focus on Stargardt's disease. Medical professionals believe a successful human trial will open the doors to the treatment of other, more common eye diseases such as macular degeneration. DeGette has been the leading Congressional advocate for federal funding of ethical embryonic stem cell research, as these investments drive breakthrough trials like the one announced this week.
"Embryonic stem cell research holds enormous promise for countless diseases," said DeGette, "and the approval of this test is yet another step towards the breakthroughs it can bring for millions of Americans. I am excited to see the results of this, and other trials, and encourage my colleagues to recognize the enormous benefits of ethical embryonic stem cell research."
Stargardt's disease affects central vision -- e.g., reading and facial recognition -- and can cause its victims to lose peripheral vision, only be able to see various levels of light, or ultimately go blind. This test will treat Stargardt's patients with healthy cells, created from embryonic stem cells, to replace the "scavenger cells" that deteriorate their vision.
The test is the second trial using embryonic stem cells to be approved in the United States. Last month, the Geron Corporation was permitted to conduct a trial involving embryonic stem cells to treat spinal cord injuries. Preliminary testing is still ongoing in that trial. Like the Geron trial, this latest trial will focus primarily on the safety and viability of embryonic stem cell use in the treatment of this condition. The Stargardt's trial will likely start early next year and 12 subjects will be treated.
"The approval of these two tests in such close order demonstrates how the investment by the federal government in ethical stem cell research is beginning to bear fruit for the millions of Americans facing debilitating diseases and conditions," said DeGette. "The breakthroughs of these discoveries underscore the critical importance of finally codifying ethical stem cell research regulations, so our scientists and their critical work can no longer be subject to political whims."