From the October 19, 2006 “Stem Cell Express,” early online publication of Stem Cells is more news about possible future use of umbilical cord cells for treatment of eye disease. Human stem cells from the umbilical cord and the placenta, mesenchymal stem cells, and skin fibroblasts were transplanted into,
. . . the subretinal space of the Royal College of Surgeons rat early in the progress of degeneration. Umbilical tissue-derived cells, placenta-derived cells, and mesenchymal stem cells were studied; dermal fibroblasts served as cell controls. At various ages up to 100 days, electroretinogram responses, spatial acuity and luminance threshold were measured. Both umbilical-derived and mesenchymal cells significantly reduced the degree of functional deterioration in each test. The effect of placental cells was little better than controls. Umbilical tissue-derived cells gave large areas of photoreceptor rescue; mesenchymal stem cells gave only localized rescue. Fibroblasts gave sham levels of rescue. Donor cells were confined to the subretinal space. There was no evidence of cell differentiation into neurons, of tumor formation or other untoward pathology. Since the umbilical tissue-derived cells demonstrated the best photoreceptor rescue and unlike mesenchymal stem cells were capable of sustained population doublings without karyotypic changes, it is proposed that they may provide utility as a cell source for the treatment of retinal degenerative diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa.(emphasis is mine)
Besides the significant hope that the research holds for those who are going blind from retinal degenerative disease, I noticed some other points about the report.
First, the report was received in May, 2006 and accepted October 13, 2006 and is included in the next issue. The time line seems very fast for peer-reviewed journals, but I encouraged by the trend to publish online in advance of the “dead tree” printings and hope that we will see more rapid dissemination of cutting edge research. I do wonder whether the widely publicized research by Lanza’s Advanced Cell Technology influenced the timeline, however. Unfortunately, this report did not receive the same media attention given to Lanza’s embryonic stem cell research on macular degeneration.