By Anne L. Coleman, MD, PhD; Steven D. Schwartz, MD
    AAO 2014
    Comprehensive Ophthalmology, Retina/Vitreous

    In this interview from AAO 2014, Dr. Steven Schwartz shares the first evidence that treatment with transplanted stem cells is both safe and beneficial in patients with macular atrophy. In a study published this week, Dr. Schwartz and colleagues assessed the effects of subretinal transplantation of retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) derived from human embryonic stem cells (hESC) in 9 patients with Stargardt macular dystrophy and 9 with atrophic age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The investigators found no evidence of serious ocular or systemic safety issues or rejection. Also promising, 8 of 18 patients experienced improved visual acuity of at least 15 letters within the first year after surgery. Dr. Schwartz believes these results suggest that hESC-derived cells could provide a new, safe treatment of tissue degeneration caused by any disease.