Science  22 Jun 2012:
Vol. 336, Issue 6088, pp. 1488

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  1. Stem Cell Hope for Vision, Brain

    Bone marrow transplants have been used for decades, but research presented last week in Yokohama, Japan, at the annual meeting of the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) confirmed that scientists are making progress at developing more innovative stem cell therapies.


    A research team from the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe presented animal studies indicating that stem cells created from a person's own cells could be turned into retinal cells that treat a form of age-related macular degeneration. And StemCells Inc. of Newark, California, reported encouraging results from transplants of human neural stems into four infants with Pelizaeus-Merzbacher disease (PMD), a progressive and fatal disorder in which a genetic mutation inhibits the normal growth of myelin, a protective material that envelopes nerve fibers in the brain.

    In the clinical trial conducted by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, magnetic resonance imaging taken 18 months after the transplants indicated the formation of new myelin around axons, and clinical observations of treated infants indicated that their motor functions remained stable or enjoyed modest gains. The company is planning larger trials; an official says that if the therapy proves efficacious, it could lead to treatments for multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, and Alzheimer's disease.