Cellular Dynamics International (CDI), a Madison, Wisconsin-based company, has been award a $1.2 million contract from the National Eye Institute to engineer stem cells acquired ethically for potential treatment of macular degeneration.
The Eye Institute, which is part of the National Institutes of Health, will send blood and tissue to CDI from 10 patients who have macular degeneration. According to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story, “… CDI will convert the blood or tissue into stem cells, then program them to become new retinal cells of the type damaged in macular degeneration.” This contract represents CDI’s first venture into making cells for therapeutic use.
“Scientists at the company will, in essence, rewind the cells to create the equivalent of embryonic stem cells. They will then nudge the cells forward in the developmental process to become retinal pigment epithelial cells…The tissue will be transplanted to the back of the eye behind the retina,” according to the article.
Because a patient’s own cells will be programmed, the risk of rejection will be significantly reduced. The process will take several years to be accomplished.
This type of therapeutic use of stem cells using ethical means is exactly what was envisioned when scientists in Madison and Japan discovered the iPS cells in 2007. It is a science that can be embraced by everyone since no one has to die for the cells to be acquired.