Stem Cell Agency Funded Therapy for Blinding Disease Treats First Patients

August 12, 2015

A clinical trial using stem cells to treat people who have lost their vision due to retinitis pigmentosa (RP) has treated its first four patients at UC Irvine. CIRM, California’s stem cell agency, is funding the FDA-approved trial, which is led by Dr. Henry Klassen of the Gavin Herbert Eye Institute in Irvine. Research by Steve Fisher, Geoff Lewis and colleagues in the UC Santa Barbara Center for Stem Cell Biology and Engineering in the Neuroscience Research Institute contributed to the pre-clinical work that led to this first ever stem cell trial for RP. The four patients are legally blind because of retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative disease that slowly destroys cells in the retina, the light sensitive area in the back of the eye that is essential for vision.

The patients were each given a single injection of retinal progenitor cells. It’s hoped these cells will help protect the photoreceptors in the retina that have not yet been damaged by RP, and even revive those that have been damaged but not yet destroyed by the disease.Worldwide almost 1.5 million people suffer from RP. It is the leading cause of inherited blindness in the developed world. There is no cure and no effective treatment. To learn more about the study or to enroll contact the UCLA-UCI Alpha Stem Cell Clinic at 949-824-3990 or by email at Or for more information go here: