News & Media

September 28, 2015

A clinical trial using stem cell-derived ocular cells for the treatment of wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) has been initiated in England. This was a major milestone for the London Project to Cure Blindness, which aims to cure vision loss in people with wet AMD. The organization was founded 10 years ago by UC Santa Barbara’s Peter Coffey, a professor at the campus’s Neuroscience Research Institute. “Cellular therapy has tremendous potential for treating all types of age-related macular degeneration,” said Coffey’s colleague Dennis Clegg, the Wilcox Family Chair in BioMedicine in UCSB’s Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology. “Regenerative medicine using stem cells will likely become a major weapon to fight many diseases.” 

The surgery was performed on a patient last month and no complications have arisen to date. The team hopes to determine the patient’s outcome in terms of initial visual recovery by early December.

September 21, 2015

Researchers from UC Santa Barbara, the University of Wisonsin-Madison and the Morgridge Institute for Research in Madison have developed a screening system for predicting developmental neurotoxicity — damage caused to nervous tissue by toxic substances — using stem cells to model features of the developing human brain. The findings appear today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. One possible use in the application of the research involves reducing the number of drug failures in clinical trials and offering a cost-effective approach for assessing chemical safety.

August 27, 2015

Genes that express in precisely timed patterns, known as oscillatory genes, play an essential role in development functions like cell division, circadian rhythms and limb formation. But without a time-lapse view of genetic expression, these genes have gone largely undiscovered.

An algorithm developed by Co-Director James Thomson and colleagues is giving scientists a new way to identify the dynamics of oscillatory genes, and perhaps defining the roles of these early-development forces for the first time.

A paper published in this week’s online edition of Nature Methods describes this new statistical approach, called “Oscope,” which helps identify oscillating genes in single-cell RNA-sequencing experiments. The key to Oscope is examining cells from an unsynchronized population, where the cells are in different developmental states.

August 27, 2015

Center Co-director Clegg and colleagues contributed to a study that showed different levels of immune rejection of cells derived from human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) in mice with a humanized immune system. Whereas autologous iPSC-smooth muscle cells were very immunogenic, retinal pigmented epithelial (RPE) cells were immune tolerated even when transplanted into locations outside the eye. The work provides hope for the development of human stem cell therapies to treat macular degeneration, a major cause of blindness and visual impairment in older adults. An estimated 30 million to 50 million people worldwide are affected by the degenerative medical condition. iPSC-RPE are being developed for therapies by the Clegg lab in work funded by the Foundation Fighting Blindness.

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: