Blind World Magazine

Retinal Degeneration.
Implant may fight RP.

January 25, 2006. - Cape Town,South Africa.

Encapsulating cell technology is showing promising results in early trials and may lead to new treatments for retinitis pigmentosa and macular degeneration, according to a press release from Retina SA.

Researchers have been investigating the ameliorating effect of growth factors on the progression of retinal diseases for many years as a short-term way of slowing the progression of the disease.

One of the greatest stumbling blocks has been the problem of delivering these factors to the eye and specifically to the retina.

Barriers keep out good and bad

The blood retinal barriers protect the eye allowing only the required nutrients through to the eye.

While protecting the eye from bad chemicals, it also bars any therapeutic drugs from reaching the eye.

Implant releases growth factor

Eye drops are a very ineffective way of getting past this barrier and this led researchers on a quest to devise a more efficient drug delivery system. Enter the Encapsulated Cell, a miniature polymer device that is implanted into the eye and releases a constant dosage of the growth factor.

Successful results of a Phase I study of the Encapsulated Cell Technology trial have just been released.

In this study 10 patients with late stage RP had the device implanted and only removed after six months.

"This little device is hung by a little hook inside the eye out of the path of vision and it constantly releases CNTF, because these engineered cells are making it," said Dr Caruso one of the researchers involved in the trial.

Although the study was only meant to test for the safety of the device, on testing most patients actually had a small improvement in vision as well.

Further studies will follow

Claudette Medefindt Director for Science of Retina South Africa welcomed the news. "This study represents the first use of ECT in human eyes and as the devices were safe and well-tolerated, we know that stage II and III trials will follow shortly. We are eagerly awaiting the results of these further studies, which will help understand the role that CNTF and other growth factors will play in treating patients with retinitis pigmentosa and other retinal degenerative conditions. " (Health24)

Source URL:,34447.asp.

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