International Stem Cell has announced that data from an independent third party laboratory has confirmed that it has successfully created tissue compatible with a human cornea from embryonic stem cells.
ISCO has repeated the experiments using its stem cells derived from unfertilized human eggs, called parthenogenetic human embryonic stem cells (phESC or parthenote stem cells). The use of ISCO’s parthenote may also substantially reduce the likelihood of immune rejection in patients.
The laboratory report indicated “H&E cell staining shows the 10mm clear/white tissue sphere is compatible with corneal tissue. The structure consisted of several cell layers and structures normally found in a human cornea, but lacked others, such as a definite endothelial layer.”
The company announced in June 2007 that it was the first to deliberately create human parthenogenetic stem cell lines from non-fertilized eggs. This scientific breakthrough, which announced the creation of six human parthenote stem cell lines, was published in scientific peer review publication Cloning & Stem Cells Journal.
This announcement is part of ISCO’s effort to use its parthenote cells to create cell transplant therapies for diseases of the eye. It plans to further develop the corneal technology with a goal of routinely growing living human corneas in the laboratory for use in human corneal transplants.
“This development should also be well received in foreign markets where corneal transplants from cadaver donations are far less available than in the United States,” said Jeff Krstich, CEO of ISCO. “The cells may also be highly useful to pharmaceutical and cosmetic firms both in the US and internationally that are seeking an alternative to current practices of testing chemicals in the eyes of live animals.”
Although this initial discovery is promising, it is preliminary, according to Krstich. “More work and testing must be done before human clinical trials can begin. It is likely ISCO will seek out collaboration partners to expedite progress in this area.”
“What is amazing is that the stem cells began a process of change and self-assembly when subject to the right culture conditions, manipulations and spatial orientations, forming a beautiful clear spherical cornea like structure. Further work on cell differentiation and testing physical properties will be necessary,” said Jeffrey Janus, President and Director of Research at ISCO.
“This could be a less expensive and more efficient method to meet the overwhelming need for corneal tissue outside the US, where such living corneal constructs may be useful to cure forms of blindness,” Janus added.