Autologous iPS Cell Therapy for Macular Degeneration: From Bench-To-Bedside
Induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells are a promising source of personalized therapy. These cells can provide immune-compatible autologous replacement tissue for the treatment of potentially all degenerative diseases. We are preparing a phase I clinical trial using iPS cell derived ocular tissue to treat age-related macular degeneration (AMD), one of the leading blinding diseases in the US. AMD is caused by the progressive degeneration of retinal pigment epithelium (RPE), a monolayer tissue that maintains vision by maintaining photoreceptor function and survival. Combining developmental biology with tissue engineering we have developed clinical-grade iPS cell derived RPE-patch on a biodegradable scaffold. This patch performs key RPE functions like phagocytosis of photoreceptor outer segments, ability to transport water from apical to basal side, and the ability to secrete cytokines in a polarized fashion. We confirmed the safety and efficacy of this replacement patch in animal models as part of a Phase I Investigational New Drug (IND)-application. Approval of this IND application will lead to transplantation of autologous iPS cell derived RPE-patch in patients with the advanced stage of AMD. Success of NEI autologous cell therapy project will help leverage other iPS cell-based trials making personalized cell therapy a common medical practice.