Biotechnology company International Stem Cell Corporation today announced that its Research and Therapeutic Development Group will team up with scientists from the University of California, Irvine to conduct a second phase of preclinical experiments on retinal pigment epithelium (RPE), (in layman’s terms, the colored cell layer of the retina), derived from parthenogenetic stem cells.

RPE is an integral part of proper eye function. The loss of function contributes to a variety of disabling eye conditions, including age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of vision loss in seniors.

ISCO’s preclinical research will allow scientists to test the restoration ability of the cells affected by retinal degeneration in rodent models. The company said that previous data on animal models showed “encouraging” results, demonstrating that visual degradation caused by AMD can be slowed through RPE transplantation.

In the past, one of the major barriers for transplantation is the lack of sufficient RPE cells from suitable donated tissue. ISCO’s ability to use parthenogenetic stem cells removes this obstacle. Parthenogenetic means the development and growth of embryos without fertilization by a male, or in other words, asexual reproduction.

“The derivation of RPE from stem cells will allow the availability of an unlimited source of RPE for transplantation,” Dr. Hans Keirstead, professor of anatomy and neurobiology at the University of California stated in the press release. “This research will enable us to then test the ability of these cells to restore vision in rodent models of retinal degeneration.”

Dr. Nikolay Turovets, ISCO’s director of research and therapeutic development, supported Dr. Keirstead’s comment.

“RPE derived from human parthenogenetic stem cells can overcome the problem of immune-matching for transplantation since ISCO’s parthenogenetic stem cell lines can be made to carry the most common sets of immune genes found among various racial groups. That is why the differentiated derivatives from one hpSC line may be transplanted into millions of people,” Dr. Turovets concluded.