“We have been observing improvements in certain patients following stem cell treatment in the study” reports Dr. Levy, President of MD Stem Cells and Study Director, SCOTS. Dr. Levy explains: “We will be reporting periodically on patients and their progress. We are particularly pleased with the rapid improvements seen in a recently treated glaucoma patient.”
Glaucoma is a disease where increased pressure inside the eye damages the nerve fiber layer within the eye. One can think of the neurons as tiny wires transmitting information from the photoreceptors in the eye to the brain. They neurons come together and form the optic nerve- but abnormally high pressure can press in a way that causes them to die over a period of time. Patients develop what is termed cupping– a scooped out appearance of the nerve tissue of the optic nerve. The typical result initially is damage to the peripheral or side vision. Eventually central vision is damaged and severe blurriness results- ultimately blinding the patient completely if the pressure is not lowered adequately. Eye drops, laser and surgery are used to control the pressure, but up to now no regeneration was possible for the damage done.
Dr. Levy reports: “The patient was quite elderly- 84 years old - with significant glaucoma damage and legal blindness. His right eye was Count Fingers – meaning that he could only see his fingers and nothing on the eye chart. His left eye had even less vision- he was only able to see light and could not see fingers or movement. He was enrolled in Arm 2 of SCOTS which includes 3 separate injections for each eye of adult stem cells from his own bone marrow. On a follow up exam approximately 7 weeks following treatment his vision had improved in the right eye from Count Fingers to 20/200 which means being able to see the second letter down on the eye chart. On a special clinical research eye test called the ETDRS he was 20/100 missing 2 letters. His left eye improved from Light Perception to being able to see Hand Motion. We were also able to measure the pre and post procedure thickness of the retina and of the nerve fiber layer of the right eye with OCT. The retinal thickness increased from 135 microns to 338 microns suggesting an increase in nerve fiber layer thickness."
"These are significant improvements and suggest that major glaucomatous optic nerve damage may be partially repairable- even in very elderly patients. Of additional interest was that the patient’s eye pressure was reduced from 20mm Hg in both eyes pre-procedure to 7 and 8 following the stem cell treatment. We have had other glaucoma patients report lowering of eye pressure following stem cell treatment. We are uncertain, but it is possible that some of the stem cells provided are moving into the anterior chamber and improving the drainage of aqueous from the eye “ opined Dr. Levy.
Optic nerve disease can be caused by many things including trauma, ischemia, inflammation, immune disorders, hereditary, and glaucoma. Typically conventional treatments are ineffective at improving vision once damage to the optic nerve tissue has occurred. Adult stem cells have the potential for regenerating the nerve fiber layer and glial tissue.
“In the SCOTS clinical trial damaged optic nerves appear to be recovering meaningful function in certain patients. We are hopeful our clinical trial will continue to demonstrate visual improvements for patients with the severe visual loss often seen with optic nerve disease” concluded Dr. Levy.
Patients considering treatment should understand that SCOTS is a clinical trial and individual responses cannot be predicted. There are specific inclusion, exclusion and follow up requirements to participate in the study. Patients interested in learning whether they may be eligible to participate in SCOTS, as well as healthcare providers, may email Dr. Levy or call him at 203-423-9494 Eastern Time USA. SCOTS is being conducted under an Institutional Review Board and is registered with the National Institutes of Health on their clinical trials website with identifier NCT01920867