LOS ANGELES (May 21, 2015) - Shaomei Wang, MD, PhD, a research scientist in the Eye Program at the Cedars-Sinai Board of Governors Regenerative Medicine Institute, received a $4.9 million grant from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) to advance her work in retinitis pigmentosa, a type of degenerative retinal disease.
Retinitis pigmentosa erodes the cells in the retina, the light-sensitive area in the back of the eye. Symptoms typically begin with poor night vision in young adults and progress to legal blindness by age 40 to 50. There is currently no cure for the disease that affects 150,000 individuals nationally.
"Funding from CIRM will spur the late stages of preclinical projects necessary to bring our treatment to patients," said Wang, who leads the Wang Laboratory.
These preclinical studies center on an injection into the eye of human neural progenitor cells. Once injected into the eye, these cells migrate long distances along the retina and end up adjacent to photoreceptors. They are then able to slow down the progressive retinal degeneration and preserve vision in animal models of retinal degeneration.
"This project represents many years of previous work using these cells," said Clive Svendsen, PhD, director of the Board of Governors Regenerative Medicine Institute. "We are extremely excited that CIRM is providing this new financial support for this novel approach to delaying the degeneration of retinal cells in this devastating disease."
The primary goal of the Wang Laboratory is to increase understanding of degenerative retinal diseases and develop treatments. Preclinical studies within this laboratory have already led to three clinical trials using stem cells to treat macular degeneration.
Cedars-Sinai grant collaborators include Alexander Ljubimov, PhD, and Kent Small, MD, both part of the Eye Program in the Cedars-Sinai Board of Governors Regenerative Medicine Institute.
Prior to the $4.9 million grant awarded to Wang, the Cedars-Sinai Regenerative Medicine Institute has received 14 grants totaling more than $43 million from CIRM .