Last week (September 6-7th), Dr. Anna Veiga, Director of the Stem Cell Bank at the CMR[B], participated in the B-debate “Fighting Blindness. Future Challenges and Opportunities for Visual Restoration” as a chair and speaker. This event took place at Caixaforum, in Barcelona.
Blindness is a major global health challenge because of the enormous impact it has on patients and their families, and their important socio-economic consequences.
Over the coming years, 1 of every 4 people over 50 years-old will suffer some kind of degenerative eye disease. Currently in the EU there are 91 million people over 65 years and is expected to reach 127 million by 2020. Worldwide it is estimated that there are 285 million people with impaired vision and 39 million are blind.
This debate, jointly organized by B-Debate, an initiative of Biocat and Obra Social “la Caixa”, and Barcelona Macula Foundation, with the collaboration of CRG and LEITAT Foundation, has proposed ideas and explored the potential of new therapeutic approaches for retinal dystrophies, combining nanotechnology, regenerative medicine, stem cells, gene therapy, genomics, bioengineering, optogenetics and photonics. Basic and translational researchers, leaders and experts in all these fields have participated in the event and have shared innovative therapeutic opportunities, especially in the exploration and discovery of possible synergies to generate new multidisciplinary collaborative research projects.
Dr. Veiga has been the chair in the Session 6 about Regenerative Therapy and Stem Cells with Dr. Ricardo Casaroli (Hospital Clínic of Barcelona), Dr. Pia Cosma (CRG), Dr. Michael Edel & Dr. Ana Belén Álvarez (UB), Dr. Berta de la Cerda Haynes (CABIMER) and herself as speakers.
Veiga, on her conference named “Pluripotent stem cells for retinal disease, research and clinical application”, underlined that there are several ongoing clinical trials using pluripotent stem cells to treat age-related macular degeneration with promising preliminary results. Own results in a collaborative project with the group of Dr Garcia Arumí from VHIR were also presented.
Cell therapy for retinal degeneration consist in the injection of retinal pigmented epithelial cells derived from human pluripotent cells into the subretinal space of the eye to restore cell damage and visual function.
Data regarding safety, including tumour formation ability, potential immune rejection, and the efficiency of the therapeutic approach are needed.
At the end of the symposium, an open debate took place with discussion about the state of the art, future perspectives and possible synergies between all the stakeholders.