Tech and Science | Updated yesterday at 01:11 PM
By AFP

WASHINGTON - HUMAN embryonic stem cells will be tested as a treatment for blindness, a US company announced on Monday in the second such clinical trial to examine how the controversial process works in people.
Just 12 adult patients will take part in the trial to see how the treatment using retinal cells derived from human embryonic stem cells affects patients with a common form of vision loss that takes hold in children as young as six.

The process has been tested on rats and mice and has been found to halt the progressive disease without causing tumours or other side effects, said chief scientific officer Bob Lanza at the biotech company Advanced Cell Technology.

'These cells have been really performing quite spectacularly in the animals. If we can see that in the human patients we will hit a home run here,' said Mr Lanza.

The trial, run and funded by the California-based company ACT, was allowed to go ahead after the US Food and Drug Administration cleared its application to start a phase I study.
Another company, Geron Corp, began a similar trial in October, the first of its kind to test human embryonic stem cells in patients with spinal cord injuries.