Stem-cell research: $37 million

Two teams including UC Irvine scientists will receive $37 million to push stem-cell treatments toward human testing one for a condition that leads to blindness, another for Alzheimers disease.

The awards, made Wednesday by the states stem-cell funding agency, include $17.3 million for a team that will cultivate retinal progenitor stem-cells to treat a disease known as retinitis pigmentosa.

Human neural stem cell.

COURTESY STEMCELLS, INC.

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The team includes Henry Klassen, a UC Irvine associate opthalmology professor, as well as researchers from UC Santa Barbara and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. The UC Irvine share of that award is about $6 million.

The disease is often diagnosed when patients are in their teens or young adulthood, and progresses into middle age.

First theres night blindness, Klassen said. Then tunnel vision, and eventually, complete blindness.

The treatment hes developing relies on retinal stem cells that have matured enough to be specific to eye function. In previous testing, it has restored vision in rats.

The funding will allow more preliminary work in preparation for human testing. Food and Drug Administration approval, Klassen said, could come as soon as the end of next year.

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Stem-cell research: $37 million