Ten persons with retinitis pigmentosa (RP) from across the U.S. and Mexico have been selected to participate in a "compassionate trial" at Emory Eye Center.
These individuals will receive an innovative implant that has shown promising results in halting the progression of RP in National Eye Institute-sponsored Phase I trials.
RP is an inherited retinal degeneration in which the patient gradually loses peripheral vision over a period of years. The disease affects both eyes. Night blindness develops first, followed by the loss of the field of vision, leading ultimately to "tunnel" vision and then blindness. No cure for the disease has been found.
Each patient will make 10 visits to Emory Eye Center beginning in early December, with all exams and surgeries to be completed by mid-December. Neurotech identified the patients and is donating the implants, and Emory Eye Center will cover most of the costs involved, including the cost of the surgeries. The patients, all of whom have profound RP visual loss, were not eligible for the Phase II portion of the study.
The implant, NT-501, is the only one of its type and provides a long-term release of the therapeutic protein, ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF), directly into the back of the eye by means of the company's proprietary Encapsulated Cell Technology (ECT).
The new implant has shown promising results in halting the progression of RP among the patients who have received it in a clinical trial conducted by the implant's maker, Neurotech. Emory retina specialists Daniel F. Martin, MD, and Jiong Yan, MD, will perform the surgeries. Emory Eye Center Director Thomas M. Aaberg, Sr., MD, is the principal investigator of the Emory study.
"I am pleased to be able to use this new technology on these 10 patients," says Dr. Aaberg. "Emory Eye Center is uniquely poised to pull together its talented staff and surgical resources to make these procedures happen on a timely basis. We are excited to be a part of this process for these deserving patients."
Drs. Aaberg, Martin and Yan have no financial interest in Neurotech.
About Emory Eye Center
The Department of Ophthalmology and Emory Eye Center have a mission to conduct pioneering research into blinding eye diseases, to educate and train eye professionals, and to provide excellent patient care. The Department includes 23 ophthalmologists, five optometrists, nine basic scientists, 11 post-doctoral fellows, and nine researchers in other Emory departments who hold joint appointments in the Department of Ophthalmology. Ophthalmology research is supported by $6 million in NIH funding. The Department has remained in the top rankings by U.S. News & World Report for the 11 years the magazine has held a ranking for Ophthalmology.