Advanced Cell Technology has apparently been given approval to begin experiments with human embryonic stem cells on patients with Stargardt disease, a rare eye disease than can lead to blindness. Few details are available at this point, although Robert Lanza, ACT’s chief scientist, has said that this series of experiments could begin after the first of the year and will include up to 12 patients and will test the safety of injecting cells into one of the patient’s eyes, with increasing doses of cells on successive patients. He also hopes to see some results within six weeks of injecting a patient’s eye.

Of course, one big concern regarding safety is the distinct possibility of tumor formation by embryonic stem cells, since that is their real forte. No details are available on whether ACT did large animal studies, purity of their experimental cell preparation, or how well the cells retain differentiation versus growing.