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Regen Med. 2006 Sep;1(5):715-9.

Stem cell therapy delivery: treading the regulatory tightrope.

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  • 1Institute of Ophthalmology, University College London, London, UK.


The concept of stem cell therapy has engaged the attention of the public and scientists alike. Intensive research effort is focused upon understanding the biology and therapeutic potential of embryonic and adult stem cells, with the eventual goal of treating such pathologies as Parkinson's disease, diabetes, neurological injury and degenerations and cancer. Ex vivo expansion and transplantation of limbal epithelial stem cells to the corneas to treat blinding ocular surface disease was one of the first stem cell therapies to successfully reach the clinic. However, limbal epithelial stem cell research and therapy delivery has remained largely within the noncommercial academic clinician-scientist environment from which it was originally pioneered. In our experience, gaining regulatory approval has been as great a hurdle as surmounting the scientific challenges of stem cell therapy. Based upon our model of delivering 'accredited' limbal epithelial stem cell therapy to patients in compliance with Good Manufacturing Practice and the new European Union Tissues and Cells Directive, we address the key regulatory questions. This may help colleagues who are developing innovative academic research-driven stem cell therapies regarding donor consent, raw materials, quality assurance, laboratory specification, indemnity and funding.

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