Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) is a hereditary retinal degeneration disease with no effective therapeutic approaches.
Inflammatory and immune disorders are thought to play an important role in the pathogenesis of RP.
Human umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cells (UCMSCs), with multiple biological functions such as anti-inflammation and immunoregulation, have been applied in different systemic diseases.
We conducted a phase I/II clinical trial aiming to evaluate the safety and efficacy of intravenous administration of UCMSCs in advanced RP patients. All 32 subjects were intravenously infused with one dose of 108 UCMSCs and were followed up for 12 months. No serious local or systemic adverse effects occurred in the whole follow-up.
Most patients improved their best corrected visual acuity (BCVA) in the first 3 months. The proportions of patients with improved or maintained BCVA were 96.9%, 95.3%, 93.8%, 95.4%, 90.6%, and 90.6% at the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 6th, 9th, and 12th month follow-up, respectively. Most of the patients (81.3%) maintained or improved their visual acuities for 12 months.
The average NEI VFQ-25 questionnaire scores were significantly improved at the third month (P < 0.05). The average visual field sensitivity and flash visual evoked potential showed no significant difference (P = 0.185, P = 0.711).
Our results indicated that the intravenous infusion of UCMSCs was safe for advanced RP patients. Most of the patients improved or maintained their visual functions in a long term. The life qualities were improved significantly in the first 3 months, suggesting that the intravenous infusion of UCMSCs may be a promising therapeutic approach for advanced RP patients.