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StemCells, Inc. Announces Publication of Preclinical Data Demonstrating Its Human Neural Stem Cells Preserve Vision

NEWARK, Calif., Jan. 30, 2012 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- StemCells, Inc. (Nasdaq:STEM) today announced the publication of preclinical data demonstrating that its proprietary HuCNS-SC® cells (purified human neural stem cells) protect host photoreceptors and preserve vision in an animal model of retinal disease. The preclinical results are highly relevant to human disorders of vision loss, the most notable of which is dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The study is available online at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1460-9568.2011.07970.x/abstract and will be featured as the cover article in the February issue of the international peer-reviewed European Journal of Neuroscience.

This research was conducted in collaboration with a team of researchers led by Raymond Lund, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Ophthalmology, and Trevor McGill, Ph.D., Research Assistant Professor at the Casey Eye Institute, Oregon Health and Science University.

The results of the study show that photoreceptors, the key cells of the eye involved in vision, were protected from degeneration following transplantation of HuCNS-SC cells into the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) rat. The RCS rat is a well-established model of retinal disease which has been used extensively to evaluate potential cell therapies. Moreover, the number of cone photoreceptors, which are responsible for central vision, remained constant over an extended period, consistent with the sustained visual acuity and light sensitivity observed in the study. In humans, degeneration of the cone photoreceptors account for the unique pattern of visual loss in dry AMD.

"These results are the most robust shown to date in this animal model," said Dr. Lund, one of the study's lead investigators. "One of the more striking findings is that the effect on vision was long-lasting and correlated with the survival of HuCNS-SC cells more than seven months after transplantation, which is substantially longer than other cell types transplanted into this same model. Also important, particularly for potential clinical application, was that the cells spread from the site of initial application to cover more of the retina over time. These data suggest that HuCNS-SC cells appear to be a well-suited candidate for cell therapy in retinal degenerative conditions." 

Alexandra Capela, Ph.D., another of the study's investigators and a senior scientist at StemCells, commented, "This study showed that the HuCNS-SC cells persisted and migrated throughout the retina, with no evidence of abnormal cell formation, which supports our hypothesis of a single transplant therapeutic. With this research, then, we have shown that vision can be positively impacted with a simple approach that does not require replacing photoreceptors or the RPE cells. We look forward to investigating this promising approach in the clinic later this year."

About StemCells, Inc.

StemCells, Inc. is engaged in the research, development, and commercialization of cell-based therapeutics and tools for use in stem cell-based research and drug discovery. The Company's lead therapeutic product candidate, HuCNS-SC® cells (purified human neural stem cells), is currently in development as a potential treatment for a broad range of central nervous system disorders. Clinical trials are currently underway in spinal cord injury and in Pelizaeus-Merzbacher disease (PMD), a fatal myelination disorder in children. In addition, the Company plans to initiate a clinical trial of HuCNS-SC cells in the dry form of age-related macular degeneration in 2012, and is also pursuing preclinical studies of its HuCNS-SC cells in Alzheimer's disease. StemCells also markets stem cell research products, including media and reagents, under the SC Proven® brand, and is developing stem cell-based assay platforms for use in pharmaceutical research, drug discovery and drug development. Further information about StemCells is available at http://www.stemcellsinc.com.  

The StemCells, Inc. logo is available at http://www.globenewswire.com/newsroom/prs/?pkgid=7014

Apart from statements of historical fact, the text of this press release constitutes forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, and is subject to the safe harbors created therein. These statements include, but are not limited to, statements regarding the prospect of the Company's HuCNS-SC cells to preserve vision in animal models of retinal disease; the prospect of successful results from this research collaboration and advancing to clinical testing in age-related macular degeneration or other retinal disease; the potential of the Company's HuCNS-SC cells to treat a broad range of central nervous system disorders; the prospect and timing associated with initiating a clinical trial in a retinal disorder; and the future business operations of the Company, including its ability to conduct clinical trials as well as its other research and product development efforts. These forward-looking statements speak only as of the date of this news release. The Company does not undertake to update any of these forward-looking statements to reflect events or circumstances that occur after the date hereof. Such statements reflect management's current views and are based on certain assumptions that may or may not ultimately prove valid. The Company's actual results may vary materially from those contemplated in such forward-looking statements due to risks and uncertainties to which the Company is subject, including the fact that additional trials will be required to demonstrate the safety and efficacy of the Company's HuCNS-SC cells for the treatment of any disease or disorder; uncertainty as to whether the results of the Company's preclinical studies in retinal disease will be replicated in humans; uncertainty as to whether the FDA or other applicable regulatory agencies will permit the Company to continue clinical testing in spinal cord injury, PMD or in future clinical trials of proposed therapies for other diseases or conditions given the novel and unproven nature of the Company's technologies; uncertainties regarding the Company's ability to recruit the patients required to conduct its clinical trials or to obtain meaningful results; uncertainties regarding the Company's ability to obtain the increased capital resources needed to continue its current and planned research and development operations; uncertainty as to whether HuCNS-SC and any products that may be generated in the future in the Company's cell-based programs will prove safe and clinically effective and not cause tumors or other adverse side effects; uncertainties regarding the Company's ability to commercialize a therapeutic product and its ability to successfully compete with other products on the market; and other factors that are described under the heading "Risk Factors" in the Company's Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2010, and in its subsequent reports on Forms 10-Q and 8-K.

CONTACT:
Rodney Young

Chief Financial Officer
(510) 456-4128

David Pitts
Argot Partners

(212) 600-1902 

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StemCells, Inc.