Stem cells and vision restoration – “I once was lost, but now I’m found; was blind, but now I see” – Amazing Grace
What could be a more powerful part of how we define ourselves and our world than our eyesight? You can imagine how losing your vision would profoundly change your very perception of the world.
The idea of restoring sight to the blind, literally and metaphorically, has fascinated us for eons. While Jesus used good old-fashioned spit and dirt to heal the blind, scientists now see promise in restoring vision with stem cell therapy.
Last year scientists successfully restored sight to a blind person who suffered from a disease called macular degeneration, which is the most common cause of vision loss in older adults. Macular degeneration affects our central vision, which is crucial to everyday tasks like driving or reading a book. The disease can progress slowly, or rapid vision loss, and there are currently no treatment options available for age-related macular degeneration.
How can you treat blindness or restore vision with stem cells?
In this type of stem cell therapy, scientists inject about 3 drops of retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) cells grown from embryonic stem cells under a patient’s retina, which is detached for the procedure.
The RPE cells helped to repair and replace damaged photo-receptors in the retina which are vital to eyesight and light detection and pass information to the brain.
The Boston-based company, Advanced Cell Technology, which performed the procedure have yet to publish complete date from the trials, but plan on moving forward with advanced trials with dozens of participants in the near future.
If proven to be safe and effective, you can imagine the promise that stem cell treatments could provide to restore vision, including the nearly 200 million older adults who suffer from macular degeneration.
Also of interest: stem cells and vision restoration:
- Study shows damaged corneas may be regenerated with patients’ stem cells – WebMD
- Next generation stem cells cleared for human trial – nature.com
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