Stem Cells and Your Eyes, a Bright Future
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Stem Cells and Your Eyes, a Bright Future

Losing your sight is one of the biggest fears shared by people across the globe. Unfortunately, declines in vision as we age are all too common. Two of the leading causes of severe vision loss in the developed world are Macular Degeneration and Glaucoma. Stem cells may provide future benefits for both of these degenerative eye diseases.

The research and development of stem cells for the treatment of Macular Degeneration are a little further along then their counterparts in Glaucoma.

Macular Degeneration

There have been several animal Macular Degeneration studies that have been undertaken over the last 10 years to prove the basic safety and efficacy of the treatment, and there are now several studies going on around the world implanting stem cells in the retinas of humans.

Dr. Steven Schwartz, a UCLA eye specialist, led a study that was published in the British medical journal The Lancet that is the first human embryonic stem cell trial approved by the Food and Drug Administration that has produced any results. The study involved patients suffering from Macular Degeneration and Stargardt's Macular Dystrophy, the two leading causes of adult and juvenile blindness in the developed world, Schwartz says.

In the study, they infused between 50,000 and 150,000 cells into the retinas of the patients. Ten of the 18 patients can see significantly better. One got worse, but the other seven either got better or didn't lose any more vision. It's not ready yet. Maybe in a few years. Maybe not. We have to wait and see. The jury is way still out.

Additional studies are going on in:

Korea

http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/42863/title/Eye-Stem-Cell-Therapy-Moves-Ahead/

Japan

http://singularityhub.com/2014/10/18/first-patient-receives-stem-cell-treatment-for-degenerative-eye-disease/

The UK

First UK patient receives stem cell treatment to cure loss of vision.

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/sep/29/first-uk-patient-receives-stem-cell-treatment-to-cure-sight-loss

Glaucoma

Glaucoma therapy is not as far along but there is hope that stem cells in the future could support or even replace some of the dying optic nerve cells caused by Glaucoma. Most of the studies involving Glaucoma and stem cells are still in the animal testing stages. Some links to studies are found here:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20166150

http://iovs.arvojournals.org/article.aspx?articleid=2185998

Thanks to ongoing research in the stem cell field, patients suffering from Macular Degeneration and Glaucoma have some exciting new therapies to look forward to in the coming years.

 

Article contributed by Dr. Brian Wnorowski, M.D.

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