Stem Cells Transplant Restores Vision In Blind

Posted: Jan 16 2017, 7:40am CST | by , in News | Latest Science News

Stem Cells Transplant Restores Vision in Blind
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  • New Stem cell therapy reverses blindness in animals with end-stage retinal degeneration

It so happens to be the case that stem cells possess the capacity to restore eyesight for the blind after they have contracted eye disease.

A novel methodology of employing stem cells could restore the sense of vision. Yet right now it is only possible in lab mice. It is hoped that one day this technique will be used in human beings as well with success.

Irreversible eye disease causes total blindness, yet this technique managed to restore eyesight for the mice in a lab setting. The experts grew new retina tissue in the lab from stem cells.

The tissue was later on transplanted in mice with the disease. A whopping 40% of the mice could see clearly after this complicated operation. This happens to be the very first time that researchers have transplanted cells that sense light in the eye.

The retina’s light sensors figure in their connections with the nervous system. This in turn is linked with the entire brain of the organism. It was a source of extreme exhilaration for the scientists when they saw that the transplants responded well to light signals.

Hopefully, the researchers will be able to increase the bonds between the transplanted retina tissue and the nervous systems of the hosts. This could lead to a situation where the mice not only sense light but are able to detect movement.

The retina lies at the back of the eye. It senses light signals which it then relays to the brain which interprets them for the entire organism. After the image and light are processed, they enter the field of perception which is key in figuring out the surrounding environment.

3-D observation of contact between GFP-positive host bipolar cells (green) and CtBP2-tdTomato in the graft outer nuclear layer (red). DAPI marks the cell bodies of the graft retinal sheet. Credit: RIKEN and the Takahashi lab at RIKEN CDB

In case of retinal damage, the sense of sight becomes lost with the passage of time. Macular degeneration with old age is the most common example of this scourge of mankind. It afflicts 15 million senior citizens in the United States and over 170 million elderly people in the global village.

The researchers basically converted skin cells into pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). These were further converted into retinal tissues which were than transplanted onto the eyes of the blind mice.

Tests were conducted to see whether the mice could detect light. The tests were complex yet they showed that indeed the mice could sense light. What remains unclear is whether this method has ramifications that could be applied in human beings. For this more research and experimentation will have to take place in the future.

This study got published in the journal Stem Cell Reports.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
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