Restoring sight with Stem Cells…a light at the end of the tunnel.

Stem Cells Treatment

Restoring sight with Stem Cells…a light at the end of the tunnel.

 

Retinal degeneration represents a group of blinding diseases that are increasingly impacting the health and well being of patients all over the world. Many people in the United States will suffer from vision loss or blindness due to the age-related macular degeneration, the most common cause of irreversible vision loss and blindness in older adults.
Sight gradually worsens as the nuclear layer of light-sensitive photoreceptor cells in the eyes is degraded. Macular Degeneration is a progressive ocular disease of the part of the retina, called the macula, which enables people to visualize faces, read and drive. The disease initially causes distortion in central vision, and eventually leads to legal blindness.


As the population of the United States begins to live longer, the prevalence of retinal degeneration slowly increases. The number of individuals who lose their sight due to end-stage retinal degeneration is rising and currently, it cannot be reversed.
Stem cell research is helping scientists understand how the different cell types in the retina function together, which has led to exploring ways to replace eye´s cells.
A layer of cells at the back of the eye called the retinal pigment epithelium, provide support, protection, and nutrition to the light sensitive cells of the retina; the photoreceptors which consist of rods and cones. The dysfunction or loss of these retinal pigment epithelium cells plays a critical role in the loss of sight.
The concept is that stem cells are “undifferentiated,” meaning that they have the potential to develop into many different cell types, including retinal cells, which can then replace cells that have died. Effective treatment could be achieved by proper replacement of damaged RPE and retinal cells with healthy ones. This “Cell replacement” is one potential strategy that might help to restore vision. Cell replacement technology shows real promise. A group of scientists from Japan, led by Masayo Takahashi and Michiko Mandai, is involved in this innovative field. First, the researchers transplanted stem cell-derived retinal tissues into affected animals and they found that this tissue formed structured outer nuclear layers that included mature photoreceptors.
The first stage of the research involved induced pluripotent stem cells (adult mouse skin cells reprogrammed to behave in a similar way to stem cells), these cells were implanted into mice with end-stage retinal degeneration, and they developed and formed photoreceptors. Researchers collected data to support that the signal is transmitted to host cells that send signals to the brain. Going beyond expectations, the procedure managed to restore sight in almost half of the mice with end-stage retinal degeneration.

New methods of differentiating eye cells from induced pluripotent stem cells have created a potentially unlimited supply of retinal pigment epithelium cells to meet the demands of future commercially viable stem cell products. Thanks to fundamental advances in stem cell biology, eye surgery, and noninvasive retinal imaging, stem cell-based therapies are emerging and several clinical trials are in progress.
New Retinal pigment epithelium cells could replace diseased Retinal pigment epithelium cells and take on some of their supportive functions. If the transplant is done before rods and cones have been lost, new Retinal Pigment Epithelium cells may be able to prevent them from dying, thus improving central vision, or at least stopping the progression of the disease.
Stem cells are also being used in drug discovery. Healthy Retinal pigment epithelium cells can be stressed to produce abnormal cells that display features of Macular Degeneration. These cells can be grown in the lab and studied to better understand how Macular Degeneration progresses, which may lead to earlier detection and better diagnosis.

Researchers are also exploring different methods to deliver stem cells to the eye, including creating patches of Retinal Pigment Epithelium cells in the lab and a suspension of cells, which is injected into the eye under the retina. For both approaches, stem cells are expected to integrate well with the patient’s own Retinal Pigment Epithelium cells and do their job of supporting the rods and cones over the long term.

In summary, there is much excitement about the potential for stem cell transplantation in Age-related Macular Degeneration, and this approach has a reasonable chance of helping patients with Age-related Macular Degeneration at some point in the future. In the meantime, studies in mice as well as additional human clinical trials will continue to open our minds to these treatments.
Stem Cells Transplant Institute in Costa Rica is a pioneer on stem cells treatments that are legally approved. Don’t hesitate to contact us, we are very grateful to be your source of hope and we´ll be more than happy to help you find the best treatment for you. Macular Degeneration treatment is a look to the future, but today there are many people actually getting benefits from stem cells treatment.