Studying stem cells help us understand how cells transform into specialized cells that make us what we are. A better understanding of normal cell development allows us to understand and perhaps even correct errors that cause medical conditions.
An overwhelming majority of medical experts, medical organizations and patient advocacy groups agree that all types of stem cell research should be pursued. Dozens of diseases and injuries could benefit from this basic policy and medical researchers believe that stem cells could potentially lead to cures for more than 70 diseases and injuries.
Eye Disorders include:
• Macular Degeneration
• Retinitis Pigmentosa
• Stargardt’s macular dystrophy
- In July 2011, two patients became the first people to be treated in FDA-approved clinical trials for a therapy derived from embryonic stem cells for dry age-related macular degeneration and Stargardt’s macular dystrophy. Advanced Cell Technology of Santa Monica, Calif., developed the treatment, which in rats and mice has prevented further vision loss without adverse side effects. (Los Angeles Times , July 14, 2011)
- Scientists at the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in Japan have created a retina from mouse embryonic stem cells that could pave the way for treatments for human eye diseases, including some forms of blindness. Created by coaxing the stem cells into a precise three-dimensional assembly, the “retina in a dish” is by far the most complex biological tissue engineered yet, scientists say. If the technique can be adapted to human cells and proved safe for transplantation it could offer an unlimited well of tissue to replace damaged retinas. More immediately, the synthetic retinal tissue could help scientists in the study of eye disease and in identifying therapies. The work may also guide the assembly of other organs and tissues. (Nature, April 6, 2011)
- A Massachusetts based bio-firm, announces US FDA approval for human trials of their retinal pigment epithelial cells to treat Stargardt’s Macular Dystrophy. The recently approved trials will only involve 12 patients, and are looking primarily to establish that using the ACT cells is safe. There is hope, however, that the vision of those treated could be improved or restored. (Advanced Cell Technology (ACT), Nov. 22, 2010)
- Using human embryonic stem and induced pluripotent stem cells, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison generated retina-like tissues that could one day be used to develop and test therapies for blinding eye diseases. The scientists isolated these early retinal structures from other cell groups and grew them in batches in the laboratory, where they produced major retinal cell types, including photoreceptors and retinal pigment epithelium (RPE). Importantly, cells from these structures matured and responded appropriately to signals involved in normal retinal function, making them potentially valuable not only for studying how the human retina develops, but also how to keep it working in the face of disease. (University of Wisconsin-Madison, June 15, 2011)