Regenerative medicine 'could provide solution to blindness'

25 January 2012

Posted by Satvir Bhullar

Patients in the future could see their vision improved through the use of regenerative medicine, following trials in the US.

Research carried out at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) showed a "modest" improvement in sight in two legally blind patients as a result of a stem cell transplant.

Reporting in the journal The Lancet, the team from the Jules Stein Eye Institute at UCLA worked with colleagues to perform a successful transplant of specialized retinal cells into the eyes of the two women, with both literally seeing positive results from the exercise.

"The ultimate therapeutic goal will be to treat patients earlier in the disease processes, potentially increasing the likelihood of photoreceptor and central visual rescue," the research authors wrote in an article on their preliminary findings.

It marks the first time that regenerative medicine has been applied to eye disease and further clinical trials are being carried out to determine whether transplants of stem cell–derived retinal pigment epithelial cells appear to be a safe and effective way of addressing it.

In further stem cell research being carried out in the US, scientists from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston reported that tests on rats and using a simulation of the impact of trauma on human neurons helped them to understand why stem cells help in cases of traumatic brain injury.

They found that after the initial incident, in cases of traumatic axonal injury axons and dendrites in the brain withdraw into the bodies of neurons destroying neural function.

Stem cell implants were found by the scientists to have a molecular mechanism that not only prevents this from occurring further, but also promotes axonal regrowth.

"This kind of detailed study is essential to developing safe and effective therapies for traumatic brain injury," stated Professor Ping Wu, Lead Author of a paper on the study in the Journal of Neurotrauma.

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