17th May 2011
Promise for future corrective eye surgery and other treatments has sprung after scientists from a Boston eye research institute became the first to regenerate large areas of damaged retinas using stems cells derived from skin.
Researchers at Schepens Eye Research Institute believe that the discovery could lead to new treatments for conditions such as macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa and diabetic retinopathy, among other common diseases.
Principle investigator Michael Young said: "Stem cell regeneration of these precious tissues is our best hope for treating and someday curing these disorders."
Young and his team harvested skin cells from the tails of red fluorescent mice for the study. By forcing these cells to express certain factors which signal cells to change, they generated special cells which could then mature and be implanted into the eyes.
It was discovered that within weeks the cells had begun to integrate and assemble into healthy-looking retinal tissue.
The team now believe that their results could lead to harvesting cells to treat a large variety of conditions.
Eye surgery was recently given another boost, when scientists in Zurich revealed they had developed a tiny robot which could carry treatment to the precise area of the eye which needed it.
Posted by Edward Bartel
1. Tucker, Budd et al. "Transplantation of Adult Mouse iPS Cell-Derived Photoreceptor Precursors Restores Retinal Structure and Function in Degenerative Mice." PLoS One. 29th April 2011.
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