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Stem Cells Could Cure Blindness; Mice’s Vision Restored After Transplant Experiment

Update Date: Jan 12, 2017 09:10 AM EST

Blind mice were able to detect light after scientists successfully carried out stem cell transplant. Researchers plan to carry out clinical trials in humans with worsening vision.

In a study led by Masayo Takahashi and Michiko Mandai, scientists from RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in Japan, the mice were transplanted with stem cells which had been grown into small patches of light-sensitive retina. Photoreceptors, the light-sensitive neurons in the eye, were successfully transplanted to host cells and were able to send visual signals to the host retina and brain.

Mandai said that the stem cell transplant has allowed the development of more mature and organized morphology. This has led to better responses to light than by simply using photoreceptor cells. The procedure was able to restore the sight in almost half of the mice that has end-stage retinal degeneration just after a month post-transplantation.

The Japanese study involving stem cell transplant gives hope to people with poor sight. According to Robert MacLaren, professor of ophthalmology at the University of Oxford, retina, a complicated part of the central nervous system, could potentially be regenerated with a simple skin cell. Researchers are excited because the result does not only reveal light detection but the retinal tissue appears to have a connection with the brain.

Although clinical treatments for humans are still a long way off, the success of stem cell transplant in mice provides hope for the next generation to come. End-stage retinal degeneration which includes macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosais is irreversible.

In 2010, 2.07 million were affected by age-related macular degeneration. As the population begins to live longer, the number of cases slowly increases. In 2000, there were only 1.75 million individuals affected with the condition. Stem cell transplant gives hope to restore vision for millions of people affected by these conditions.

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