With researchers at the University of Wisconsin demonstrating they can grow retinal cells from skin cells, a new treatment for macular degeneration may be on the horizong.
Macular degeneration is an eye disease that involves the degeneration of light-sensitive retinal cells in the eye. Treatments are currently available for only wet macular degeneration, leaving people suffering from dry macular degeneration with little or no treatment options.
Growing retinal cells from skin cells could lead to a new treatment for macular degeneration.
As part of their research, human skin cells were manipulated to act like embryonic stem cells. Stem cells can then be used to grow into any tissue in the body, including retinal cells. This research suggests that doctors may be able to repair retinal cells damaged by macular degeneration by growing new cells generated from a patients own skin.
People with macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa, eye diseaseas that eventually lead to blindness, may benefit from this possible new treatment.
According to David Gamm, a professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences at the University of Wisconsin, the laboratory process of creating human retinal cells helps researchers understand how eyes develop, so disease (such as macular degeneration) that lead to vision loss may someday be treated or even cured with retinal stem cells.
This research comes after several other researchers have announced successes using stem cells to treat macular degeneration.