Eye Deal in Stem Cells

Turning Stem Cells into Eye Cells

(RxWiki News) Transforming cells to serve another purpose is inching toward reality. Scientists are now able to turn adult stem cells into eye cells that have been corrupted during age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Researchers from Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C. aimed to develop the cells in order to eventually use them for transplantation, but also as a model for the disease, which will allow them to study the disease process and test new drug therapies.

"Ask your doctor about new age-related macular degeneration treatments."

Nady Golestaneh, an assistant professor in the department of biochemistry and molecular and cellular biology at Georgetown, and a co-author of this research, reports they transformed cells that really act like the retinal cells they are trying to mimic.

Dr. Chris Quinn added of OMNI Eye Services added, “This is truly exciting research that could significantly enhance our understanding of the basic cause of macular degeneration. Understanding the cause will be the first step in the development of novel treatments which may prevent or cure this potentially blinding condition for millions of patients."

These retinal pigment epithelium cells are used for eye light absorption, eye nutrition, and as a receptor. Replicating these cells is a huge step in developing laboratory therapies to preserve their function.

While excited about this new process, Dr. Demetrios Vawas emphasized this is very early in the development process of treating age-related macular degeneration with stem cells.

One problem Vawas pointed out involves the need for a virus to function as cell carrier. Scientists are currently trying to replicate this lab work without using a virus.

In Depth

  • The stem cells were harvested from a small amount of biopsied skin
  • The researchers predict three to five years before clinical trials begin
  • Mimicking retinal pigment epithelium will allow scientists to study and understand the mechanism of AMD
  • Possible uses for these created cells include not only transplantation but studying AMD itself in the laboratory
  • The created cells can also be used to develop new drugs to attack AMD
  • The cells were deemed viable, but more assurance is needed to be deemed safe at this point
Review Date: 
April 8, 2011