Posted on Jun 15, 2015, 6 a.m.
Stem cell injection may slow or reverse the effects of early-stage age-related macular degeneration (ARMD).
The leading cause of vision loss in people over the age of 65, age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) is a condition in which the central portion of the retina (the macula) deteriorates. ARMD presently has no treatment that slows its progression. Shaomei Wang, from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center (California, USA), and colleagues injected stem cells into the eyes of laboratory rats, to find that the treatment resulted in 130 days of preserved vision – roughly equivalent to 16 human years. The team posits that the induced neural progenitor stem cells, which derive from the more commonly known induced pluripotent stem cells, enabled healthy cells to migrate around the retina and formed a protective layer. This protective layer prevented ongoing degeneration of the vital retinal cells responsible for vision. Observing that: “The [induced pluripotent stem cell]-treated eyes contained six to eight rows of photoreceptor nuclei that spanned up to 5 mm in length in transverse retinal sections, compared with only one row of photoreceptors in controls. [Induced pluripotent stem cell] treatment fully preserved visual acuity measured by optokinetic response. Electrophysiological recordings revealed that retina with the best iNPC-protected areas were 140-fold more sensitive to light stimulation than equivalent areas of contralateral eyes,” the study authors conclude that: “The results described here support the therapeutic utility of [induced pluripotent stem cells] as autologous grafts for early-stage of [age-related macular degeneration].”
Yuchun Tsai, Bin Lu, Benjamin Bakondi, Sergey Girman, Anais Sahabian, Dhruv Sareen, Clive N. Svendsen, Shaomei Wang. “Human iPSC-Derived Neural Progenitors Preserve Vision in an AMD-Like Model,” Stem Cells, 2 June 2015.