Stem cell therapy restores vision in rats
Vision in blind rats has been restored by a UK team in collaboration with international scientists.
A mutation occurring in rats genes can cause a defect in cells crucial to ensuring the eye functions properly. Retinal pigmented epithelial cells (RPE) provide a nourishing layer in the eye. As a result, this mutation causes photoreceptors - which are crucial to sight - to die, leading to blindness.
Researchers used induced pluripotent stem cells - adult cells which can be reverted to a stem-cell like state and then turned into almost any type of cell in the body, to treat the condition in rats. They inserted the induced RPE cells into part of the eye before degeneration could occur. Rats with the inserted cells maintained their vision and could focus better on moving patterns than the rats that had not.
The scientists hope that this discovery could lead to stem cell based therapies for age-related sight loss.