There is new hope for the 15 million Americans that suffer from age-related macular regeneration. A new study published from Cedars-Sinai suggests that stem cell injections could provide a cure to this one incurable condition. Rats with the condition managed to retain their eyesight with injections of stem cells into the eyes.
Although more work still needs to be done before a human treatment becomes available to the public, the rat study is the best news doctors have heard in years for treatment of age-related macular degeneration. The researchers managed to extract induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) from adult human skin tissue. Since iPSCs can become just about any cell in the body, they knew how to grow with the help of neural progenitor stem cells.
Details of the Study
The study was carried out in the Eye Program at Cedars-Sinai Board of Governors Regenerative Medicine Institute and published in the medical journal Stem Cell. Lab rats with macular degeneration bred to mimic human age-related macular degenerations had injections of particular stem cells called neural progenitor stem cells.
The rats were able to hang on to regular vision for 130 days. The scientists translate this to about 16 human years because rats normally live only 2 or 3 years. The neural progenitor stem cells helped form a layer of protective cells around the retina. This is hoped to one day help people suffering from the later stages of age-related macular regeneration.
About Age-Related Macular Regeneration
This condition is the leading cause of vision loss for Americans over 65 years old. According to the Mayo Clinic, about three million Americans develop this condition every year. Patients most prone to developing age-related macular regeneration are Caucasians who smoke, eat a poor diet, do not exercise and have close family members with the condition.
That part of the eye that degenerates is called the macula, a small area on the retina that helps the eye focus on objects directly ahead. Although people with this condition do not completely lose their vision, their vision deteriorates enough so that they have great trouble trying to do simple everyday tasks, let alone complicated tasks like driving or reading.
The Importance of Early Detection
People are surprised when they receive a diagnosis of early stage age-related macular degeneration because their vision has not changed. Regular eye exams in people over 50 include looking for minute changes in eye color called drusen. Not everyone with drusen will develop late-stage age-related macular regeneration, so regular eye exams are crucial for monitoring the condition.
There are many things a person can do to help reduce their chances of developing age-related macular regeneration. Doctors recommend that patients quit smoking, eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly. Some patients with intermediate stage age-related macular regeneration respond well to nutritional supplements and vitamins C and E.
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