Using stem cells to help offset the effects of retinal degeneration is not a new thing. Researchers have been using stem cells to replace the “support” cells in the eye which keep the photoreceptors in the retina alive.
But what if your photoreceptors are already severely damaged due to LCA, Retinitis Pigmentosa or another degenerative retinal disease?
Researchers at Moorfields Eye Hospital and University College London say they have had success in mouse models actually building retinas in the laboratory using stem cells to create new photoreceptors!
When these new photoreceptors were injected into the eyes of blind mice, they were able to “hook up with the existing architecture of the eye and begin to function.”
Lead researcher Prof Robin Ali says: “This is a real proof of concept that photoreceptors can be transplanted from an embryonic stem cell source and it gives us a route map to now do this in humans. That’s why we’re so excited, five years is now a realistic aim for starting a clinical trial.”