Good news from the world of retinal research: they’re ready to start human trials to reverse age-related macular degeneration using adult stem cells. This article in Nature, the international weekly journal of science, details the work of Masayo Takahashi, a Japanese ophthalmologist at the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology.
The cool thing about adult stem cells is that there are no ethical issues like the ones around embryonic stem cells. Plus, when they come from the adult being treated for the disease, there are no immune issues, and no reason for the body to attack the morphed cells. So there’s a higher chance of success.
With age-related macular degeneration, the retina’s base layer slowly degrades, reducing the eye’s light-sensitive photoreceptors and often ending in blindness. Takahashi takes skin cells directly from the patient and grows a new layer that can ultimately be transplanted into the retina. She has done multiple studies to prove the stability of her research, as the science community is a little skittish about proclaiming new inroads in stem cell research since the retraction of a paper on stem cells that proved incorrect.
But it seems they must feel pretty confident as the research has earned Takahashi a Nobel Prize, and they don’t give those out freely. Trials could be starting any day now, truly good news for the many people out there with vision problems.