Eye receptor transplant promises therapy for blindness
For the first time, the light-sensing cells found in the retina have been grown from scratch in the lab, and then successfully transplanted into the eyes of blind mice.
The transplanted cells successfully matured and connected with nerves that transmit visual signals to the brain.
The researchers say that if the procedure can be repeated with human stem cells, they believe they can cure most forms of blindness that result from degeneration of these photoreceptor cells, due to either the effects of ageing or diseases like diabetes.
“We can treat a really broad range of patients,” says Robin Ali of University College London, head of the team that performed the transplant.
Another experimental stem-cell treatment, one involving a transplant of cells that support and nourish photoreceptors in the eye, has restored the sight of a man blinded by the degeneration of his retinal cells. But Ali says that this treatment will only work in people with some surviving photoreceptor cells, whereas the new therapy would work even where these cells have completely degenerated.