Human embryonic stem cells have potential to treat retinal degeneration

April 16, 2008

Regeneration of damaged retinal cells with the aid of stem cells may offer hope for the treatment of retinal degeneration conditions, such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic retinopathy (DR), according to a report published by the National Academy of Sciences (Volume 103).

Regeneration of damaged retinal cells with the aid of stem cells may offer hope for the treatment of retinal degeneration conditions, such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic retinopathy (DR), according to a report published by the National Academy of Sciences (Volume 103).

Deepak A. Lamba of the University of Washington, US and team used human stem cells successfully to treat diseased rodent retinas. The team cultivated human embryonic stem cells (hES) to become retinal progenitor cells, which differentiate primarily into inner retinal neurons (ganglion and amacrine cells), with functional glutamate receptors.

These retinal progenitors were able to integrate with a degenerated mouse retina, which then increased in the expression of photoreceptor-specific markers, including rods and cones.

The researchers concluded that hES cells can be selectively directed to develop into neural retinal cells. This may provide an option for the treatment of retinal degenerations; in vivo tests in humans are planned to begin within two to three years.

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