Stem cells and eye disease
Recently, there has been a great deal of laboratory research and clinical trial work in the field of cell therapy in ophthalmology – that’s the branch of medicine dealing with the diagnosis and treatment of eye disorders.
Work on the cornea, the retina and more recently retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) has been very encouraging. RGCs play a huge part in your sight. They’re responsible for processing and carrying visual information from the eye to the brain via the optic nerve.
Once RGCs die in glaucoma – a condition of increased pressure within the eyeball, they are not replaced, so gradual loss of sight occurs.
The good news is that new strategies using stem cells could repair the retina and the nerves leading to the brain – a major breakthrough in glaucoma treatment.
Overall, stem cell therapies continue to be explored as treatments for degenerative eye disease – either for replacing lost neurons or restoring neural connections.
Mesenchymal cells (MSCs) which can produce proteins that promote healing have been investigated as a therapeutic tool in the treatment of injured RGCs. The regenerative properties of stem cells from different sources has been highlighted in studies, including MSCs from bone marrow, adipose tissues and dental pulp. MSCs can potentially protect RGCs and stimulate regeneration in the optic nerve.
As more work is carried out and knowledge grows, stem cell therapies for the treatment of devastating eye disease are likely to play a bigger part in clinical trials which will assess the safety and the effectiveness of treatment options.
3. Restoration of Visual Function by Enhancing Conduction in Regenerated Axons. ; Cell. 2016 Jan 14; 164(1-2):219-232. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2015.11.036.
4. Stem Cell Ophthalmology Treatment Study: bone marrow derived stem cells in the treatment of Retinitis Pigmentosa. Stem Cell Investig. 2018 Jun 6; 5:18. doi: 10.21037/sci.2018.04.02. eCollection 2018
5. Stem Cell Ophthalmology Treatment Study: bone marrow derived stem cells in the treatment of non-arteritic ischemic optic neuropathy (NAION). Stem Cell Investig. 2017 Nov 23;4:94. doi: 10.21037/sci.2017.11.05. eCollection 2017. Neural Regen Res. 2018 Jul; 13(7): 1145–1150. doi: 10.4103/1673-5374.235017
6. Glaucoma: Biological Trabecular and Neuroretinal Pathology with Perspectives of Therapy Innovation and Preventive Diagnosis. Front Neurosci. 2017; 11: 494. Published online 2017 Sep 5. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2017.00494
8. Mesenchymal stem cell therapy in retinal and optic nerve diseases: An update of clinical trials. World J Stem Cells. 2016 Nov 26; 8(11): 376–383. Published online 2016 Nov 26. doi: 10.4252/wjsc.v8.i11.376. PMCID: PMC5120242; PMID: 27928464