According to a recent study, Stem Cell Research could help patients with Macular Degeneration. Two legally blind women, one with dry macular degeneration and the other with Stargardt’s disease, were the first people to ever receive new retina cells grown from human embryonic stem cells.
- Dry Macular Degeneration: The dry form of macular degeneration, the more common of the two forms, is characterized by the presence of yellow deposits, called drusen, in the macula. As these drusen grow in size, they may distort your vision.
- Stargardt’s Disease: This disease is the leading cause of macular degeneration in young people.
Both are progressive and untreatable.
What is Macular Degeneration?
The leading cause of irreversible blindness in people over the age of 60, macular degeneration is a progressive eye disease that causes damage to the Macula, which is the most concentrated central portion of the retina.
The Link between Stem Cell Research and Macular Degeneration
After receiving the new retina cells, both of the aforementioned patients have experienced improved peripheral vision. Both still have permanent central vision loss.
“They do have some improvement in peripheral vision around the central blind spot, which is not coming back,” said study co-leader Steven D. Schwartz, MD, chief of the retina division at Los Angeles’ Jules Stein Eye Institute, tells WebMD.
Stem cell research is being developed as a way to help prevent vision loss in patients with early-stage macular degeneration. Dr. Schwartz warns readers that stem cell research is not a treatment for blindness. But initial results are encouraging for those with macular degeneration.
“Before treatment, one patient could only see hand motion. She could not read any letters [on an eye chart],” said study co-leader Robert Lanza, MD. Lanza, chief scientific officer for Advanced Cell Technology Inc. “By one month she could read five letters. But that does not capture the difference in her life. She could see more color. She had better contrast in the operated eye and no improvement in untreated eye. She mentioned she could start using her computer and even start reading her watch.”
Still, researchers are hesitant to proclaim victory yet, noting the results could simply be a placebo effect. This is just phase I of the study. Only time will tell if stem cell research can truly be a viable treatment for macular degeneration.
“This is an exciting first step, albeit preliminary,” said Anthony Atala, MD, director of the Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Wake Forest University. “This is the first published report of patients treated with human embryonic stem cells with a follow-up that shows both safety and efficacy.”
If you have any questions about how The Link Between Stem Cell Research and Macular Degeneration, or wish to schedule an appointment with Anne Arundel Eye Center, please contact board certified ophthalmologist Dr. Samuel Boles, Dr. Corinne Casey, and the eye care specialists here at AAEC by calling 410-224-2010 or visiting AnneArundelEyeCenter.com today. You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and YouTube as well!
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