What Are Stem Cells?
Stem cells are “undifferentiated cells which have the potential to develop into many different types of specialized tissues,” write researchers Alice L. Williams, Michael Waisbourd, and L. Jay Katz. These cells come from two main sources: adult stem cells, derived from tissues of healthy adults such as the skin, brain, bone marrow, and nasal mucosa; and the more controversial embryonic stem cells. Both types are characterized by their potential to differentiate into different cell types.
Why Do Stem Cells Matter?
Because they have almost unlimited potential, stem cells are being investigated as a possible treatment option for several conditions, including glaucoma. It is theorized that these cells may have the potential to replace ocular tissues, such as the trabecular meshwork and optic nerve, that have degenerated in eyes with glaucoma.
“There is a great deal of hope and enthusiasm for the role of stem cells in the future treatment of glaucoma that is firmly supported by groundbreaking, strong fundamental basic science research,” explains Williams et al. “This is an exciting possibility because at this time we have no treatments that can restore vision once it has been lost due to glaucoma.”
However, this research is still very much in its infancy, and researchers are still trying to find a reliable method to differentiate stem cells into specific ocular tissues. On top of this, these cells must be safely implanted within the eye in order to be functional, must establish a working connection with the brain, and must remain stable for a significant period of time without any serious side effects. Until these criteria can be met, stem cells will remain nothing more than a possibility.
“Although important progress is being made towards reaching these goals, stem cell therapy for glaucoma needs to be carefully studied in humans,” write Williams et al.
Early detection and and vigilant treatment – medication, lasers, or surgery – are still the best ways to prevent major vision loss from glaucoma. With such intervention vision can be preserved 95% of the time or more.
A Regional Leader in the Treatment of Glaucoma
The Anne Arundel Eye Center, led by board certified ophthalmologist Dr. Samuel Boles, is a regional leader in the diagnosis and treatment of glaucoma. Staffed by caring and knowledgeable professionals, AAEC offers complete ophthalmic exams as well as diagnostic pre and post-surgical eye care in our state-of-the-art treatment center located in Annapolis, Maryland. We are dedicated to making the best eye care accessible to everyone.
If you have any questions, please contact Dr. Samuel Boles, Dr. Nicole Kershner, Dr. Kathryn Turner, and the eye care specialists here at AAEC by calling 410-224-2010. AAEC is staffed by caring and knowledgeable professionals who will help guide you on your healing journey.
- Williams, Alice L., Michael Waisbourd, and L. Jay Katz. “Future Focus: Stem Cell Treatment for Glaucoma.” Future Focus: Stem Cell Treatment for Glaucoma. Glaucoma Research Foundation. Web. 23 Mar. 2016.