December 03, 2009
Stem Cells Restore Defective Rat Eyes

Pluripotent stem cells improved eyesight in rats.

(Santa Barbara, Calif.) An international team of scientists has rescued visual function in laboratory rats with eye disease by using cells similar to stem cells. The research shows the potential for stem cell-based therapies to treat age-related macular degeneration in humans.

A team led by Dennis Clegg, of UC Santa Barbara, and Pete Coffey, of University College London (UCL), published their work in two papers, including one published this week in the journal PloS One. The first paper was published in the October 27 issue of the journal Stem Cells.

The scientists worked with rats that have a mutation which causes a defect in retinal pigmented epithelial (RPE) cells and leads to photoreceptor death and subsequent blindness. Human RPE cells were derived from induced pluripotent stem cells embryonic stem cell-like cells that can be made from virtually any cell in the body, thus avoiding the controversy involved in using stem cells derived from embryos. Pluripotent means that the cells can become almost any cell in the body.

In experiments spearheaded by UCL's Amanda Carr, the team found that by surgically inserting stem cell-derived RPE into the retinas of the rats before photoreceptor degeneration, vision was retained. They found that the rats receiving the transplant tracked their visual focus in the direction of moving patterns more efficiently than control groups that did not receive a transplant.

Stem cell therapies are, for the most part, rejuvenation therapies. I say "for the most part" because stem cells will also repair damage due to trauma and malfunction due to congenital defects. But most uses of stem cells will be for repairing damage that accumulates with age.

While the idea of full body rejuvenation as a goal is still not mainstream the on-going development of stem cell therapies for aging-related diseases means that medical researchers are already developing many of the therapies we will need in order to be able to reverse the aging process.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2009 December 03 08:17 PM  Biotech Stem Cells

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