Our eyes change with age, so regular checkups are a must. Because many people are affected by chronic eye conditions, stem cell therapy is now a reputable treatment option. If you have been living with a debilitating eye condition for a while, consider stem cell treatment options.
Many ophthalmological conditions are the result of damaged nerves or inflammation. The goal of stem cell therapy is to stimulate the growth of new cell tissues and replace dead cell tissues. Conditions treated with stem cell therapy include:
Retinal neuron loss has been treated successfully with stem cells. Loss of retinal neurons causes permanent blindness because lost photoreceptors and ganglion cells are not replaced when axons fail to regenerate. Stem cell therapies can be used to restore lost visual system connectivity in retinal degenerative disease. The stem cell treatments for retinal degeneration falls into two broad categories: 1) stem cells from sources outside the retina (mesenchymal stem cells or MSCs, neural stem cells or NSCs, and embryonic stem cells or ESCs), and 2) endogenous retinal stem cells (such as Muller glia, ciliary epithelia-derived stem cells, and retinal pigment epithelial stem cells).
According to recent clinical studies, adipose-derived stem cells and bone marrow stem cells provided support for neuroprotection and axon regeneration of damaged retinal cells. This was done directly through secretion of certain neurotrophic factors, as well as indirectly, possibly by stimulating endogenous retinal cells which provided paracrine support and replaced damaged cells. Neural stem cells were found to provide neuroprotection and replacement of retinal neurons.
The use of adipose-derived stem cells (ADSCs) is simple and convenient. Recent research into ADSCs has shown that stem cells are more prevalent in fat tissue than in muscle or other organs. Many disorders that respond to stem cell treatment do so in a dose-dependent manner, meaning the more stem cells that can be harvested the better the chances of recovery.
The Cell Surgical Network investigates the use of autologous adipose derived stromal fraction, which has been shown to contain pre-adipocytes, peri-vascular, and hematopoietic stem cells. Treatment and research is conducted under IRB-approved protocols.
The approved protocol for harvesting ADSCs from patients yields 10 million – 40 million stem cells. For conditions that may require more than 40 million stem cells for treatment, affiliates of CSN can now bank ADSCs, cryopreserving them and expanding hundreds of millions of autologous cells.
In a study of 18 adults with severe eye disease, scientists transplanted human embryonic stem cells. These cells were placed over the eyes in a tedious procedure. After two years, vision tests improved in 50% of the patients. The outcome is said to have paved the way for stem cell-derived eye cell transplants (photoreceptors) for eye disease. The volunteers in the study aged from 20 to 88 years, and they received injections under their retina of retinal pigment epithelium cells, which were formed from embryonic stem cells in a laboratory. After surgery, 70% of patients had increased pigmentation, which suggested that the cells were working for improved vision.
An ophthalmologist at the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology has transplanted pluripotent stem cells into a Japanese patient with debilitating eye disease. This earned the inventor a Nobel Prize. The cells were produce from adult stem cells, after being processed in the laboratory. The retinal pigment epithelium cells that formed were them transplanted into the damaged retina. While results are still pending, the research team is going to monitor the patient for a full year, and another study is planned with six participants.
Kamao H, Mandai M, Okamoto S, et al. (2014). Characterization of Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell–Derived Retinal Pigment Epithelium Cell Sheets Aiming for Clinical Application. Stem Cell Research, 2, 205-218.
Mead B, Berry M, Logan A, et al. (2015). Stem cell treatment of degenerative eye disease. Stem Cell Research, 14(3), 243-257.