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Stem Cells to Treat Blindness

By: Ian Murnaghan BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 18 Jan 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Stem Cells Blindness Eyesight Sight

For people who are blind, the thought of a treatment to restore their sight may seem like an impossible dream. But it may eventually become a reality after scientists last year were able to restore the eyesight of a blind person. The treatment works by replacing those cells in the eye know as retinal cells that have been damaged or worn out from diseases such as macular degeneration. For the elderly in particular, macular degeneration is a common concern as it can lead to enormous loss of vision in one or both eyes.

What is Macular Degeneration?

Macular degeneration is a top cause of vision loss in older adults. This is the most common illness that results in blindness in the elderly or for those people who lose their eyesight due to diabetes. It wrecks havoc on a person's central vision. This kind of vision is important for helping us to see objects clearly as well as helping us to perform basic, everyday tasks such as reading a book or driving a car.

When macular degeneration strikes, it affects the area of the eye that is important for allowing us to see fine details. The disease may progress very slowly so that a person barely notices any changes at all. Or, it might progress rapidly, causing significant vision loss.

Stem Cell Therapies

Those who might benefit the most from this stem cell treatment are people who suffer from macular degeneration. But researchers think it could work for other kinds of vision loss as well.

How it Works

To perform the stem cell transplant, researchers initially tested things out in blind mice. They injected stem cells into the rear of the eye. The stem cells were able to replace the damaged photoreceptors, which are small, important cells found in the retina. These photoreceptors are vital to your ability to see things and they are very sensitive to light.

Interestingly enough, previous studies using stem cells had failed to restore sight. One reason for the problem relates to the choice of stem cells. In the most recent study, researchers used stem cells that were more mature than the ones previous researchers had used. The choice proved successful as the stem cells developed into photoreceptors and were able to join with the nerves that lead to the brain.

Researchers hope to see these kinds of transplants happening on a greater scale in approximately ten years. With many patients suffering from diseases in the eye that cause photoreceptors to die, this research offers a way to provide photoreceptor transplantation, helping to restore eyesight for many people around the world. The use of a patient's own cells also avoids the potential for immunological rejection, a threat that comes with other types of treatment.

Cautiously Optimistic

Experts do still tend to warn that we should not assume this study means we automatically have a cure for blindness. It is just one case study and there are still a number of challenges and risks that come with the treatment. But it does offer hope for people who are blind from macular degeneration that they may one day have their eyesight again.

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[Add a Comment]
Hi, My baby born at 32 weeks with 1200g. He was in NICU for 37 days. He is suffering Rop stage 5. Now he is 9 month. I check up him in India Sankara netralaya Chennai. Dr.Say no hope. No surgery. My question is any treatment in World. Any single possibility of other treatment. Is that possible ratina tansfomation. Artificial eye or others.
Imon - 18-Jan-17 @ 4:03 PM
Hi. My son is 9 years old and he had optic atrophy and we don't know what the cause is. His vision has been decreasing dramatically over the part year. Would stem cells help in this case?? Thank you
Carolha - 16-Jan-17 @ 7:09 PM
MT - Your Question:
Greetings for the new year. I am 30 Y/M and met to a roadside accident in June 2016 which caused me optic neuropathy initially. Over the 6 weeks I was diagnosed that indeed I have developed optic atrophy which even continued to progress and now my right eye vision is damaged upto 90% as compared to initial 60%. This has entirely changed my life and I have left with no hope to see again in life normally. my all work has affected and my progress in professional life is just halted. Can you please suggest me if I can have any treatment? in my country there is no treatment available and I have consulted the best of ophthalmologist.

Our Response:
I am sorry to hear this. However, I can only really direct you to Euro Stem Cell who may be able to point you in the right direction, as treatment still very much remains at the research stage. Please see link here.
ExploreStemCells - 3-Jan-17 @ 12:01 PM
My partner had an accident 10 years ago and he was left with brain damage,due to the brain damage he is visually impaired/ blind and has epelepcy.he is 36 and I would be very grateful if anyone could tell me if there could be a chance my partner could benefit from this stem cell treatment.
Kay - 2-Jan-17 @ 10:41 PM
Greetings for the new year. I am 30 Y/M and met to a roadside accident in June 2016 which caused me optic neuropathy initially. Over the 6 weeks i was diagnosed that indeed i have developed optic atrophy which even continued to progress and now my right eye vision is damaged upto 90% as compared to initial 60%. This has entirely changed my life and i have left with no hope to see again in life normally. my all work has affected and my progress in professional life is just halted. Can you please suggest me if i can have any treatment? in my country there is no treatment available and i have consulted the best of ophthalmologist.
MT - 2-Jan-17 @ 12:07 PM
I have a4years old boy who is suffering from retinal detachment he has undergone surgery but still can not see can you help my son
basty - 22-Dec-16 @ 3:34 PM
Hello there, Good Day! I am writing this to you with a hope that you could help me out in this regard. I found this research center e-mail address from official site. My brother is 18 years now. 4 years ago in an incident he got retinal detachment and he cannot see from his left eye. His eye got operated twice. He gone through different laser surgeries but couldn't work. At initial level he could able to differentiate in colors but after that completely blindness due to some layer on eye. We are so worried for him. Could you please help us in this matter? I can share his reports and other details for study if you required. We belong to a middle class family. All i need better assistance so that we can do something for him. Thank you so much for your time. Hoping a prompt response from your side.
WS - 16-Dec-16 @ 7:37 AM
Hi , My brother lost his vision rapidly at the age of 22 and now he is 26 he is still managing to do his best , we need suggestion possibility and recommendations what should we do to get his vision back, please drop me your suggestions and some same cases which has been operated successfully to make our confidence level high . Thanks Mandar
Mandar - 15-Dec-16 @ 11:12 AM
Jo - Your Question:
Hi,My 1st son was 3 1/2 months premature (at 24 weeks) and was in the NICU 7 months. He had 8 surgeries- 3 eye, 1 heart and 4 stomach/intestine. He's 5 years old now and has been having some complications still. One major complication being his vision, bc he had ROP disease so severe all 3 times when he was in the hospital. Now his vision has been affecting him in school and the specialists say it's going to keep going worse. He could eventually go blind, no-one knows for sure. I am now pregnant with my 4th child and I didn't bank any of my children umbilical cords mostly bc of lack of information and I heard about it once and that it was super expensive. Now I have one last chance to save one because I'm due May 5. Could this babies umbilical cord work for my son and could it potentially help reverse blindness and correct vision etc? I've been doing a lot of research on it the last month since we've met with specialists about my sons struggles and really want to save it if it can help him. I'm now wishing I would've saved all of my kids but I didn't really know anything about this. Any info asap would help! Thank youJolene

Our Response:
You would need to pay to store your baby's cord blood privately, it would then be available for use by your family, please see link here. It is definitely worth pursuing this, as there is likely to be major advances in the future and if you have compatible stem cells available, then you would be in the best possible position to help your son. Advice from your son's specialist will help you to pursue this further.
ExploreStemCells - 14-Dec-16 @ 10:10 AM
Hi,My 1st son was 3 1/2 months premature (at 24 weeks) and was in the NICU 7 months. He had 8 surgeries- 3 eye, 1 heart and 4 stomach/intestine. He's 5 years old now and has been having some complications still. One major complication being his vision, bc he had ROP disease so severe all 3 times when he was in the hospital. Now his vision has been affecting him in school and the specialists say it's going to keep going worse. He could eventually go blind, no-one knows for sure. I am now pregnant with my 4th child and I didn't bank any of my children umbilical cords mostly bc of lack of information and I heard about it once and that it was super expensive. Now I have one last chance to save one because I'm due May 5. Could this babies umbilical cord work for my son and could it potentially help reverse blindness and correct vision etc? I've been doing a lot of research on it the last month since we've met with specialists about my sons struggles and really want to save it if it can help him. I'm now wishing I would've saved all of my kids but I didn't really know anything about this. Any info asap would help! Thank youJolene
Jo - 13-Dec-16 @ 4:36 AM
Moongold - Your Question:
My elderly (but otherwise very well) aunt has retinal occlusion, has had a stroke in her eye, is going blind, but still has some sight left. She is in her early 80's as I recall. Her ophthalmologist tells her the best they can do is keep giving her the injections behind the eye at monthly intervals. We're wondering if you can possibly help her recover sight, what the approximate cost for this therapy would be if done in the U.K., and if you might event know of another reputable and experienced specialist who practices the therapy a bit closer to us also. Thank you.

Our Response:
While stem cell therapy has been evaluated in central retinal artery occlusion and initial results are encouraging, we can't recommend any specialists, but we can direct you via the Moorfields Eye Hospital which may be able to help further. Please see link here.
ExploreStemCells - 6-Dec-16 @ 10:01 AM
My elderly (but otherwise very well) aunt has retinal occlusion, has had a stroke in her eye, is going blind, but still has some sight left.She is in her early 80's as I recall.Her ophthalmologist tells her the best they can do is keep giving her the injections behind the eye at monthly intervals.We're wondering if you can possibly help her recover sight, what the approximate cost for this therapy would be if done in the U.K., and if you might event know of another reputable and experienced specialist who practices the therapy a bit closer to us also. Thank you.
Moongold - 5-Dec-16 @ 3:23 AM
I have a son who is now legally blind.He is 23yrs old and has a son who he can not help around. I'm his mom and we are very devastated with his blindness.I have no medical insurance and we are seeking help. Please help us find a way to help my son. We are not well off with money,but i'm willing to do anything to help my son.We don' have the financial way to do more now. We have tried to find ways but have not had the luck.I'm trying to find a way.Please let me know if there is anything we can do for him.
ANDY - 16-Nov-16 @ 3:12 PM
My mother is not able to see due to damage of optic nerve and she has dibates problem and she lost her eye due glaucoma . can stem therapy works.
vek - 16-Nov-16 @ 5:59 AM
My son is 12 years,he is blind both eyes,actually he us premature baby of 24 week,ROP stage 5 at the age of 75 days, Can stem cell will help him to see by his eyes. Please help us. Thanks
Alok - 21-Oct-16 @ 5:27 AM
I have chorioretinal scars(toksoplasmosis).does it have remedy? can my vision be better than today's? can you treat his retina? please answer
per - 14-Oct-16 @ 5:51 PM
My uncle had a stemcell treatment for his blindness, and about a month after the treatment he had perfect vision in his left eye for about one hour and fifteen minutes , then it went away.
Joe - 14-Oct-16 @ 5:08 AM
My son was born with hydrocephulas and had surgery 2 days old insertion of shunt has decreased fluid back to Normal but we have just found out his eye sight has been damaged and is very limited if any at all he's almost 4 months old could stem cells help restore his sight?
nate - 10-Oct-16 @ 9:35 PM
My brother had been shot by a bullet towards the side ways and due to this he lost his vision in both the eyes..He is 33 yrs old only... Is there any way in Stem cell therapy that he regain his vision back??? Please help us ..
Kiara - 28-Sep-16 @ 11:04 AM
Qalab - Your Question:
Is there any treatment for the disease retina pigmentosa??? If yes then tell me plz

Our Response:
I'm afraid there is no specific treatment currently as stem cell treatment for this condition is still very much at the research stage. However, there is real optimism and past and on-going clinical trials indicate that treatments may start to become available during the next decade.There will increasingly be more clinical trials to determine the safety and effectiveness of a wide range of potential treatments over the next 10 years, please see Fighting Blindess link here.
ExploreStemCells - 26-Sep-16 @ 10:28 AM
My daughter lost her vision in one eye to glaucoma and has very little in herother would stem cell help her.
Mama - 25-Sep-16 @ 4:49 PM
Is there any treatment for the disease retina pigmentosa??? If yes then tell me plz
Qalab - 25-Sep-16 @ 6:28 AM
Fifi - Your Question:
My husband life was turned upside down when he drank a mate's home brew spirit. This was a night mare as he got methonal poisioning and nearby died. Will bionic stem cell's help my husband. Please we have 4 boy's and this is killing him.

Our Response:
I am sorry to hear this. I can only suggest you see your husband's GP regarding this, as treatment is still very much at the trial stage. The trials will also be aimed at specific areas of blindness, such as naturallly caused macular degeneration and not necessarily those from the very uncommon area of methonal poisoning.
ExploreStemCells - 12-Sep-16 @ 10:49 AM
My husband life was turned upside down when he drank a mate's home brew spirit. This was a night mare as he got methonal poisioning and nearby died. Will bionic stem cell's help my husband. Please we have 4 boy's and this is killing him.
Fifi - 11-Sep-16 @ 6:44 AM
My brother is 20 years old know he has been asking me please sis help me regain vision again.He lost his eyesight on his left side eye he was hit by a friend with a stone in the eye when he was 13 years old please tell me that photoreceptor transplantation can help I'm begging you please help my brother regain his eyesight.
Lee - 15-Aug-16 @ 7:07 PM
i have a little daughter from 2 years old now, she was treated 1 year ago on ROP stage 5 but that was not helping here. is this stemm cells therapy a new way of curing here ROP 5? please let me know, i will do everything to help here see the world.
ronnie - 10-Jul-16 @ 3:49 PM
I don knw whts gng on my eyes dr tld me its glucoma nd i had done surgery bt still mylosing vision n tired of shaky vision .its vry shakky plz sum 1 hlp me
Hity - 5-Jul-16 @ 2:22 PM
Vision lost at age 58 to CRAO, could this be treated with stem cell transplant?
Wayne - 23-Jun-16 @ 2:45 PM
from last 3 year my right eye effected from diebatic rentinopathy completely i canot see but now my left eye also have done 3 laser treetment please advise me how to save my vision
samir - 15-Jun-16 @ 3:51 AM
Joehogan- Your Question:
Hello I was wondering if I could be a test subject I was in a car crash that shattered my retina on my right eye id be more than willing to help out in the name of science or is there just no hope on fixing or helping me thank you

Our Response:
You would have to apply directly via the link here. I hope this helps.
ExploreStemCells - 14-Jun-16 @ 1:58 PM
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