A team of researchers have successfully used embryonic stem cells to replace diseased retinal cells in mice.
The study, which was conducted at Columbia University Medical Center, could potentially lead to the development of a new treatment for retinitis pigmentosa, a leading cause of blindness.
"This research is promising because we successfully turned stem cells into retinal cells, and these retinal cells restored vision in a mouse model of retinitis pigmentosa," said Stephen Tsang, assistant professor of ophthalmology, pathology and cell biology at Columbia University Medical Center, and lead author of the paper.
"The transplanted cells not only looked like retinal cells, but they functioned like them, too."
Over the course of the study, sight was restored in one-quarter of the mice that received the stem cells. However, complications such as benign tumors and retinal detachments prevented it from being fully successful.
Recently, a team from John Hopkins University revealed that they have moved a step closer to working out the causes behind retinal degeneration after finding that retinal dystrophies result from inherited defects in the "visual cycle".
by Martin Burns