Pluripotent stem cells could be grown to give people back their eyesight, according to scientists from the State University of New York (SUNY) Upstate Medical University.
This type of stem cell has the ability to become a mature one of any type and the researchers have demonstrated they can be turned into any class of retinal cell needed for vision.
Future prevention or reversal of sight loss caused by conditions such as age-related macular degeneration, diabetes retinopathy and glaucoma could be created with this knowledge, the study concluded.
The research was presented at Neuroscience 2008, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, which took place in Washington.
Lead author, Michael Ezra Zuber from SUNY explained: "Vision is lost in these diseases because one or more of the seven retinal cell types die.
"Current treatments can slow these diseases" progression, but they can"t replace lost retinal cells."
He added pluripotent cells provided a "promising starting point" to create new retinal cells and restore vision.
by Emily Tait