The human eye is one of the most complicated parts of the human body. While science has found ways to remove cataracts, transplant corneas and treat glaucoma, they’ve yet to find a solution for blindness caused by damaged retinas – the intricate part of the eye that converts light into a visual image understood by the brain.
New animal-model stem cell research from Johns Hopkins offers a hopeful light at the end of the tunnel to the millions suffering from these diseases across the globe. Common disorders involving the retina include retinitis pigmentosa, diabetes, and age-related macular degeneration. Up to this point, doctors could only monitor their patients’ deteriorating vision without many options to help restore their sight.
Scientists at Johns Hopkins’ Wilmer Eye Institute have potentially figured out a way to repair retinal cells using stem cells found in umbilical cord blood. They were able to safely grow a type of blood vessel-rich tissue and inject it into mice with damaged retinas. No matter where they injected this tissue into the mice, it made its way to the eye – and remarkably – found the damaged retina and repaired the blood vessel structures — basically converting into normal-looking retinal cells.
This breakthrough could be a big step forward in treating the more than one hundred diseases that destroy the retina. Next up – demonstrate the same success in humans.
We’ll keep on eye on it. Sounds promising.