The site for all things eye-related
A team based in Japan successfully transplanted a patient’s own stem cells back into the retina in an experimental treatment for age-related macular degeneration (AMD). This research was recently presented in April/May 2016 in Seattle, WA.
While stem cell research has been progressing for the eye on several fronts and there has been a few Phase I and Phase II clinical trials, the exciting thing about this particular trial is that the cells used here were autologous (meaning they came from the same patient that they were transplanted into).
The method of this trial was to harvest skin cells from the arm, then induce those differentiated cells into a more embryonic state. These cells are called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). After the researchers got the iPSCs, they were transformed into a sheet of pigment epithelial cells that were transplanted into the patient’s own eye. The sheet of pigmented cells was used to replace missing pigmented cells under the retina of a patient with advanced AMD–potentially supporting the remaining retina and preserving/restoring function.
The cells survived for over a year under the retina and did not result in any adverse side effects. The patient also experienced slightly improved vision (though this result should be taken with a grain of salt as this was an uncontrolled single person trial). Still, the fact that no harm was done is of great significance and paves the way for further research into the use of autologous iPSCs for the treatment of AMD. I am looking forward to hearing about new trial results from this Japanese group.