For the first time, scientists have used skin-derived stem cells to restore patient’s vision

Scientists Use Skin Stem Cells To Restore Patient's Vision-1

As part of a new research, a team of Japanese scientists has successfully performed the first  skin-to-eye cell transplant on a human patient. Using skin cells, the researchers were able to partially restore the vision of a 70-year-old patient suffering from age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which is widely believed to be the most common cause of vision loss among older people.

The breakthrough marks the first time that scientists have managed to partially reverse vision impairment by transplanting skin-derived pluripotent stem cells directly into the patient’s eye. The surgery, according to the team, was conducted back in 2014, with the results being made public after two years of close observation.

For the treatment, the researchers collected a tiny piece of skin, around 4 mm in diameter, from the patient’s arm. The cells were then modified into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), a special type of stem cell known for its ability to develop into almost any kind of tissue inside the human body. As the team points out, these cells can also differentiate into retinal pigment epithelium (RPE).

Scientists Use Skin Stem Cells To Restore Patient's Vision-2

Once repurposed into eye tissue, the cells were further grown in the laboratory to form a super-thin layer, which was then  transplanted onto the retina of the patient’s AMD-afflicted eye. Speaking about the breakthrough, recently presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO), Masayo Takahashi of the Riken Center for Developmental Biology said:

I am very pleased that there were no complications with the transplant surgery. However, this is only the first step for use of iPSC in regenerative medicine. I have renewed my resolve to continue forging ahead until this treatment becomes available to many patients.

Following the treatment, the scientists closely monitored the patient’s progress and the resultant vision improvement. According to them, the transplanted cells managed to survive for more than a year without any adverse effects. The team added:

The transplanted RPE sheet survived well without any findings [or] indication of immune rejections nor adverse unexpected proliferation for one and a half years, achieving our primary purpose of this pilot study.

Although still in the early stages of the development, the breakthrough could partially restore vision of AMD-afflicted patients, if not completely. The treatment technique, the scientists believe, could be used to treat a variety of other ailments, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. The patient, who underwent the surgery, said:

I am glad I received the treatment. I feel my eyesight has brightened and widened.

Via: ScienceAlert

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