The team of scientists at Moorfields Eye Hospital and University College London revealed that the chances of reversing the blindness in humans made a significant leap. It was found in the animal study that it was possible to repair the portion of the eye which detects light, with the help of the stem cells. The scientists explained that the human trials were possible for the very first time.
The experts in the healthcare sector described this as a huge leap as well as significant breakthrough. There are Photoreceptors in the eyes. The Photoreceptors are actually the cells present in retina that react to light and then transduce it into electrical signal, which in turn is sent to the brain. However, in certain cases such as Stargardt's disease or age-related macular degeneration these cells can die off.
There are already ongoing trials in people in order to make use of the stem cells for replacing support cells in eye that can keep the photoreceptors alive.
The Technique Used
The scientists made use of the new technique in order to build the retinas in laboratory. This in turn was used for collecting various stem cells, which were prepared to transform into photoreceptors. Then, they were injected in the eyes of blind mice. In the study, it was found that these cells could join in with existing architecture of the eye and thereby start functioning properly. However, it was also found that the effectiveness was low. Merely 1000 cells out of transplant of 200000 cells actually joined in with the rest of the eye.
Lead researcher of the study, Prof Robin Ali explained that this was the real proof that it was possible to transplant photoreceptors from the embryonic stem cells source. This study gave a lead in order to perform these experiments in humans as well.
It is important to note that an eye is an advanced field for the purpose of stem cell research. This technique is said to be relatively simpler because the light sensing cells merely need to pass the electrical message on to another cell for delivering their message to brain.
Because the immune system of the eye is very weak, therefore, there are lower chances of transplant being rejected. Just a few cells can make vital difference in eye. Various stem cells in an eye can also help in improvement of the vision.