Macular Degeneration is currently the leading cause of vision loss in people over 65. Worse – there are currently no treatments available to combat this disease. But new research from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center shows that an injection of stem cells into the eye may slow or even reverse the effects of early-stage age-related macular degeneration. The first treatment method that could allow older patients to maintain their eyesight for their entire lives.
Macular Degeneration occurs when the small central portion of the retina, known as the macula, deteriorates. The retina is the light-sensing nerve tissue at the back of the eye. There are several causes of macular degeneration including environmental factors, aging and genetic predisposition.
The Cedars-Sinai research was conducted on laboratory rats. Their research showed that injection of stem cells resulted in 130 days of preserved vision. This equates to approximately 16 years in humans. The researchers saw that when the animal models were injected with induced neural progenitor stem cells (stem cells made from adult human tissue), healthy cells began to migrate around the retina and formed a protective layer, preventing ongoing degeneration.
Although these results are promising, the research is still very early stage. The researchers will next have to test the efficacy and safety of the stem cell injection in preclinical animal studies to gain investigational new drug approval. From there, clinical trials must be conducted to test the potential benefits in human patients with age-related macular degeneration.