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Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells Will Cure Blindness?

Researchers at the School of Science at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis have made another step towards curing blindness. They applied induced pluripotent stem cells to correct a genetic defect causing a rare blinding disorder. The study was published online in the journal Stem Cells on the 15th June 2011.

In the study, the researchers applied technology of producing induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS-cells) and then used these cells to get healthy retinal cells to be implanted into the eye. The patient participating in the research had gyrate atrophy, a rare inherited disease causing blindness. In this disorder, retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) cells responsible for the support of the retina's photoreceptor cells are damaged.

To get healthy RPE cells, the researchers gathered cells from a patient with gyrate atrophy and converted them into induced pluripotent cells using the recently developed technology. After that, they corrected the gene defect and helped the cells to turn into RPE cells that functioned normally.

As induced pluripotent stem cells for the therapy can be derived from the patient and then transplanted back to him/her, the problem of transplant rejection can be avoided. Researchers are hopeful that once the gene defect responsible for a blinding disorder is corrected in iPS cells, these cells may be able to restore vision.

Given that the retina can be relatively easily accessed, it can be corrected with iPS cells. The researchers believe that, advanced further, the method may help developed therapies to cure blindness in millions of individuals caused by common retinal diseases, namely macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa. Macular degeneration, being the most frequent cause of blindness, affects about 25-30 million people worldwide. Another one and a half million people suffer from retinitis pigmentosa.

Fetal stem cells treatment results depend on: disease's severity, age of the patient, adherence for the medications and regime. Treatment results, presented on this site, are individual for each clinical case.