Stem Cell Research and the Health of Your Eyes

A recent breakthrough in stem cell research is bringing hope for the many who suffer from eye conditions that damage the retina, including retinitis pigmentosa, diabetic retinopathy, and age-related macular degeneration.

According to a press release on Tuesday, May 17, scientists at Harvard’s Schepens Eye Institute succeeded in using iPS cells (induced pluripotent stem cells) derived from skin to regenerate large areas of healthy cells in a damaged retina.

The scientists took cells from the tails of mice and manipulated them in the lab until they formed the precursors of retinal cells. They then placed these cells into one eye of a mouse that had been genetically modified to have defective retinas. After about 4 to 6 weeks had elapsed, the cells showed that they had assimilated into the eye environment, and when scientists stimulated them with light, the light registered in the mouse’s neurons.

Simply put, the retinal cells developed in the lab were, miraculously, functioning as healthy eye cells, giving the mouse better vision.

This is not the first time that scientists have generated retinal cells in the lab, however. Previously scientists at Georgetown University Medical Center used adult stem cells to generate retinal cells, and scientists in Japan created retinal cells from the embryonic stem cells of mice.

What makes the Schepens study unique is that it used iPS cells to create retina cells. iPS cells are adult stem cells that are essentially reprogrammed to behave like embryonic stem cells. They have similar properties to embryonic stems cells, but without the political, ethical, and moral complications.

Though this research is still in its infancy, its success is encouraging for people who have previously had no treatment for their vision problems caused by retinal disease. If you have questions or are suffering from retina damage, please contact an experienced eye doctor today through

Exciting New Product Developed for the Treatment of Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Exciting New Product Developed for the Treatment of Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a disease affecting millions of Americans, and is the leading cause of blindness in Americans and Europeans over the age of 65. As the eye ages, abnormal blood vessels grow behind the retina and leak blood and fluid, causing the retina to malfunction, which leads to blindness. Previously there were no treatments to reverse the damaging effects of this disease. Now, however, a new technology developed by pharmaceutical company Regeneron promises to provide hope to all those suffering with AMD.

Regeneron partnered with Bayer HealthCare to develop and commercialize a product called VEGF Trap-Eye and began testing the product’s effectiveness in 2007. Despite the slightly lethal-sounding name, VEGF Trap-Eye has proven itself to work wonders in tests, improving visual acuity in the majority of people who received the product.

What Is VEGF Trap-Eye?

VEGF Trap-Eye is a man-made protein designed to fuse to natural proteins in the human body. It has been engineered to bind to VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor) which is one of the proteins involved in AMD. VEGF naturally occurs in the body and is needed to support tissue and organ growth by triggering the growth of blood vessels. However, this is the protein that causes those harmful blood vessels to grow behind the retina. When VEGF Trap-Eye binds to this protein, it renders it unable to create any new blood cells, preventing AMD.

Now We Wait

Though tests have affirmed VEGF Trap-Eye’s success with treating AMD and other conditions that affect the retina, such as central retinal vein occlusion (CRVO), Regeneron is awaiting a meeting with the FDA’s Dermatologic and Ophthalmic Drugs Advisory Committee on June 17, 2011 to see whether they can begin marketing this product in the U.S. If the FDA gives the okay, the millions suffering from AMD and other eye problems may find relief at last.

If you have more questions about age-related macular degeneration or treatment options, contact an experienced ophthalmologist in your area today.