What is the Future of Stem Cells in Treating Eye Disease?
September 6, 2010
I have just written and placed online, a major study on the use of stem cells in ophthalmology.
It is a comprehensive look at the different types of stem cells, the eye diseases they may be able treat, and the companies involved in developing commercial stell cell-based treatments and therapies.
Briefly, stem cells are like blank slates that can develop or “differentiate” into specialized cells that carry out a specific function, such as in the skin, muscle, liver, or in the eye. Stem cells have application for diseases in the front of the eye, the middle of the eye, and the back of the eye.
In the front of the eye, scarred and degenerative corneas represent one prime area of research for the use of stem cells. Because of a lack of donated human cornea bank corneas for transplantation, especially in populous nations such as India and China (and the third World countries), the use of stem cells to regenerate damaged corneal tissues could become lifesavers in those countries where blindness due to damaged corneas is prevalent.
There are only a few research programs using stem cells for the middle areas of the eye, specifically in treating glaucoma. NeoStem has said that they are working with Schepens Research Institute in using the company’s VSELs (very small embryonic-like stem cells) in the treatment of glaucoma (and AMD), and Stemedica claims to be working with the Fyodorov Eye Institute in Moscow on a glaucoma program. I know of no programs targeting the lens.
Most of the research efforts appear to be focused on the back of the eye, specifically retinal tissue and diseases. Areas of interest that I have identified include regeneration of retinal epithelial (RPE) cells for the treatment of both dry and wet forms of age-related macular degeneration (AMD); replacement of damaged photoreceptors; the growth of artificial retinas, again for treating AMD; and direct treatments for diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa (RP), retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), diabetic retinopathy (DR), Stargardts disease (Stargardt Macular Dystrophy) (SMD), and retinal vein occlusion (RVO).
The study also includes detailed information about the six companies that I’ve identified as active in this field, and includes a brief history of the use of stem cells in ophthalmology:
- Advanced Cell Technology Incorporated
- International Stem Cell Corporation
- NeoStem Incorporated
- Pfizer Regenerative Medicine
- Pfizer Ophthalmics
- StemCells Incorporated
Here is the link to the full study.
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