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
  • Stemedica

Here is the link to the full study.




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9 Responses to “What is the Future of Stem Cells in Treating Eye Disease?”

  • ari

    consult the stem cell section on this website, or a world-class eye research center. do not get treatment anywhere else lest you expose your self to loss of a great deal of money to unproven, unregulated treatment.

  • liz

    Matthew is 27 years old… recently lost his eye sight totally to optic nerve damage… Is there some sought of surgery that can help restore his sight. any stem cell success in this catergory. any places taking voluteers to try the surgery or stem cell at no cost…. I would love to see this young promising man get back his sight, his life…. Help…..

  • shailesh singh

    Hello every one,
    My son is also facing the same problem .his left eye has no hope and right eye also has rop .he was getting treatment in sankara netralya chennai there they marked some lazer after this he got some vision as per doctor in this case 15 -20% vision only get. we are hoping result from stem cell research. Don’t get dishearted try the best school who trained this type of children to stand on there own.please informed me if any treatment is possible. Tc

  • ari

    i get emails all the time about millions of dollars waiting for me from someone in nigeria. the internet is like t.v.- you cant trust what you read/hear. only data coming from respected, peer-reviewed journals can be taken seriously. otherwise, you are setting yourself up for dashed hopes and lost money.

  • As in the writeup above, it sounds too good to be true. Without careful studies, as are being done by companies such as Advanced Cell Technology, I wouldn’t put too much faith in writeups such as this one.

    Irv Arons

  • Cheryl

    I came across the article below and wonder if anyone can verify if the case is genuine:

    Breakthrough treatment: optic atrophy student gets back vision


  • I haven’t come across Beike Biotech in my extensive research on who is doing what in stem cell research in ophthalmology. I would have to guess that it is one of the “fly-by-night” centers that is offering to provide stem cells for a lot of money without any proven results.

  • ari weitzner

    Please review our entries in the “Stem Cell” category for further information:


    In particular, see our post concerning a new website that helps patients evaluate stem cell treatment centers:


  • gilded

    Are you familiar with Beike Biotech? They say they can treat ROP stage 5 with stem cell therapy! Is it possible? Are they reliable?