Can Stem Cells be Used to Treat Optic Nerve Damage?

September 6, 2010

I am a 38 year old African American Female, and currently under the care of a retina specialist in St. Louis, Missouri. I was involved in an automobile accident on 5/13/2009 which caused me to lose my sight in my left eye. I was the driver and on impact I was struck in my left eye by the sun visor. After having surgery to remove the blood, I was told by my retina specialist that my optic nerve was badly damaged and due to this damage unfortunately I won’t regain my sight. After several follow up visits it was mentioned that with technology advancing there is talk of “stem cell” treatment for optic nerve damage. I would love to see again out of my left eye and was hoping with today’s technology that would be possible. Please advise on any help that could be available to me. Thank you.




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88 Responses to “Can Stem Cells be Used to Treat Optic Nerve Damage?”

  • ari

    sorry- i have no info in india.

  • Reddy

    Thanks ari for advice.. As I see u replied in many of responses to volunteer in research at reputable center, do you know any center in india or anything in andhra pradesh that is looking for volunteers..

  • ari

    any treatment would be many years in the future, and would involve stem cells, as that seems the only way we can repair damaged or dead tissue. nerve growth factor seemed to hold great promise, but it seems it was much more successful in mice than man. if you still want to follow the research, i advise you check world-class eye centers like bascom palmer, wills, cole etc.

  • reddy

    My father had an accident in last oct.. He had multiple factures on his face and his right eye was damaged.. Doctors concluded that his right eye has lost vision due to optical nerve damage and there is no way he can regain vision.. After doing little research, I came to conclusion that it is indeed true.. But there are research going on to cure this.. Can someone suggest me good site or research centre that are trying to find the solution.. I would like to say in touch with them in hope that soultion will be found soon..

  • Shilpa

    Dear all, Could someone please post some more comments if heard about the Chennai case. My husband is also suffering from the same disorder. Please help by providing some information.

  • ari

    as i have stated many times, stem cell therapy is very promising, but is years away from being used widely, and any “cures” have to be viewed skeptically until the data is published in respected, peer-reviewed literature. everybody knows that legitimate scientists/doctors who engage in breakthrough treatments publish their data in respected, peer-reviewed literature. for example, there is company that sells a drop that reverses cataract, and has many testimonials from patients how their vision has been restored. gee- you would think that the reversal of cataract by a drop, the world’s leading cause of blindness in world, would be front page news and be discussed at every ophthalmology conference. but it’s not. why? because the makers of this drop have not, and have no intention of, submiting their data to a peer-reviewed journal. so anybody with common sense knows it’s a bunch of snake oil.

  • Cheryl Chan

    There’s yet hope……..

    UK scientists have shown stem cells can be used to successfully stop glaucoma, an eye disorder, in rats. Stem cells were isolated from bone marrow and successfully grafted onto damaged nerves in the eye. This method stopped and partially reversed progression of the disorder, suggesting stem cell therapies for the treatment of glaucoma in humans may be possible in the future.

    ‘Finding treatments to reverse blindness is no longer in the realm of science fiction. We are doing it in animal models and results are so encouraging that we hope to move forward to testing on humans soon’, said Professor Keith Martin of the University of Cambridge and Addenbrooke’s Hospital, who is leading the study funded by the UK charity Fight for Sight. ‘Stem cell treatment is moving forward very fast in many branches of medicine and we are seeing some of the best results in eyes’, he added.

    Glaucoma affects approximately 480,000 people in the UK, usually aged over 40 years. The disorder is caused by a blockage of the drainage tubes in the eye, resulting in a build-up of fluid called aqueous humour. This leads to increased pressure within the eye, ultimately causing blindness due to damage of the optic nerve that transmits signals from the eye to the brain. Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness in the developed world.

    Current treatments for glaucoma involve decreasing the pressure within the eye to prevent nerve damage. But in patients with advanced glaucoma, this treatment cannot help reverse the damage already done to the optic nerve. Stem cell treatment may provide a new therapy to repair this damage.

    ‘We hope to use cells from patients, taking samples from blood and bone marrow, and modify them. We can then use these stem cells to protect cells from glaucoma and regenerate ones that have been damaged… However, it will be a few more years until these treatments are ready for human clinical trials’, said Professor Martin.

  • Cheryl Chan

    I read and still wonders if the article I read below is true:………….

    USA DOCTORS: “You are irreversibly blind with no chance of recovering your vision.”
    INDIA DOCTORS: “Come home and try our stem cells.”
    PATIENT: “I CAN READ. I am sure “they” will be surprised.”

    CHENNAI: In February, Shailesh (name changed), a 22-year-old medical student in the US lost his eyesight after swallowing methanol, a toxic alcohol. Doctors there told him that blindness was irreversible. After stem cell therapy in India, Shailesh will soon fly back to the US to literally see his doctors.

    He is today able to read and recognise colours. Once back in the US, doctors there would monitor his progress. “I am sure they are going to be surprised,” he said. In his medical reports, doctors had said that he had no chances of regaining vision with or without treatment as his optic nerve had suffered irreversible damage.

    Stem cell therapy is still part of clinical trials for ocular diseases in the US, but is not yet recommended as a treatment. In India, therapeutic experiments are less restrictive.

    On February 24, Shailesh came to Chennai for treatment. He met stem cell therapist Dr Himanshu Basnal of the Institute of Spinal Injury and Stem Cell Research, Rudrapur and Laksha Hospital in Chennai. The Indian Council of Medical Research has allowed some hospitals to go ahead with stem cell research.

    Doctors injected 120 ml of stem cells near the patient’s optic nerve. These cells were drawn from his bone marrow. Stem cells have the ability to grow into specialized cells. After the first shot, Shailesh showed improvement, and procedure was repeated. “These stem cells have managed to regenerate the cells in the optic nerve. He is able to read with glasses now,” said Dr Basnal, who will soon present the case for peer review in a medical journal.

    Senior opthalmologists in the city said if proven, the therapy would be a boon for patients who suffer optic nerve damage due to trauma or diabetes. “But, before being adopted as a therapy, a clinical trial on larger groups of patients should be done,” said a senior opthalmologist.

  • ari

    we typically operate on glioma if it threatens the other eye, for the operation often causes blindness on the operated eye. since it hasn’t reached chiasm, i would think your doctor would advise leaving it alone

  • Hadiyeh

    My 6-years-old doughter was diagnosed with glioma optic nerve on her right eye in Nov 2008.
    We follow up by MRI annually and leave her without any treatment by doctors opinion.

    There is also mild posterior extension of this mass in the post contrast images in to the Rt.optic canal.this posterior extension is about 6mm in the last study.Distance of this posterior margin of the mass to the optic chiasma is 23 mm.
    I would like to know if any treatment for her.

  • Puja Chanda,23,a patient of damaged optic nerve in both eyes.She had dimini- shed vision at the age of 6-7 yrs.She lost her vision gradually and now is complete blind.What is the treatment?Is stem cell therapy can do or alternatives? Puja Chanda is my elder sister.

  • Stacey Loveless

    My goodness. I’m going through something very similar and also am in St. Louis, MO. On 7/23/10 I was struck in my left eye and received much damage to my optic nerve. I am being treated at the Center for Advanced Medicine at Barnes by Wash U surgeons. My vision is awful and I have double vision. I too was researching stem cells to help me restore vision. God be with you and I hope you find something to help your sight. Stacey

  • Dr. Ari Weitzner

    To my knowledge, stem cells can only help in surface eye disease, like those who get chemical burns or other disease which make the surface opaque.

    Presently, it cannot help retina, optic nerve or any other eye disease. i advise, as always, that patients volunteer at world-class eye institutions for research.

  • sreedevi

    can stem cell therapy help repair optic nerve damage from neuritis?

  • Josh

    Please see these prior posts on the blog regarding stem cell treatments – they will direct you to other resources:

  • ari weitzner

    this is a common question here at eyedocnews.
    unfortunately, there is, to my knowledge, no proven stem cell treatment available for any optic nerve or retina disease. i advise that you go to a world-class eye institution and volunteer to participate in approved clinical trials. do not pay for any treatment- many places now are taking $10,000 from people for stem cell treatments that are 100% worthless.

  • sreedevi

    my husband is a retired teacher. During the last 5 years he has lost vision in both his eyes due to optic nerve weakness. I want to know whether there is any treatment to cure his blindness from this type of disease. Would stem cell therapy be helpful for this type of disease?

  • ari

    i disagree strongly with this kind of reasoning. it is simply not scientific. if you ask enough people, you will find someone who will say that a certain treatment helped. many people take zinc for a cold and swear it helps. yet every scientific study shows it has no benefit. the “placebo effect” is just too strong. when someone is ill, and they spend $10,000 on a treatment, and the doctor ressures them that it went very well, the patient will actually improve. but that doesn’t mean it works.

  • millena barrros

    Ask individuals who had stem cells transplantation. Research for yourself, then contact these people or doctors they recommend, even if they live overseas. Just consider what is more important. I know one nurse who has MS and she knew US doctors cannot help her (and by the way her husband is a very rich surgeon himself). So she went to Dominican Republic and is fine.

  • ari weitzner

    stem cells cannot help you. sorry. you will simply be $10,000 poorer. that’s the brutal truth. consider volunteering in research at a reputable eye center.