Every part of your body creates specialized cells known as stem cells. These cells regenerate parts of your body throughout your life, including your skin, hair, blood, and more. Stem cells have long been used to research how to treat various diseases, but it wasn’t until just a few years ago that researchers began studying them in terms of treating retinal or ocular diseases.
Stem Cells and Glaucoma
Most stem cell research for the eye focuses on the back or front, but glaucoma is a disease that affects the middle of the eye. Although there is less information available for glaucoma treatment, some research organizations are focusing on a glaucoma program that will use embryonic-like stem cells as a method of treatment.
How Stem Cells Are Used for Ophthalmology
Researchers and medical experts, such as Kang Zhang MD, are using stem cells to learn more about the cornea and the retina. Even many organ donors do not actually donate eyes, especially in populated areas such as China or India. For this reason, stem cells are expected to become extremely important in the treatment of such issues as degenerative disorders or scarring in the cornea. However, current research focuses more on the retina and macula. These parts of the back of the eye may suffer from retinal tissue diseases such as AMD. Stem cell research is working on growing replacements for damaged receptors in this area.
What’s in Store for the Future
Currently, the United States, Japan, China, and Europe have stem cell research programs focusing on the eye, specifically diseases of the retina. The U.S. and Europe have received positive results for treating AMD and Stargardt disease currently, with more than 20 human patients having received treatment.