Macular degeneration a well known disease that affects millions of people around the world. It is also the most common cause of vision loss. The disease causes deterioration of the retina on the spot known as the macula. The macula focuses vision and controls our ability to see things in fine detail. Since 2017 the disease is curable with stem cell therapy.
Patients with macular degeneration receive successful treatment with induced pluripotent stem cells. With stem cells differentiat in new retinal cells made in the laboratory, the therapy stops further degeneration. Induced pluripotent stem cells often created from regular adult cells. In this patient, the cells used to repair the damaged eye came from the patients own skin.
A team led by Masayo Takahashi, created induced pluripotent stem cells cells from a patient’s own skin cells. Then, they differentiated them to form cells to heal the retinal pigment epithelium. These cells help to support the retina, allowing the macular to interact with light, and restore visibility.
Once the cells are made they are patched together in a slither measuring 3 by 1 mm. The teams led by Masayo Takahashi aim to stop further degeneration. The treatments show that the procedure is technically successful: although the patients vision did not improve, the degeneration stopped.
The long term effect of induced pluripotent stem cells are unknown. Tissue formed with stem cells could cause mutations and mutations can cause cancer is one of the major concerns. In this specified cases the patients treated had no signs of cancer or any other complications.
In 2017 three people went blind after stem cell treatment, even though this treatment is completely different it shows that stem cell therapy must not be done by everyone and with every disease.
Because of the risks induced pluripotent stem cells are very controversial. More research is necessary on induced pluripotent stem cells and there is a need for other stem cells that can be used for treating Macular degeneration. An alternative and promising stem cells type are the mesenchymal stem cells found in high number in the umbilical cord.