Thursday, September 23, 2010

Stem Cells 'Could Treat Hereditary Blindness Condition'

Wednesday, September 22, 2010
By: Press Association (U.K.)

A pioneering study led by a London researcher has raised hopes of a stem cell treatment for a form of blindness that affects 3,000 children in the UK.

Scientists successfully implanted cells from healthy mice into animals with the hereditary disease, Leber Congenital Amaurosis (LCA).

The implanted cells produced a protein called Crx which is needed to make healthy cone and rod photoreceptors, the light-detectors at the back of the eye responsible for sight.

The cells were able to integrate with the retina to become new cone photoreceptors.

Further studies are needed to see if the technique really can help to restore vision.

Dr Jane Sowden, from the University College London Institute of Child Health, who led the Medical Research Council-funded study, said: "The newly developed cones look as good as new.

"This is an important step forward as cone photoreceptors are essential for reading vision and for colour vision, and loss of this type of cell has the biggest impact on sight.

"It may be possible to translate this success into treatments for humans. Recent research has shown that embryonic stem cells capable of self-renewal could provide an equivalent source of human cells that express Crx and could be grown in the lab before being transplanted in the retina."

The research is published in the journal Human Molecular Genetics.

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