Wednesday August 15, 2018

Treating blindness with stem cell therapy

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Stem cells will now treat blindness. Pixabay
Stem cells will now treat blindness. Pixabay
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Stem cell-derived retinal cells can now be used to treat age-related macular degeneration (AMD). These advances have been made my a team of scientists led by a person of Indian origin.

Findings

  • Tiny tube-like protrusions called primary cilia on cells of the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) — a layer of cells in the back of the eye — are essential for the survival of the retina’s light-sensing photoreceptors.
  • This may help scientists to use induced-pluripotent stem cells to create adult RPE for transplants to treat patients with geographic atrophy, otherwise known as dry AMD.

“We now have a better idea about how to generate and replace RPE cells, which appear to be among the first type of cells to stop working properly in AMD,” said lead researcher Kapil Bharti, Stadtman Investigator at the National Eye Institute (NEI), part of the National Institutes of Health.

The results have been incorporated into the group's protocol for making clinical-grade RPE stem cells. Wikimedia commons
The results have been incorporated into the group’s protocol for making clinical-grade RPE stem cells. Wikimedia commons

How they go about it

  • In geographic atrophy, RPE cells die, which causes photoreceptors to degenerate, leading to vision loss.
  • The team hopes to halt the degeneration and reverse the progression of geographic atrophy, by replacing diseased the RPE with lab-made RPE.
  • The team tested three drugs known to modulate the growth of primary cilia on stem cells-derived RPE.
  • However, these RPE cells have a tendency to get developmentally stuck.
  • The cells frequently fail to mature into functional RPE capable of supporting photoreceptors. In cases where they do mature, however, RPE maturation coincides with the emergence of primary cilia on the induced-pluripotent stem cells-RPE cells.
  • They found that the two drugs known to enhance cilia growth significantly improved the structural and functional maturation of the RPE stem cells, while the cells exposed to the third drug, demonstrated severely disrupted structure and functionality.

The results have been incorporated into the group’s protocol for making clinical-grade RPE stem cells, Bharti said.

The study was published in journal Cell Reports. (IANS)

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Blue Light From Smartphones Accelerates Blindness

Blue light introduced to other cell types in the body, such as cancer cells, heart cells and neurons, they died as a result of the combination with retinal. Blue light alone or retinal without blue light had no effect on cells.

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Young people using smartphones. (Photo courtesy Kuvituskuvat via Flickr) (VOA)

Are you addicted to your smartphones, laptops and tablets? The blue light emitting from these digital devices can affect your eye’s retina and lead to age-related macular degeneration, according to a research led by a professor of Indian-origin.

Macular degeneration, an incurable eye disease that results in significant vision loss starting on average in a person in his 50s or 60s, is the death of photoreceptor cells in the retina. Those cells need molecules called retinal to sense light and trigger a cascade of signalling to the brain.

The findings showed that blue light exposure causes retinal to trigger reactions that generate poisonous chemical molecules in photoreceptor cells.

 The blue light emitting from these digital devices can affect your eye's retina
The blue light emitting from these digital devices can affect your eye’s retina . Flickr

“We are being exposed to blue light continuously, and the eye’s cornea and lens cannot block or reflect it,” said Ajith Karunarathne, Assistant Professor, University of Toledo in Ohio, US.

“It’s no secret that blue light harms our vision by damaging the eye’s retina,” he added.

Since photoreceptors, produced in the eye, are useless without retinal, one needs a continuous supply of retinal molecules to see.

“It’s toxic. If you shine blue light on retinal, the retinal kills photoreceptor cells as the signalling molecule on the membrane dissolves,” explained Kasun Ratnayake, doctoral student researcher at the varsity.

How blue light accelerates blindness
If you shine blue light on retinal, the retinal kills photoreceptor cells. Pixabay

“Photoreceptor cells do not regenerate in the eye. When they’re dead, they’re dead for good.”

In the study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, when the team introduced blue light to other cell types in the body, such as cancer cells, heart cells and neurons, they died as a result of the combination with retinal. Blue light alone or retinal without blue light had no effect on cells.

Also Read: Treating Blindness With Stem Cell Therapy

“The retinal-generated toxicity by blue light is universal. It can kill any cell type,” Karunarathne said.

To protect your eyes from the blue light, wear sunglasses that can filter both UV and blue light outside and avoid looking at your cell phones or tablets in the dark, he suggested. (IANS)