The eye is one of the most structurally complex parts of the body. Different disorders of the eye develop when one or more of the components stop working. This is why it is so difficult to treat conditions of the eye, and reverse sight loss.
Stem cells may well hold the answer. By replacing damaged cells with new, healthy, specialised cells, it could be possible to reverse the damage done and restore vision.
Currently the only clinically approved stem cell treatment for the eye is Holoclar®, a treatment which restores vision to patients with damaged corneas by transplanting limbal stem cells into areas where these cells are lacking.
Use in Macular Degeneration
One of the leading causes of vision loss is Macular Degeneration (MD), a painless, age-related eye condition, which causes the person to lose their central vision making vision blurry.
Stem cell therapy has been trialled to treat MD but has so far been unsuccessful due to the replacement cells struggling to integrate into the original tissue.
Researchers may have found a solution to this in the form of an injection of an immune system protein- Mesencephalic Astrocyte-derived Neurotrophic Factor (MANF) – to assist with the integration. Research carried out by the Buck Institute showed success in retinal stem cell transplants on congenitally blind mice, and human trials are the next step.
If the protein is successful in human therapy, it could be used to treat early-stage MD in the future.
MANF has previously been studied by other scientists, including Ajan Rejinald, CEO of Celixir, for its role in conditions like Parkinson’s disease