Retinal transplant shows promise for improved vision

July 13th, 2008 - 6:02 pm ICT by ANI  

London, July 13 (ANI): There’’s finally some hope for all those worried by the aging eyes and degenerated vision. Researchers in the US have been successful in carrying out retinal transplants in people with failing sight.
In the experimental study, researchers transplanted retinal cells into the eyes of patients with failing eyesight and found it to boost the vision in most of them.
Led by Dr Norman Radtke, the team at the University of Louisville, Kentucky implanted retinal cells taken from aborted foetuses into 10 people with retinitis pigmentosa and age-related macular degeneration. After recording improved, but still seriously impaired vision in 7 subjects, the researchers referred to successful retinal transplant as science’’s “holy grail”.
And now, it is possible to refine this method and obtain further evidence that retinal transplants may be a viable therapy for retinal degenerative disease. Retinitis pigmentosa and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) are the most common causes of blindness in old age, and involve the gradual and normally irreversible destruction of the cells on the eye’’s retina, which receive light.
The technique required the researchers to implant the foetal retinal cells alongside cells, which have the job of nourishing them, in order to facilitate new cells to join forces with the existing retinal cells for improving overall vision.
Radtke said that sight tests did not show any change in three of the 10 patients, but only slight improvements in the rest. In fact, one of the subjects showed improvement even six years after the operation, even though the patient’’s other eye had continued to deteriorate.
But there weren”t any major improvements and eyesight was well short of normal vision.
“What we have learned will help us to refine this method and obtain further evidence that retinal transplants may be a viable therapy for retinal degenerative disease,” BBC quoted Radtke, as saying. According to Professor Pete Coffey, from the University College London Institute of Ophthalmology, the results did not indicate any major improvement in vision, saying: “I can”t say that this is a success, except in the suggestion that the cells did not provoke an immune reaction in the recipient.”
He added that nobody had yet managed a completely successful transplant, which he described as the “holy grail” in the field. Also he said that the use of foetal cells was impractical, not only for ethical reasons, but also for sheer lack of supply.
“Unlike a stem cell line, every time you need new cells you need another foetus,” he said.
The study is published in the American Journal of Ophthalmology. (ANI)

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