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By: Sight Loss Services  05-Apr-2012
Keywords: Glass, Glasses, Lens


23 June 2011


The first clinical trial using human embryonic stem cells to treat eye disease is about to start in the USA.


Twelve people with dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a leading cause of sight loss in people aged 60 and over, will be treated at the Jules Stein Eye Institute at the University of California.


In another trial twelve people with Stargardt's macular dystrophy, an inherited condition that usually develops between the ages of 10 and 20, will also be treated.


Both conditions are caused by the progressive loss of retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells which are responsible for supporting, protecting and nourishing the light-sensitive cells which enable us to see. Patients in the trials will receive eye injections of embryonic stem cells programmed to behave like RPE cells. The therapy has been developed by Advanced Cell Technology in Massachusetts over the past decade.


Dr Dolores Conroy, Director of Research at Fight for Sight, said: "These trials are an important milestone for embryonic stem cell research and will determine whether stem-cell derived RPE cells have the potential to be a safe and effective treatment for currently untreatable eye diseases."


In the UK, the London Project to Cure Blindness lead by Professor Pete Coffey at the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology is planning to test RPE-derived stem cells in AMD patients in early 2012.

Every year the charity awards grants for original and ground-breaking research into the causes of sight loss at universities and hospitals across the UK. The new grants will support researchers based at the UCL Institute of Child Health, UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, the University of Birmingham, Queen Mary, University of London and the University of Liverpool.

The grants will fund the following research:

Repairing damage caused by retinal disease

The death of rod and cone photoreceptor cells caused by retinal diseases such as age-related macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa is the leading cause of sight loss in the developed world.  Photoreceptor cells help us to see by capturing light and converting it into electrical impulses to be transmitted to the brain where it is interpreted as images.

Dr Jane Sowden from the UCL Institute of Child Health, working with Professor Robin Ali at the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, has previously shown that immature rod photoreceptor cells can be effectively transplanted in mice. However, attempts to replace cone photoreceptor cells have been less successful.

Dr Sowden and Professor Ali plan to use methods from their previous work for the transplantation of cone photoreceptor cells. It is hoped this research will enable the replacement of damaged cells and potentially restore sight.

 

Understanding the development of inherited retinal disorders

Dr Marko Nardini from the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology is developing new methods for measuring retinal function in young children at risk of sight loss from inherited conditions such as retinitis pigmentosa. By accurately measuring changes in visual acuity, the visual field and the function of specific cells in the retina, he hopes to better understand the link between these changes and the development of different inherited disorders. These tests will also be used to measure the outcomes of new treatments such as gene replacement therapy for children with inherited retinal disorders.

Preventing and treating inflammatory retinal disease

Dr Marko Nardini from the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology is developing new methods for measuring retinal function in young children at risk of sight loss from inherited conditions such as retinitis pigmentosa. By accurately measuring changes in visual acuity, the visual field and the function of specific cells in the retina, he hopes to better understand the link between these changes and the development of different inherited disorders. These tests will also be used to measure the outcomes of new treatments such as gene replacement therapy for children with inherited retinal disorders.

Preventing and treating inflammatory retinal disease

Intraocular inflammation in diseases such as uveitis is a significant cause of blindness. In these diseases, an increase in the number of white blood cells in the blood leads to inflammation of the retina. Researchers believe these white blood cells may also contribute to retinal damage caused by diabetic retinopathy.

Professor John Greenwood at the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and Professor Sussan Nourshargh from Queen Mary, University of London are investigating the factors which control the migration of white cells into the retina. They hope to find new ways of preventing and treating retinal inflammation to stop sight loss from diseases like uveitis and diabetic retinopathy.

Dr Robert Barry from the University of Birmingham is also exploring potential treatments for diseases like uveitis.  He is looking specifically at the role of the molecule betaglycan in the regulation of the immune system to see how it can be manipulated to treat uveitis and other inflammatory eye diseases.

Improving the treatment of retinal detachment

 

Proliferative vitreoretiopathy (PVR) is a disease that can develop following retinal detachment and often leads to sight loss. Dr Victoria Kearns and her team at the University of Liverpool are investigating new ways of delivering PVR drug treatments. It is hoped this work will improve treatment for PVR and increase the success of retinal re-attachment surgery.

LOW VISION CONSULTATIONS NOW AVAILABLE (BY APPOINTMENT)

LARGE RANGE OF MAGNIFIERS, LIGHTS AND NON-OPTICAL AIDS

AVAILABLE FOR LOW VISION, VOCATIONAL AND CRAFT WORK.

Naomi Meltzer
BSc, Dip Opt, P-G Dip Rehab
Low Vision Consultant Optometrist

Remuera Health & Rehabilitation
437 Remuera Road
Remuera

An Optometrist dedicated to Low Vision support.

Keywords: Degeneration, Glass, Glasses, Glaucoma, Lens, Retina, Spectacles

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