Stem cell research is an exciting field with many advancements and hope for new and better treatments. Although this topic has proven to be controversial in the media it has proven scientific benefits. For those who are blind, or have macular degeneration, this area of science may one day aid in successfully treating patients. So, this week’s blog post will highlight how stem cell research could help aid in eye therapy. I hope you enjoy it!
What Are Stem Cells?
Before we start discussing how stem cells might one day be used to help treat the eye, let’s discuss what stem cells are. The National Institutes of Health states:
Stem cells differ from other kinds of cells in the body. All stem cells—regardless of their source—have three general properties: they are capable of dividing and renewing themselves for long periods; they are unspecialized; and they can give rise to specialized cell types.
Thus stem cells have the potential ability to develop into different kinds of specific cells as necessary and grow in quantity. Every bit of tissue in our bodies consists of cells. Including our eyes and brains. The science behind stem cell research is complex, for our purposes it is important to know that there are different types and sources of stem cells. Stem cell research is something scientists want to utilize because it will mean having an endless ability to regenerate old or faulty cells by introducing new stem cells. This is quite amazing!
How Could Stem Cell Research Aid In Eye Therapy?
Because stem cells have the ability to grow into many cells they can be used to help renew old damaged cells in the eye. Many eye diseases and conditions could be treated with stem cells, like those affecting the retina, cornea, or optic nerve. Cell regeneration could mean the end to blindness, macular degeneration, retinal damage, and so much more. Check out the below interactive video by The Canadian Stem Cell Foundation on how stem cells might help repair damaged retinas:
The possibilities of what stem cells could do are vast. But because the eye is an extremely complex organ with many different cells and processes. As of now, there are no approved treatments in Canada. Before stem cell eye therapy is available Scientists will need to fully understand the best ways to introduce stem cells into the eye. Keep on reading to understand why this process is not so straight-forward!
There is a lot of research being done on how stem cells can help aid in eye therapy. But as I mentioned, it is a complex process. There are many different types of stem cell sources, each with their own challenges. The Canadian Stem Cell Foundation states:
One of the challenges researchers are finding is getting the transplanted stem cells to ‘take.’ Some regions of the eye are more hospitable to transplants and successes have come relatively quickly, as in the case of grafting corneal tissue generated from limbal or embryonic stem cells. The retina, on the other hand, is not so welcoming to incoming cells. Researchers are working hard to overcome this by identifying the normal signals within the eye that work on stem cells to promote tissue repair. They are also developing new delivery methods (for example, biodegradable gels seeded with stem cells) that are able to promote more continuous integration of the transplanted cells into the eye.
Stem cells may help repair parts of the eye that are unrepairable as of now, allowing many people the opportunity to improve their lives. This is an exciting possibility for patients, researchers, and doctors!
Remember the best way to protect your eyes, at least for now, is to stay on top of your regular eye exams! It is sometimes the only opportunity to have an eye professional assess the health of your eyes. If you need an eye exam, give us a call or easily book online with Dr. Sharma!
You won’t feel pressured to buy a pair of glasses afterwards, because we only care about your eyes!