Japanese Scientists Use Skin Cells to Restore Patient’s Vision
Scientists from Japan claim that they have performed a successful skin to eye stem cell transplant in human beings. The stem cells were taken from patient’s skin and were placed in her eye. This restored her lost vision partially.
The patient was a 70 year old Japanese women who was diagnosed with Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) – which is one of the leading cause of loss of vision in older people.
The scientists started her treatment as a part of their pilot study back in 2014. Now, after two years the transplant took place, they have made the results public.
The scientists took a small piece of skin from her arm – almost 4mm in diameter – and re-programmed its cells into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC).
Pluripotent stem cells can differentiate between different tissues in the human body. They have this ability naturally. Hence, the skin cells from arm can be transformed into retinal tissue.
Scientists successfully modified the skin cells into retinal pigment epithelium (RPE). Then they were cultured in the lab to form an ultra-thin sheets. These tiny sheets were then placed behind the retina of the patient.
Masayo Takahashi – project leader from the Riken Centre for Developmental Biology – said:
“I am very pleased that there were no complications with the transplant surgery,”
“However, this is only the first step for use of iPSC in regenerative medicine. I have renewed my resolve to continue forging ahead until this treatment becomes available to many patients.”
The team working on the project was barred from media talk. They were not allowed to report their results in public until now. This was done in order to monitor progress of the patient. They observed the modified cells. How good were they? How long did they last? Was there any adversary? Etcetera.
Now they have just released a statement reporting the transplanted cells survived for over a year without any effect, resulting in improvement of vision of the patient.
The statement said:
“The transplanted RPE sheet survived well without any findings [or] indication of immune rejections nor adverse unexpected proliferation for one and a half years, achieving our primary purpose of this pilot study,”
Whereas, the patient herself is feeling the changes. She told a Japanese newspaper that she is very glad to receive the treatment and she is already feeling a bright and widened eyesight.
Although, it does not completely restore the vision of the patient, but it’s a big step forward. The study shows a huge development in the use of iPSC. According to some scientists, induced pluripotent stem cells might be used for the treatment of a number of illness such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
A lot of studies are going on restoring sight with stem cells modification. And they are showing very positive results. Earlier this year, scientist in China and US were able to improve the vision of babies suffering from Cataracts just by manipulating the protein level in stem cells.
Another remarkable case is of a woman from Baltimore. She was blind for more than five years. Scientists restored her vision by extracting stem cells from her bone marrow and placing them in her eyes.
While many questions remain afloat, there is no denying the stem cell research hold the key to many locks. And it’s a field full of excitement.
Japanese scientist presented their findings at the annual meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO), 2016 in Seattle.