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Progress Seen in Creating Eye Cells From Stem Cells
Date:3/24/2011

By Alan Mozes
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, March 24 (HealthDay News) -- To push the theoretical promise of stem cell research into the world of viable treatments, scientists have successfully fashioned adult stem cells into the kind of eye cells that fall victim to the onset of age-related macular degeneration, or AMD.

The work did not involve embryonic stem cells, which have been the subject of much debate in recent years, but rather so-called "human-induced pluripotent stem cells." The aim, according to the researchers, was to develop a therapeutic response to the death, caused by AMD, of retinal pigment epithelium, a cell layer that is critical to the health of the retina's vision cells.

But the researchers, from the Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C., stress that this was a preliminary move toward that goal, achieved solely in a laboratory setting. They say that numerous complex obstacles must be tackled before such newly created cells could be transplanted into diseased eyes.

"But we have shown that we are able to generate retinal cells from cells originally taken from a small amount of biopsied skin, that are then induced to become stem cells," noted Nady Golestaneh, an assistant professor in the department of biochemistry and molecular and cellular biology at Georgetown, and a co-author of a report on the research, published in the March 24 issue of Stem Cells. The study was funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

"The retinal cells we have generated are really functional," Golestaneh explained. "That means they mimic the function of native retinal cells that play a key role in the eye for light absorption, nutrition and receptor function."

That's important "because, if these cells die, they can induce disease in the eye, one of which is age-related macular degeneration," she said. "Until now, there has not been any medication that can stop this dise
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