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Scientists successfully awaken sleeping stem cells
Date:3/18/2008

Boston, MAScientists at Schepens Eye Research Institute have discovered what chemical in the eye triggers the dormant capacity of certain non-neuronal cells to transform into progenitor cells, a stem-like cell that can generate new retinal cells. The discovery, published in the March issue of Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science (IOVS), offers new hope to victims of diseases that harm the retina, such as macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa.

This study is very significant. It means it might be possible to turn on the eyes own resources to regenerate damaged retinas, without the need for transplanting outside retinal tissue or stem cells, says Dr. Dong Feng Chen, associate scientist at Schepens Eye Research Institute and Harvard Medical School, and the principal investigator of the study. If our next steps work in animal disease models, we believe that clinical testing could happen fairly quickly.

Scientists have long been aware of Mller cells (which exist in great abundance in the eye) and have generally assumed that they were responsible for keeping retinal tissue protected and clear of debris. In recent years, however, researchers have reported that these cells sometimes exhibit progenitor cell behavior and re-enter the cell cycle (dividing and differentiating into other type of cells). Progenitor cells are similar to stem cells but are more mature and are more limited in the number of cells types they can become.

But until this study, scientists have not understood what triggers the transformation. In their study, Chen and her team observed that when the naturally occurring chemicals known as glutamate and aminoadipate (which is a derivative of glutamate) were injected into the eye, the Mller cells began to divide and proliferate. Not certain if these chemicals directly signaled the transformation, they tested them in the laboratory and in mice.

They added each chemical separately to cultures of pur
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Contact: Patti Jacobs
pjacobs12@comcast.net
617-868-0077
Schepens Eye Research Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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