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Cell transplantation - Potential treatment for blindness

According to a new study, cell transplantation may be a potential treatment for blindness in the elderly people.//

Robert Lanza and Irina Klimanskaya at Advanced Cell Technology, Massachusetts, and Raymond Lund and colleagues at the University of Utah Health Science Centre, carried out the research.

In this study, embryonic stem cells that have the capacity to develop into any of the 200 kinds of cell present in the body were used to enhance eyesight in rats suffering from a disease comparable to age-related macular degeneration.

The study is published in the journal Cloning and Stem Cells. In this study, Retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) was cultured from human embryonic stem cell lines. RPE are the cells that support the light sensing cells in the eye. The cultured RPE was then transplanted into the eyes of a special breed of rat that had an RPE defect, resulting in blindness. It was found that later, the spatial acuity or the capacity to view minute details was restored to up to 70% of that of normal rats.

The research team is hopeful that if similar promising results are obtained in further studies, the treatment may be tried on human beings in 2 years time.

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