Retinal Transplants: Helping the Blind to See

by Tanya Thomas on  September 10, 2008 at 9:22 AM Research News
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 Retinal Transplants: Helping the Blind to See
Retinal transplant seems to be the new buzzword doing the rounds in medical circles nowadays after eye surgeons asserted that they may be able to restore sight to some blind people with such a transplant mechanism.

Preliminary research has shown encouraging results with transplantation of retinal cells in patients with blindness caused by retinitis pigmentosa (RP) and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

In the study, Dr. Norman D. Radtke of University of Louisville, Kentucky, lead author of the study and colleagues performed the experimental transplant procedure in ten patients with vision loss resulting from retinal degeneration.

Each of the patients in the trial received a small 4-millimetre square of retinal tissue, complete with retinal progenitor cells and the retinal pigment epithelium that nourishes them.

The tissues were placed in the sub-retinal space beneath the fovea, the area of the retina responsible for sharp central vision.

The researchers found that seven of the subjects experienced an improvement in their visual acuity.

The results of phase II trial may seem to boost the chances of restoring vision in sufferers of RP and AMD but it is far from clear just how much hope this research really offers.

"I think this approach will never work as a standard clinical therapy," Nature quoted Marco Zarbin director of the Institute of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at New Jersey Medical School, in Newark, as saying.

He said that one reason is the fact that the transplanted tissue is obtained from aborted fetuses.

"Even if it proves to work wonderfully, the number of patients that would need to be treated worldwide or even in the United States alone would be in the millions," he said.

There simply wouldn't be enough donors available, and the logistics of getting the ethical approval to use them would act as a major barrier to treatment, Zarbin added.

Another concern is the efficacy of the procedure. Despite 20 years of research on animals, by co-authors Robert Aramant at research firm Ocular Transplantation, also in Louisville, and Magdalene Seiler at the University of California, Irvine, there is still no clear evidence that the improved vision in humans is directly due to the transplanted photoreceptor cells replacing the function of host cells within the retina.

And major issue is that the improved visual acuity seems to only last for a couple of years.

Zarbin said that the real value of this trial is the demonstration that cells can be placed in the sub-retinal space without any adverse reaction.

This holds promise for other possible forms of cell-based treatment currently being explored, such as introducing stem cells into the retina and getting them to differentiate into new photoreceptors.

The study is published in the August issue of the American Journal of Ophthalmology1.

Source: ANI
TAN/M

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hello my mother is completely blind her left eye is a prosthesis and she has had three surgeries to correct her blindness natural cornea artificial cornea and a retinal re attachment surgery she has been blind most of her life and we went to he doctors but they said they didn't want to do anything even though my mother wanted to and they said there was nothing they could do giving the impression that there was time to do something. She has uveitis but that does not stop her please someone help us Reading pa is our area contact me please she's a single mother of her 16 y/o daughter [me] please someone.

Hi,i am 23 years old and I had multiple eye operation in both eyes due to retina detachment. Now again my left eye is detached my doc says he couldn't do anymore. I feel hopeless until I read your article gave me a little hope. I am trying to finish my college, but I struggle to see and I am asking someone to help me see again. I would really appericate to see again and able to enjoy what I use to do. I can't imagine losing vision since I am an Artist. I am scared to walk and so on. I always have someone walk with me incase I don't run over a car in the left and walk at night.. I have been looking for hopes for many years. My retina caused by pre- mature because I was on high oxygen for couple months.

MELENA

I AM LEGALY BLIND LOOKING FOR HELP I SEE THE BEST DR IN MEMPHIS HE SAYS MY RETINAS DONT LET THE LIGHT IN SO MY VISION SUCKS. HE SAYS LIKE A CAMERA FOUCUSES MY RETINAS DONT THEY ARE ON ONE FOUCUS. THERES NOT A CURE YET HE SAYS , BUT I NEED NEW RETINAS PLEASE HELP,. ASHLEY CRUTCHER IM ON FACEBOOK

schoolgirl26

Hi my boyfriend is blind due to eye surgeries performed by his doctor is there any hope for him please let me know u can email me at thanks

Hi my daughter is deaf blind due to three month prem birth and her retina's detached due to high levels of oxygen. is there hope for her to see if she can get a retina transplant

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