With the recent advances in stem cell therapy, scientists have reported a major breakthrough wherein stem cells could be used to cure blindness in humans.
Using animals in lab tests, they grafted stem cell tissues taken from bone marrow on to damaged nerves in the eye. When the healthy cells are in place the eye begins to repair itself suggesting the technique could be used in the fight to cure blindness.
Glaucoma is the most common cause of irreversible blindness in the developed world and is dubbed "the silent thief of sight" because of the insidious manner in which many patients have already suffered significant visual loss before they are diagnosed.
Current treatment can only slow progression of the disease by reducing eye pressure medically or surgically but even this doesn't succeed for some patients.
"Glaucoma remains a leading cause of blindness worldwide and there is currently no way to restore vision once it has been lost. Fight for Sight funding is helping us explore the possibility that stem cell treatments could one day be used to treat glaucoma," the Scotsman quoted Professor Keith Martin, a neuroscientist at Cambridge University, as saying.
"Initially, we are looking at how stem cells can protect the eye against glaucoma damage when other treatment has failed.
"We have recently had some very encouraging results in animals with glaucoma which shows that stem cells can protect against glaucoma damage.
"In the future, our dream is to be able to use stem cell treatments to improve vision in patients severe glaucoma. However, it will be a few more years until these treatments are ready for human clinical trials."