UK Scientists have successfully restored vision through cell transplants when they treated animals suffering from eye damages.
The scientists treated animals with eye damages similar to that seen in many human eye diseases. They were able to restore the vision to mice, which had lost their sight, leading to hopes that it could also benefit human beings in the same way. This happened when immature retinal stem cells were transplanted into the eye of the animal suffering from eye damages.
Nature, a UK based magazine has pre-empted the research as 'Stunning' Research and also have added that the experts in UK have welcomed the study.
It is said that once the cone and rod photoreceptors in the retina gets lost, replacing them becomes impossible. Though there are treatments for preventing or delaying the loss of these cells, it is a tough task to treat people who are already affected.
Scientists say that if the research could be translated into treatments, it could help millions who suffer from conditions ranging from diabetes to macular degeneration.
It is thought the retina is one of the best places to try out cell transplant therapy because photoreceptor loss initially leaves the rest of the wiring to the brain intact.
Medical Research Council funds this study and scientists from the University College, London Institutes of Ophthalmology and Child Health, Moorfields Eye Hospital are involved in this research, which were more advanced and already programmed to develop into photoreceptors by taking cells from three to five-day-old mice, a stage when the retina is about to be formed.
The three to five-day-old cells from mice were then transplanted into animals having conditions of gradual loss of sight - mimicking either of the human diseases, retinitis pigmentosa or age-related macular degeneration.
Thus the existing retinal nerve cells have become the key that restores vision.
One of the Study's Leaders, Dr Jane Sowden, said: 'Remarkably, we found that the mature retina, previously believed to have no capacity for repair, is in fact able to support the development of new functional photoreceptors.'
However to get involved in such transplants in human, stem cells from a foetus during the second trimester of pregnancy is considered to be at the same stage of development as that of mice. But Dr Robert MacLaren, a specialist at Moorfields Eye Hospital working on the research said: "they did not want to go down that route". It would be safe to research with adult stem cells genetically altered to behave like the mouse retinal cell.
The team also added that there is a possibility as the research shows some stem cell-like properties in some cells on the margin of adult retinas.
Dr MacLaren commented that he could at least give some hopes to young patients suffering from eye damages about the possibility of sight restoration within their lifetime.