Macular Degeneration Reversed With Patient’s Own Retinal Cells

Macular degeneration (MD) is a leading cause of vision loss among people over 50. This disease damages an area near the center of the retina. In fact, the retina is the the light-sensitive tissue in the eye, and its key component are the retinal pigment cells. These cells also waste away and die.

These retinal cells also support light sensing cells within the retina known as photoreceptors.  Macular degeneration makes the center of your vision blurry, distorted, and dark.



MD is the leading cause of vision loss, affecting more than 10 million Americans – more than cataracts and glaucoma combined. The specific causing factors are unknown.


At present, there is no cure for this disease.


Macular degeneration is caused by the deterioration of the central portion of the retina. The retina is the inside back layer of the eye that records the images we see and sends them via the optic nerve to the brain. The retina’s central portion, known as the macula, is responsible for focusing central vision in your eye. It controls your ability to read, drive a car, recognize faces or colors, and see objects in fine detail


Up until now, researchers have treated this disease by replacing dying retinal cells with healthy ones derived from stem cells. But these new cells eventually die off due to rejection by the the patients immune system. In addition, many retinal replacement cells that were used, were compromised with cancer causing tendencies.


Now comes news of a new treatment that may actually be a long-term solution to this devastating disease.


macular degeneration


Macular Degeneration: New Retinal Replacement Therapy Holds Promise

A team led by Dr. Kapil Bharti at NIH’s National Eye Institute (NEI) has developed a treatment for that uses retinal cells that come from the patient’s own healthy cells. There is no immune system rejection to worry about. And, also there are no cancer causing agents to alter these healthy cells.


This new technique collects cells from the blood and converts them into retinal epithelial cells. The cells are then placed onto a polymer patch and the patch is then inserted between the damaged retinal cells and the photoreceptor cells.

Ten weeks after the patches were inserted, imaging showed that the new retinal cells were integrated into the experimental animal retinas.

Testing confirmed that the retinal implants were helping keep photoreceptors healthy. In contrast, photoreceptors died in a test of a patch without retinal cell from the patient.


In the next phase, the researchers will test the retinal patch on people.


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