December 6, 2006
"Cell transplants have successfully restored vision to mice which had lost their sight, leading to hopes people could benefit in the same way."
UK scientists treated animals which had eye damage similar to that seen in many human eye diseases.
They were able to help them see again by transplanting immature retinal stem cells into their eyes.
UK experts welcomed the study, published in the magazine Nature, saying it was "stunning" research.
If the results can be translated into a treatment for human eye disease, it could help the millions of people with conditions ranging from age-related macular degeneration to diabetes.
Once the cone and rod photoreceptors in a retina are lost, they cannot be replaced.
While treatments are being developed which might prevent or delay the loss of these cells, scientists are also seeking to help those already affected.
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.
But previous attempts to transplant stem cells, which can turn into any kind of cell in the body, in the hope that they will become photoreceptors have failed because the cells were not developed enough.
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