Macular degeneration is a threat to our eyesight as we grow old due to the loss of photoreceptor cells. The number of people affected by this disorder is increasing every year, and older people are more vulnerable to this disorder. This disorder is diagnosed as wet and dry macular degeneration. Out of the two, the wet one results into serious loss of vision. Like many other degenerative disorders, Stem Cell Therapy has also emerged as a new hope for people suffering from macular degeneration.
Advanced techniques underway
In the recent years, researchers have come up techniques for creation of photoreceptor cells as well as RPE cells. All this has been possible with the use of embryonic stem cells. The challenge in this kind of Macular Degeneration Treatment is that patients have to be administered with immune-suppressive medicines because cells are derived from other people.
Presently, researchers are trying to harness the power of pluripotent cells for Macular Degeneration Treatment. If the cells are extracted from the patient only then the risk of rejection will not be there. Until now majority of the Stem Cell Therapy approaches are under trial phase, and soon might become a reality to save people from permanent vision loss.
Improved knowledge about cell functioning
With more and more findings about stem cells, researchers now know a lot about the functioning of different cells, including the functioning of different cells in the retina. With more knowledge, researchers are now digging in method to replace cones and rods as well as the RPE cells that support these components. Reinstating the cones and rods is far more difficult and complicated than replacing the RPE cells, as the former cells must connect with nerve fibers, which send signals to the human brain, but RPE cells need not connect with the fibers. This makes it easier to integrate new cells with the cells already existing in the retina.
Researchers are working on an approach where they wish to replace the damaged RPE cells before they affect the cones and rods. Once new RPE cells are introduced using Stem Cell Therapy, they can take on the supportive function and can prevent damage to cones and rods, thus providing a more effective option for Macular Degeneration Treatment option. Early diagnosis is one of the most important factors of successful Macular Degeneration Treatment. Scientists are also using Stem Cell Therapy for drug discovery. This aids in discovery of new treatment option. They are trying to study how macular degeneration progresses by producing abnormal cells in lab conditions and then testing how it grows. The better the understanding of the disorder the faster will be the diagnosis of it and the faster the diagnosis, the better will be success rate of Macular Degeneration Treatment.
New Techniques and inherent problems with them
In some parts of the world researchers are working on the use of induced pluripotent cells for Macular Degeneration Treatment, mostly derived from the skin or some other types of tissue cells. These cells are then reprogrammed to work like embryonic cells, which can be further used for growing cones and rods or even RPE cells. Some other researchers are exploring techniques of growing RPE cells from matured RPE. This can be extracted from eyes donated by people. To avoid the problem of over growth of RPE cells, researchers are trying to find out the maximum maturation period of RPE cells, as more matured cells have lesser chances of over growing after transplantation in Stem Cell Therapy. If cells grow rapidly after transplant then this can lead to scar tissue or the cells can also drift to other areas of the body resulting into negative effects.