An injection of stem cells into the eye may soon slow or reverse the effects of early-stage age-related macular degeneration, according to new research from scientists at Cedars-Sinai
Currently, there is no treatment that slows the progression of the disease, which is the leading cause of vision loss in people over 65.
“This is the first study to show preservation of vision after a single injection of adult-derived human cells into a rat model with age-related macular degeneration,” said Shaomei Wang, MD, PhD, lead author of the study published in the journal STEM CELLS and a research scientist in the Eye Program at the Cedars-Sinai Board of Governors Regenerative Medicine Institute.
The stem cell injection resulted in 130 days of preserved vision in laboratory rats, which roughly equates to 16 years in humans.
Age-related macular degeneration affects upward of 15 million Americans. It occurs when the small central portion of the retina, known as the macula, deteriorates. The retina is the light-sensing nerve tissue at the back of the eye. Macular degeneration may also be caused by environmental factors, aging and a genetic predisposition.
When animal models with macular degeneration were injected with induced neural progenitor stem cells, which derive from the more commonly known induced pluripotent stem cells, healthy cells began to migrate around the retina and formed a protective layer. This protective layer prevented ongoing degeneration of the vital retinal cells responsible for vision.