According to the authors, the stem cells of the implant were successfully integrated with the tissue and the retina showed anatomical changes consistent with the reappearance of the pigmentary epithelium / Kashani et al.
A US scientific team has created a device with human embryonic stem cells to treat macular degeneration associated with age. The artificial tissue, tested on four people suffering from the disease at an advanced stage, stopped the loss of vision. One of the patients managed to read 17 more letters than before the surgery.
A new retinal implant, developed by researchers at the University of Southern California, has proven effective in an experimental study with people suffering from vision loss due to age-related macular degeneration. Currently there is no treatment for advanced stages of this disease that causes progressive blindness. The results of the study have been published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
As explained to Sinc Amir Kashani, a researcher expert in retinal diseases of the American University and main author of the work, “the implant is composed of retinal pigment epithelial cells (EPR), derived from human embryonic stem cells, arranged as a layer of individual cells on a synthetic substrate “.
EPR cells – adds – “are those that detect light and are severely damaged in people suffering from advanced macular degeneration. By surgically replacing that area with the implant, we believe it will be possible to prevent further vision loss or even restore it to some degree. “
Photos of low (A) and high (B) enlargement of the retina implant (C). Diagram of the material used as the basis for the implant. The membrane facilitates the diffusion of nutrients and growth factors. / Amir Kashani et al.
The device is composed of pigment epithelial cells of the retina derived from human embryonic stem cells.
The device, which had already been tested in mice, has been tested on four people who had the disease in an advanced stage. It was inserted into the eyes of the patients through a surgical operation that lasted several hours. Then their vision was monitored for periods ranging from four months to a year.
Successfully integrated into the tissue
The postoperative images revealed that the implants’ stem cells were successfully integrated with the tissue, and the retinas showed anatomical changes that revealed the reappearance of the pigment epithelium.
Kashani says the aim of the study was to demonstrate the safety of the implant and surgery. “It was done with volunteers who had very little chance of recovering vision. However, one of them improved a lot and could read 17 more letters than before the placement of the device. Someone else also showed certain signs of improved visual function. “
“In the future we will evaluate the effectiveness of the treatment with more people who have a less severe degree of the disease and, therefore, more potential for visual recovery”, concludes the expert.
Amir Kashani et al. “A bioengineered retinal pigment epithelial monolayer for advanced, dry age-related macular degeneration”. Science Translational Medicine (April 4, 2018) http://stm.sciencemag.org/lookup/doi/10.1126/scitranslmed.aao4097
Author: Ana Hernando