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Cell transplant sight hope

8th November 2006

17052006_Eye2.jpgCell transplants, which restored vision in blind mice, may hold the key to treating a number of eye diseases.

Transplanting immature retinal stem cells into their eyes cured mice with eye damage similar to that of many human eye diseases.

The research from scientists at the University College London Institutes of Ophthalmology and Child Health and Moorfields Eye Hospital was published in the magazine Nature and has already been heralded as ‘stunning’ by experts.

If the treatment can be developed it could help the millions of people with conditions ranging from diabetes to age-related macular degeneration.

In the study, funded by the Medical Research Council, scientists took cells from three to five-day-old mice, when the retina is about to be formed, and transplanted them into animals which had been genetically designed to mimic human eye diseases.

Tests showed that the mice's pupils responded to light and that there was activity in the optical nerve, showing signals were being sent to the brain and suggesting vision had been restored.

To get human retinal cells at the same stage of development, however, would involve taking stem cells from a foetus during the second trimester of pregnancy. But the scientists said they would instead concentrate on adult cells on the margin of adult retinas that have been identified as having stem cell-like properties.

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