The treatment is still in the research phase, but a recent study indicates that stem cell injections might soon be able to slow or even reverse the effects of age-related eye degeneration in the early stages of the condition.
At the moment the disease is considered untreatable — and it’s one of the major causes of vision loss in people over the age of 65.
More than 15 million US adults are afflicted by age-related macular degeneration right now. The disease starts when the macula, the small central area of the retina, begins to deteriorate. Next to age, both environmental factors and genetic predispositions contribute to this macular degeneration.
The lead author of the research, Shaomei Wang of the Cedars-Sinai Board of Governors Regenerative Medicine Institute’s Eye Program, has noted that this is the first work to show it’s possible to preserve vision by injecting only a single dose of the cells suffering from age-related macular degeneration.
After the researchers gave the rats a single shot of human adult-derived stem cells, their vision stayed preserved for some 130 days — the equivalent of around 16 human years.
Following the injection, the researchers noted that healthy cells began migrating towards the retina, where they formed a protective layer which held off ongoing degeneration. In order to produce the induced neural progenitor cells, the scientists started by converting adult human cells to induced pluripotent stem cells. From there, they made them into the needed human cell.
According to study contributing author Clive Svendsen, the induced progenitor cells represent a “unique source” of cells which are capable of slowing macular degeneration and associated vision loss.
Of course, researchers still need to gather additional data before clinical studies can begin. Nevertheless research is coming close to allowing doctors to begin offering adult stem cell injections as a customized treatment method for patients with macular degeneration and similar studies.
After this study’s promising results, researchers are starting to test the efficacy and safety of stem cell injections in animal models prior to moving to clinical trials in human patients.
Assuming the pre-clinical trials are successful, clinical trials will be designed later to test the potential benefit of stem cell injections for human age-related macular degeneration.
While stem cell therapy for age related macular degeneration is still a ways off where human patients are concerned, Regenerative Medicine Specialists currently offers the treatment for a variety of other conditions which interfere with valued activities and quality of life.
In our doctors’ experience, the treatments — which need minimal downtime and allow a fast return to work and play — can provide complete relief in just a single injection. Musculoskeletal, shoulder, elbow, wrist and hand, spine, hip, knee, and foot and ankle conditions are the main areas of focus for Regenerative Medicine Specialists.
Depending on the condition, our doctors may recommend one or more or a combination of stem cell injections, platelet rich plasma therapy, cytokine therapy, or growth factor therapy. All of these therapies focus on using the body’s own cells to produce rapid healing and regeneration — essentially allowing the body to repair itself.