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Stem cell therapy for glaucoma treatment 2012-12-19

Glaucoma is a complicated disease in which damage to the optic nerve leads to progressive, irreversible vision loss. If glaucoma is not diagnosed and treated, it can progress to loss of central vision and blindness. 


Glaucoma is usually, but not always, associated with elevated pressure in the eye (intraocular pressure). Generally, it is this elevated eye pressure that leads to damage of the eye (optic) nerve. In some cases, glaucoma may occur in the presence of normal eye pressure. This form of glaucoma is believed to be caused by poor regulation of blood flow to the optic nerve. Worldwide, glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness. In fact, as many as 6 million individuals are blind in both eyes from this disease. In the UK, around 1 in 50 people aged over 40 has glaucoma. This rises to around 1 in 10 people over the age of 75. An age-related condition, glaucoma is becoming an increasingly common condition as the population of the UK ages. 


The progression of glaucoma can be stopped by a few treatments, including medication and eye surgery to lower the pressure in the eye. However, no therapies can treat vision loss, and unfortunately, the progression towards blindness cannot be prevented in a significant number of people. 


A new study using the patient's own stem cells increases the chance that a simple surgical procedure, using cells taken from the patient, could guide scientists to a future technique that could stop the horrible outcome of glaucoma, Professor Raisman said, even though the procedure is still at the experimental stage. The method involves taking stem cells and injecting them in a solution into the back of the eye. There, they help existing optic nerve cells from degenerating further. Stem cells can also transform theselves into new optic nerve cells, reversing damage and improving eyesight.


Professor G. Raisman said: “Although it is still at the experimental stage, this research raises the possibility that a simple surgical procedure, using the patient’s own cells, may lead to a future method for arresting the devastating effects of glaucoma".


Source - Stem Cell Foundation Picture from