MCDB Scientists Rescue Visual Function in Rats Using Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells

Dec 3, 2009

A team led by MCDB Professor Dennis Clegg and Pete Coffey, of University College London (UCL) has rescued visual function in laboratory rats with eye disease by using cells similar to stem cells. The research shows the potential for stem cell-based therapies to treat age-related macular degeneration in humans. In work published in the journals PloS One and the journal Stem Cells, the groups worked with rats that have a mutation which causes a defect in retinal pigmented epithelial (RPE) cells and leads to photoreceptor death and subsequent blindness, a model for the human disease macular degeneration. They then derived human RPE cells from induced pluripotent stem cells and found that by surgically inserting stem cell-derived RPE into the retinas of the rats before photoreceptor degeneration, vision was retained. "Although much work remains to be done, we believe our results underscore the potential for stem-cell based therapies in the treatment of age-related macular degeneration," said Sherry Hikita, an author on both papers and director of UCSB's Laboratory for Stem Cell Biology.

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