Researchers report progress using iPS cells to reverse blindness

Jun 15, 2011
Human-induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells can be directed to develop into light-sensing photoreceptor cells of the retina. It is hoped that these cells can be used to better understand and treat human disease affecting the visual system. Credit: Jason Meyer, Ph.D., School of Science at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis

Researchers have used cutting-edge stem cell technology to correct a genetic defect present in a rare blinding disorder, another step on a promising path that may one day lead to therapies to reverse blindness caused by common retinal diseases such as macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa which affect millions of individuals.

In a study appearing in an advance online publication of the journal Stem Cells on June 15, 2011, investigators used recently developed technology to generate induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells from a human patient with an uncommon inherited eye disease known as gyrate atrophy. This disorder affects retinal (RPE) cells, the cells critical to the support of the retina's , which function in the transmission of messages from the retina to parts of the brain that interpret images.

"When we generate iPS cells, correct the gene defect that is responsible for this disease, and guide these stem cells to become RPE cells, these RPE cells functioned normally. This is exciting because it demonstrates we can fix something that is out of order. It also supports our belief that in the future, one might be able to use this approach for replacement of cells lost or malfunctioning due to other more of the retina," said lead study author cell biologist Jason Meyer, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology in the School of Science at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

Macular degeneration is the most common cause of blindness, affecting an estimated 25-30 million people worldwide. One and a half million people worldwide are affected by .

Because iPS cells can be derived from the specific patient who needs them, use of these cells may avoid the problem of . In the study, vitamin B-6 also was used to treat the damaged RPE cells producing healthy cells that functioned normally.
The retina is a relatively easily accessible part of the central nervous system, which makes it an attractive target for correction with iPS cells. Researchers are hopeful that once the gene defect responsible for a blinding disorder is corrected in iPS cells, these cells may be able to restore vision.

Explore further: The malaria pathogen's cellular skeleton under a super-microscope

Related Stories

Scientists successfully awaken sleeping stem cells

Mar 18, 2008

Scientists at Schepens Eye Research Institute have discovered what chemical in the eye triggers the dormant capacity of certain non-neuronal cells to transform into progenitor cells, a stem-like cell that can generate new ...

Recommended for you

For resetting circadian rhythms, neural cooperation is key

9 hours ago

Fruit flies are pretty predictable when it comes to scheduling their days, with peaks of activity at dawn and dusk and rest times in between. Now, researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Cell Reports on April 17th h ...

Rapid and accurate mRNA detection in plant tissues

10 hours ago

Gene expression is the process whereby the genetic information of DNA is used to manufacture functional products, such as proteins, which have numerous different functions in living organisms. Messenger RNA (mRNA) serves ...

For cells, internal stress leads to unique shapes

Apr 16, 2014

From far away, the top of a leaf looks like one seamless surface; however, up close, that smooth exterior is actually made up of a patchwork of cells in a variety of shapes and sizes. Interested in how these ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Deadly human pathogen Cryptococcus fully sequenced

Within each strand of DNA lies the blueprint for building an organism, along with the keys to its evolution and survival. These genetic instructions can give valuable insight into why pathogens like Cryptococcus ne ...

Better thermal-imaging lens from waste sulfur

Sulfur left over from refining fossil fuels can be transformed into cheap, lightweight, plastic lenses for infrared devices, including night-vision goggles, a University of Arizona-led international team ...

Hackathon team's GoogolPlex gives Siri extra powers

(Phys.org) —Four freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania have taken Apple's personal assistant Siri to behave as a graduate-level executive assistant which, when asked, is capable of adjusting the temperature ...