RESTORING LOST VISION
BY AMBER SNYDER
Dr. Kapil Bharti of NEI is developing a stem cell-based therapy to prevent and restore vision loss caused by age-related macular degeneration (AMD). He spoke as part of the Sayer Vision Research Lecture Series, with his talk “Translating human RPE biology into disease treatments using induced pluri-potent stem cells.”
AMD typically occurs in individuals over age 65 and targets the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) of the eye, which forms a monolayer of cells in the back of the eye and provides a secure base for light-sensing photoreceptors to grow on. There are two types of AMD—dry and wet—and Bharti’s new treatment applies to the dry form, which is more common.
In dry AMD, the cells that make up the RPE die off. Without the RPE to support them, photoreceptors also begin to die off, causing vision impairment.
“Symptoms of AMD start off as spotty vision in the center of your vision,” Bharti said, and progresses to the point where patients “lose a big chunk of their central vision and go blind in the center part of their vision.” It is estimated that 1 in 4 individuals over age 80 have some degree of AMD.
Source: NIH Record-NIH Gove