Researchers advance stem cell therapy to block vision loss caused by diabetic retinopathy
University of Virginia School of Medicine researchers have taken a significant step forward in their efforts to use stem cells to block vision loss caused by diabetic retinopathy, a condition that affects millions of people with diabetes. The researchers have evaluated the best potential sources for adult stem cells to be used for that purpose, determining that cells taken from donors who do not suffer diabetes likely will be more effective than cells taken from patients’ own bodies.
The work is a critical step toward the goal of injecting stem cells into patients’ eyes to stop or even reverse the vision loss. The findings also establish a crucial framework for evaluating stem cells to be used in potential future treatments for diabetic retinopathy.
“It answers a vital question: If we’re going to carry this therapy forward into clinical trials, where are we going to get the best bang for the buck?” said UVA researcher and ophthalmologist Paul Yates, M.D., Ph.D. “The answer seems to be, probably, taking cells from patients who aren’t diabetic. Because the diabetic stem cells don’t seem to work quite as well. And that’s not terribly surprising, because we already know that this cell type is damaged by diabetes.”
The researchers hope to use fat-derived stem cells — harvested during liposuction procedures — to stop the vascular degeneration that leads to blindness in patients with diabetic retinopathy. To do that, they must understand the best source of those cells, and UVA’s new research provides those important answers. “We now know what to look for when we harvest a patient’s cells, because we know what distinguishes good quality cells from poor quality,” said researcher Shayn M. Peirce, Ph.D., of the UVA Department of Biomedical Engineering. “We almost have a screen to determine quality control. We’re essentially establishing quality-control criteria by understanding what works and why.”
New and better treatments for diabetic retinopathy are needed desperately, the researchers noted, both because of the growing number of people with the condition and because of the limited effectiveness of existing treatments…….
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Source: News Medical