Patients that have suffered visibility loss due to degenerative disorders or who were born blind might have a chance of getting their eyesight as trials on animals involving gel injections with stem cells begin all over the world.
One of the most researched areas of stem cell application is the reconstruction of the eye, the retina to be more precise. After 18 month ago, Toronto scientist, Brian Ballios managed to grow functional new retinal cells into the eyes of a formerly blind lab mouse, injections with a specific type of gel that contains stem cells have encouraged scientists everywhere to invest more time and money into this research. The mouse who was injected with the gel had been born blind and after receiving treatment, his pupils have started to show response to light. This meant that not only were the new cells functional, but that they were also able to send signals to the brain.
Stem cell research has made a huge step forward in regenerative medicine and are now getting closer than ever to sending stem cells to certain areas of the body where they are most needed.
The secret to getting the cells to where they have to go, is the newly developed gel in which they float. The hydrogel has a similar structure to water and once it reaches body temperature, it hardens and provides a skeleton for the stem cells to grow and develop in the organ they are suppose to. The hydrogel also connects stem cells with other cells of the body which nourish them and connect them to the organ.
Thanks to this gel, which was introduced in the eye with a simple syringe, the stem cells were held in place long enough to develop retinal characteristic, which then they grew and became a functioning retina.
The discovery of this hydrogel, means that stem cells can now be transplanted to virtually any part of the body, with the insurance that once they get there, they won`t clump or wander off into another organ.
Still, more work needs to be done before human trials begin, because despite the newly discovered gel which gets the cells to where they have to go, only 8-9% of the transplanted cells develop fully and are able to establish connections with the brain, so unless we want to transplant thousands of cells, this method still has to be improved.
Nevertheless, this is still a major breakthrough and it means that, perhaps in a few short years, people needing such treatments will be able to receive them safely.
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