Can Stem Cells Prevent Diabetes Vision Loss?

As the leading cause of blindness in adults, diabetic retinopathy is a type of eye disease that can often go undetected and untreated until it's too late.

Yet using stem cell research, a team from the University of Virginia School of Medicine found that stem cells from donors who don't have diabetes could be an effective way to treat and prevent vision loss caused by the blood sugar condition.

The findings will now help researchers determine what to look for when "harvesting" a patient's cells so treatments can be most effective in reversing and preventing eye damage.

"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 Dr. Paul Yates, ophthalmologist and researcher at UVA.

From liposuction to a cure?

Hoping to harvest fat-based cells taken from liposuction procedures, researchers believe they can halt the process of vision deterioration in patients who have diabetic eye disease.

Diabetic retinopathy affects more than an estimated 100 million people and, besides blindness, can cause long-term damage that requires laser therapy or frequent injections into the eyeball to manage the condition.

Researcher Shayn M. Peirce said the FDA's encouragement of vision-related stem cell research is propelling forward much-needed research into this area.

"There's huge room for improvement on the standard of care, and the number of patients in this demographic is increasing by the day, dramatically, so the need is only going up," Peirce said.

Source: UVA
Image courtesy of dream designs/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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