Q: Is there any new research into an eventual cure for the lost sight caused by macular degeneration of aging?
A: Yes, there is. Researchers from the Schepens Eye Research Institute, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School, are the first to regenerate large areas of damaged retina and improve sight using a novel approach of inducing skin cells to transform into multipurpose stem cells and subsequently into retinal nerve cells. This may one day restore sight to those with macular degeneration, plus other retinal diseases such as diabetic retinopathy and retinitis pigmentosa.
Like embryonic stem cells, these stem cells derived from skin cells have the potential to be transformed into any number of tissues throughout the body – not just retinal tissue. However, these stem cells lack the ethical and political issues of embryonic stem cells because they are not derived from fetal tissue.
Although this research is in its early stages (it has been studied only in lab mice to date), this form of stem cell regeneration holds enormous promise in the restoration of lost sight caused by any number of medical conditions. Also, this technology of skin cell-derived stem cells may one day be applied to organ and limb regeneration.