Reversing Blindness in Retinitis Pigmentosa With Stem Cells

Retinitis pigmentosa is an inherited form of slow degenerative blindness, in which essential retinal cells accumulate defects due to one or more mutated genes. Generating replacement, properly formed retinal cells to treat this condition is one of the longer-running initiatives in the stem cell research community; if you look back in the Longevity Meme archives, you'll see it mentioned in 2004, for example. It appears that researchers have now succeeded in restoring sight in mice:

An international research team led by Columbia University Medical Center successfully used mouse embryonic stem cells to replace diseased retinal cells and restore sight in a mouse model of retinitis pigmentosa.


In Dr. Tsang's study, sight was restored in one-fourth of the mice that received the stem cells. However, complications of benign tumors and retinal detachments were seen in some of the mice, so Dr. Tsang and colleagues will optimize techniques to decrease the incidence of these complications in human embryonic stem cells before testing in human patients can begin. "Once the complication issues are addressed, we believe this technique could become a new therapeutic approach for not only retinitis pigmentosa, but age-related macular degeneration, Stargardt disease, and other forms of retinal disease that also feature loss of retinal cells," said Dr. Tsang.

As noted, a viable source of replacement retinal cells has much broader application than just retinitis pigmentosa. In the context of the wider picture, it is heartening to see steady progress being made towards the ultimate end goal of a general repair kit for human beings - the biotechnological capabilities and medical community capable of replacing any damaged or diseased tissue safely and at reasonable cost. While the years seem to flicker by for those of us keeping an eye on this field of research, significant progress is taking place.

As a parting note, you might take a look at the actual paper, if you're interested. The website of the publishing journal, Transplantation, is well worth browsing if you'd like to get a sense of what the tissue engineering community is presently working on. It is a very energetic field, and what filters through to the popular science press is a fraction of what's going on in the labs.

ResearchBlogging.orgWang, Nan-Kai, Tosi, Joaquin, Kasanuki, Jennifer Mie, Chou, Chai Lin, Kong, Jian, Parmalee, Nancy, Wert, Katherine J., Allikmets, Rando, Lai, Chi-Chun, Chien, Chung-Liang, Nagasaki, Takayuki, Lin, Chyuan-Sheng, & Tsang, Stephen H. (2010). Transplantation of Reprogrammed Embryonic Stem Cells Improves Visual Function in a Mouse Model for Retinitis Pigmentosa Transplantation, 89 (5) : 10.1097/TP.0b013e3181d45a61


Amazing, I have retinitis pigmentosa. These breakthroughs really excite me. I just have one question. Where do I sign up? I'm still quite functional during daylight hours, but at night or in more dim settings I am stereotypically blind. Reading lately is getting much harder, and is quite frustrating. I read of stem cell therapy in humans earlier today; they claim success. How does someone receive these treatments? Who do I talk to? Regardless, I totally support this effort. I can only imagine the many people this technology will help.
James Parsons

Posted by: James Parsons at April 12th, 2011 6:37 PM

Where do I get such stem cell therapy for my RP? Is the re a much more trusted and recommended place?

Posted by: Azza at May 9th, 2012 2:24 PM

My girlfriend is an RP patient. That condition is affecting her emotionally. My two questions are: 1. How much time does people with RP and other conditions will have to wait to get this procedure approved and 2. If the results may vary on the progression of her condition. Thanks.

Posted by: Francisco J. Marcano at May 28th, 2012 7:31 PM

I want to get stemcell treatment for retina pigmentosa(rp). Where is it possible?

Posted by: Rishal at March 28th, 2013 7:06 AM

My name is Ram Mohan Saxena.My son Abhinav Saxena, age 28 is having RP. We are resident of India.Kindly tell, where is the treatment of RP available in India or in any neighbouring country.

Posted by: Ram Mohan Saxena at March 8th, 2014 10:11 AM

so where does a person with r.p. go to learn about recieving stem cell treament?

Posted by: s. ruggiero at March 9th, 2014 9:12 PM

I want every type of information regarding RP and stem cell treatment! I am a parent of a 6 year old and will do anything for him to keep his sight!!! Please!!

Posted by: Sara Stallings at April 1st, 2014 1:42 PM
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