Eye’s Stem Cells May Provide Key to ARMD, Retinitis Pigmentosa, Stargardt’s Disease

researcherResearchers have found a layer of tissue in the eye that can self-renew and may provide cures in the future for retinal diseases such as Age-Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD), Stargardt’s disease, Best’s disease, and some types of retinitis pigmentosa. These eye diseases begin in the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE), which is a layer of eye tissue that supports the cells that make vision possible (photoreceptors). When the RPE degenerates, vision is compromised and can result in blindness.

Around ten percent of the cells in the RPE can renew themselves. In essence, they are dormant RPE stem cells. Cures for retinal diseases could lie in coaxing the dormant stem cells into becoming mature RPE cells. This could undo the damage from retinal diseases such as some types of retinitis pigmentosa, macular degeneration (ARMD), Stargardt’s disease, or Best’s disease.

The research was a collaboration between the Neural Stem Cell Institute, the University of Michigan & Albany Medical College. They are considering the idea of taking donor RPE stem cells, developing them into mature PRE cells and then transplanting them into the diseases eyes. They are also looking into the ideal solution: activate the dormant cells in the eyes of people who have retinal diseases, thus using their own perfectly-matching cells.

The age of the individual did not affect the performance of the cells when removed and studied in a lab. RPE cells from a 99-year-old matured just as well as cells from younger individuals. Therefore, these cells show great promise for the elderly, who are the most likely to develop eye disease.

Note: It may be years before this research leads to cures or treatments for eye disease. The best way to deal with the possibility of eye disease is to avoid it in the first place with good nutrition, a healthy lifestyle and supplementation if needed.

Source: Cell Stem Cell January 6, 2012


After years of clinical trials, research clearly shows that stem cell-derived retinal cells can rescue visual function in animals that otherwise would have gone blind.

Advanced Cell Technology, Inc. announced that it filed an Investigational  New Drug (IND) Application with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to initiate a Phase I/II multicenter study using embryonic stem cell derived retinal cells to treat patients with Stargardt’s Macular Dystrophy (SMD).

See nutritional information related to Stargardt’s Disease.