This technique, which involves injecting the stem cells into the eye, could potentially be used to stimulate vessel growth and address inherited degenerations of the retina in the first instance, and in the second, to treat ocular diseases resulting from abnormal retinal angiogenesis, the aberrant growth of new blood vessels in the eye, which is the leading cause of vision loss in the United States.
"This is very exciting," says Martin Friedlander, M.D., Ph.D., who led the study. "We have shown that the cells can incorporate into the [degenerating] vasculature and make it normal."
"And when loaded with antiangiogenics, they can selectively wipe out the formation of new blood vessels."
Friedlander, who is Associate Professor in the Department of Cell Biology and Chief of the Retina Service in the Division of Ophthalmology, Department of Surgery at Scripps Clinic, has had a longstanding research program looking at ways of treating eye diseases that result from abnormal angiogenesis.
Abnormal angiogenesis is the cause of visual loss in age-related macular degeneration, where new blood vessels grow under the retina, and diabetic retinopathy, where abnormal vessels grow on top of the retina. The end result is much the same in these diseases--the normal structures for the transmission of light to the back of the eye are lost, and vision is catastrophically impeded in many of the tens of millions of Americans who suffer from them.
From stem cells to vessels
Adult bone marrow stem cells are "pluripotent" which means they have the potential to develop into a number of different cell types, such as red blood cells, platelets, or lymphocytes. The group's basic technique s
Contact: Robin B. Clark
Scripps Research Institute