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10 Jul 2015

Stem Cell Therapy to Treat Vision Loss in Older People

A Japanese biotechnology company, Healios is planning to launch an innovative stem cell therapy by 2020 to treat vision loss in older people. Macular degeneration is a disease that affects older adults over 50 years of age and eventually causes vision loss. By using the Nobel award winning stem cell technology, it is possible to reverse the effects of Macular degeneration in human beings.

Macular Degeneration

Also known as Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD), this medical condition affects older adults and results in loss of vision due to retinal damage. Although, it doesn’t affect the whole vision, patients suffer from distorted and blurred vision, loss in contrast sensitivity, inability to read and recognize faces, hemorrhages in the eyes etc. There are over 30-50 million people affected by AMD across the world and It is the major cause of vision impairment in old age.

Stem Cell Therapy to Treat AMD

Dr. Shinya Yamanaka received Nobel Prize in 2012 for his discovery on transforming adult skin cells into cells that can act like embryonic stem cells (ability to form any type of body cell) by reprogramming them. These cells are called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), having regenerative capabilities thus useful to repair and renew any kind of damaged tissue and organs in the body.

Shinya Yamanaka

Courtesy: UCSF

Healios uses the induced pluripotent stem cell technology to effectively treat AMD. The human somatic cells are reprogrammed and changed into induced pluripotent stem cells which in turn develop into retinal pigment epithelium cells (RPE), necessary to restore vision in AMD patients. For therapeutic approach, these cells are developed as RPE cell suspensions and RPE cell sheets. These 2 forms of iPSC products can be used to treat various forms of AMD disease.

The company aims to test this therapy in patients by 2017 and planning to sell in Japan by 2020, if the outcomes are positive and safe. The stem cell technology that was applied only in research studies so far will reach the hospitals in the form of therapy and benefits the patients. In future, Healios is planning to develop iPSC therapies for other organs as well.



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