Japan researchers use stem cells in bid to restore eyesight

Researchers conducted the first surgery to transplant induced pluripotent stem cells to regenerate retina cells in a senior citizen.

Japan researchers use stem cells in bid to restore eyesight

World Bulletin / News Desk

A Japanese research team performed the world’s first surgery on Friday to transplant induced pluripotent stem cells into a human in order to restore eyesight, according to Japan’s largest research institution.

The researchers from the Riken Institute implanted a sheet of retina cells created from induced pluripotent stem -- or iPS -- cells in a 70-year-old woman, who suffered from macular degeneration, which results in loss of vision.

Induced pluripotent stem cells, discovered in 2006 in Japan, can grow into any type of cell in the body. The iPS cells used during this operation were taken from the patient’s skin.

There were no serious complications or excessive bleeding as a result of the operation, the institute said in a statement.

For the next four years the woman will be under observation to establish whether the organism has accepted the implant and the implant itself has adopted.

In 2006, Professor Shinya Yamanaka from Japan’s Kyoto University showed that iPS stem cells were able to grow into any human tissue. In 2012, he and English researcher Sir John Gurdon were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for discovering that mature cells can be transformed into stem cells.

Friday’s operation is one of six expected to take place in the research carried out by Japan’s Riken Institute and the Institute of Biomedical Research and Innovation Hospital.

Macular degeneration is currently an incurable medical condition that usually affects older people and may lead to blindness.

According to the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, at least 196 million people will have age-related macular degeneration in 2020.

Last Mod: 13 Eylül 2014, 10:12
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