[AI] Zebrafish Study May Point Way To Blindness cure

shahnaz shycurrim at yahoo.co.in
Fri Aug 3 04:44:23 EDT 2007

The ability of zebrafish to regenerate damaged retinas
has given
scientists a clue about restoring human vision and
could lead to an
experimental treatment for blindness within five

British researchers said on Wednesday they had
successfully grown in
the laboratory a type of adult stem cell found in the
eyes of both
fish and mammals that develops into neurons in the

In future, these cells could be injected into the eye
as a treatment
for diseases such as macular degeneration, glaucoma
diabetes-related blindness, according to Astrid Limb
of University
College London's (UCL) Institute of Ophthalmology.

Damage to the retina -- the part of the eye that sends
messages to the
brain -- is responsible for most cases of sight loss.

"Our findings have enormous potential," Limb said. "It
could help in
all diseases where the neurons are damaged, which is
basically nearly
every disease of the eye."

Limb and her colleagues studied so-called Mueller
glial cells in the
eyes of people aged from 18 months to 91 years and
found they were
able to develop them into all types of neurons found
in the retina.

They were also able to grow them easily in the lab,
they reported in
the journal Stem Cells.

The cells have already been tested in rats with
diseased retinas,
where they successfully migrated into the retina and
took on the
characteristics of the surrounding neurons. Now the
team is working on
the same approach in humans.

"We very much hope that we could do autologous
transplants within five
years," Limb told Reuters.

Autologous transplants, initially on a trial basis,
will involve
manipulating cells and injecting them back into an
individual's own
eye. Eventually, Limb hopes it will also be possible
to transfer the
cells between different people.

"Because they are so easy to grow, we could make stem
cell banks and
have cell lines available to the general population,
subject to typing
as with blood transfusions," she said.

Just why zebrafish have an abundant supply of adult
stem cells to
regenerate their retinas, while they are rare in
mammals, remains a
mystery but Limb suspects it is because mammals have a
limiting system
to stop proliferation.

The new work on Mueller glial cells is the latest
example of
researchers exploring the potential of different kinds
of stem cells
in treating eye disease. Another team from UCL and
Moorfield's Eye
Hospital said in June they aimed to repair damaged
retinas with cells
derived from embryonic stem cells.


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