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Bone marrow stem cells may be used to treat vision loss.

New research in mice suggests that bone marrow stem cells could be used to treat vision loss due to abnormal blood vessel growth.

When injected into the eyes of newborn mice, a type of hematopoietic stem cell grew into blood vessels and possibly prevented a genetic form of blindness that normally occurs in this strain of mouse.

Whether the same cells exist in humans is unknown. But the findings raise hope that such transplants might be used to treat several common eye diseases that involve abnormalities in the blood vessels of the retina, the light-sensitive lens located in the back of the eye. Both macular degeneration, the number one cause of blindness in the elderly, and diabetic retinopathy, a cause of blindness in diabetics, are characterized by blood vessel overgrowth. Retinitis pigmentosa (RP), an inherited form of blindness, results from the degeneration of retinal blood vessels.

Martin Friedlander, PhD and colleagues at the Scripps Research Institute in LaJolla, CA studied endothelial precursor cells (EPCs), a subset of hematopoietic stem cells that forms blood vessels. According to their report in an advance online publication of the September issue of Nature Medicine, hematopoietic stem cells that contain large quantities of EPCs can be used to both promote and inhibit the growth of blood vessels in the retina.

In the experiment, the investigators injected EPC-enriched hematopoietic cells into the eyes of baby mice that had a disease similar to RP. The cells interacted with astrocytes, another type of cell, and "completely rescued" the at-risk blood vessels and also appeared to rescue some photoreceptors-structures that are destroyed in RP. The mice went on to develop completely normal blood vessels in the retina, but whether their vision is restored is still uncertain, Friedlander and coauthors said.
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Comment:Bone marrow stem cells may be used to treat vision loss.
Publication:Transplant News
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 27, 2002
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