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Retinal cell transplant: see how they see.

Retinal cell transplant: See how they see

By transplanting retinal cells from healthy rats into the eyes of diseased rats, two teams of researchers have for the first time treated a blinding condition in the animals. James E. Turner and Linxi Li at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., worked with rats suffering from retinal dystrophy. Their results were confirmed by Peter Gouras of Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City.

After removing defective cells from the rats' eyes, via an incision and gentle washing of the afflicted area, the scientists injected the transplant cells. In more than 200 cases in his lab, Turner told SCIENCE NEWS, the transplanted cells survived and prevented death of other cells essential for sight.

Retinal dystrophy is rats causes the death of epithelial cells of the retina, which cover and nourish the retina's photoreceptor cells. This, in turn, leads to death of the photoreceptor cells. The photoreceptor cells convert light to electrical impulses.

In humans, senile macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness among those over 60 in the United States, is believed caused by degeneration of retinal epithelial cells.

Gouras expresses "optimism" about eventual application of the technique to senile macular degeneration and related conditions in humans. However, he says tissue rejection occurs following the procedure in rabbits, and the next step is studies in monkeys. Human treatment, Turner and gouras estimate, is five to 10 years off.
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Author:Eron, Carol
Publication:Science News
Date:Oct 8, 1988
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