An extremely comprehensive article about stem cell programs in opthalmology by Irving J. Arons
A Primer on the Use of Stem Cells in Ophthalmology
by Irving J. Arons
I recently came across an interesting news release from International Stem Cell Corporation (ISCO) announcing that it had formed a new business unit, Cytovis, to focus on stem cell programs in ophthalmology, including CytoCor for the cornea and CytoRet for the retina.
That got me thinking about how little I knew about what was going on in stem cell research in ophthalmology, despite having written about two developments in the field, the London Project to Cure Blindness and the University of California Irvine (UCI) program to develop an artificial retina based on stem cell research.
I decided to become better informed by taking a closer look at what was happening in this field, and presenting that story.
Commenting on a EuroRetina Meeting held earlier in 2008, John Morrow of Newport Biotech Consultants noted, as reported by Ophthalmology Times Europe in September 2008, “Stem Cells are looked upon as either an ethical train wreck or the gateway to the alleviation of human illness, depending on which side of the political spectrum one resides. This unfortunate notoriety has resulted in unprecedented coverage in the media, but this has not done much to advance the cause of this technology. Yet recent ophthalmologic research suggests that the medical applications of stem cells hold notable promise for the treatment of ocular degenerative conditions and that realization of this potential may come about in the near future.”
I think Dr. Morrow’s thoughts eloquently sum up the subject. Stem cell research is politically charged but holds tremendous promise for the future, especially in ophthalmology.
What are Stem Cells?
Every organ and tissue in our bodies is made up of specialized cells that originally come from a pool of stem cells in the very early embryo (“embryonic stem cells”). Throughout our lives we rely to a much more limited degree on rare deposits of stem cells in certain areas of the body (“adult stem cells”) to regenerate organs and tissues that are injured or lost, such as our skin, our hair, our blood and the lining of our gut.
Stem cells are like a blank microchip that can be programmed to perform particular tasks. Under proper conditions, stem cells develop or “differentiate” into specialized cells that carry out a specific function, such as in the skin, muscle, liver, or in the eye. Additionally, stem cells can grow extensively without differentiating and give rise to more stem cells...
To read the full article, please visit - http://irvaronsjournal.blogspot.com/2010/09/primer-on-use-of-stem-cells-in.html