Stem Cell transplants may restore sight to the blind

5 February 2014

Scientists at UCL have successfully extracted stem cells from the back of the eye and transplanted them into completely blind rats; partially restoring their vision.

Working with UCLB, Professor Astrid Limb and her team at UCL’s Institute for Ophthalmology have developed a stem cell transplantation therapy which has been shown to preserve retinal integrity. Using donated corneas the team can isolate a population of neural stem cells from the retina; tests have so far proven successful, showing that the transplanted human cells lessen the loss of retinal ganglion cell function.

It is hoped that this can be used to treat the effects of glaucoma and other optic nerve injuries. Glaucoma is an eye disease characterised by the progressive loss of retinal ganglion cells. The drainage tubes in the eye become blocked, preventing fluid from draining properly and causing pressure to build up and damaging the optic nerve. The World Health Organisation reports that glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide. Globally, 12.5 million people are blind from glaucoma, with the total number affected estimated at more than 70 million people.  Approximately 10% of people who receive proper treatment for glaucoma will still experience a loss of vision. Present treatments for glaucoma only slow progression and do not restore visual function.

The potential for partially restored vision will help to improve the quality of life in patients that have suffered blindness from glaucoma.

For further information, please contact:
Dr Rachel Hemsley (r.hemsley@uclb.com), Senior Business Manager at UCLB

Technology information: https://www.uclb.com/technology-finder/technology/stem-cell-therapy-replacement-for-retinal-ganglion-cells-treatment-for-glaucoma-and-other-eye-diseases

Stem Cells Translational Medicine http://stemcellstm.alphamedpress.org/content/early/2014/01/29/sctm.2013-0112.abstract?papetoc&related-urls=yes&legid=sctm;sctm.2013-0112v1
BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-25977215

About UCL Institute of Ophthalmology
UCL Institute of Ophthalmology is one of the foremost eye and vision research institutes in the world. It operates at the cutting-edge of translational research, delivering new therapies, diagnostic tools and preventive measures to patients suffering from visual impairment or blinding conditions. The combination of the Institute’s research resource with MoorfieldsEyeHospital, which has the largest ophthalmic patient population in the Western World, opens the way for further advances in vision research. The Institute is a recipient of a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education, in recognition of outstanding research excellence.

For further information, please visit: www.ucl.ac.uk/ioo

About UCLB
UCLB is a leading technology transfer company that supports and commercialises research and innovations arising from UCL, one of the UK’s top research-led universities. UCLB has a successful track record and a strong reputation for identifying and protecting promising new technologies and innovations from UCL academics. UCLB has a strong track record in commercialising medical technologies and provides technology transfer services to UCL’s associated hospitals; University College London Hospitals, Moorfields Eye Hospital, Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children and the Royal Free London Hospital. It invests directly in development projects to maximise the potential of the research and manages the commercialisation process of technologies from laboratory to market.

UCLB supports UCL’s Grand Challenges of increasing UCL’s positive impact on and contribution to Global Health, Sustainable Cities, Intercultural Interaction and Human Wellbeing.

For further information, please visit: www.uclb.com