News / Health

Scientists Explore Stem Cells to Treat Diabetic Blindness

Jessica Berman
Millions of diabetics around the world are threatened with vision loss, a secondary effect of their disease, but researchers are exploring whether stem cells can be used to treat or prevent this diabetic complication. 

Juvenile and adult-onset diabetes result when the body's ability to regulate blood sugar levels goes awry. When the condition becomes chronic, it can lead to cardiovascular disease, damage the kidneys and affect blood flow to the limbs, sometimes requiring amputations.

The disease also affects the eyes, according to Alan Stitt of Queen’s University in Belfast, Ireland. Chronically high blood sugar levels can cause a condition called diabetic retinopathy, in which the tiny blood vessels that nourish the retina, the light sensitive tissue at the back of the eye, become blocked or leak.

“They then can actually no longer carry the oxygen and the nutrients that the retina requires," Stitt says. "And the retina becomes increasingly dysfunctional as a result of these blood vessels not functioning properly.”

If left untreated, diabetic retinopathy can lead to partial or total blindness.

Stitt, who directs the Queen's University Center for Vision and Vascular Science, is participating in a European-led study called Repair of Diabetic Damage by Stromal Cell Administration (REDDSTAR). 

Researchers from the U.S., Northern Ireland, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark and Portugal are also taking part. Each team is trying to prevent and minimize damage to a particular organ as a result of diabetes.

The scientists are using adult stem cells isolated from bone marrow, the spongy tissue inside bones. Stem cells are master cells that can be coaxed to morph into any type of tissue cell in the body.

In Stitt’s laboratory, the stem cells are being injected directly into the eyes of mice bred to have diabetic retinopathy. So far, he says, the results are encouraging, showing signs that the progression toward blindness can be halted as the tiny retinal blood vessels are repaired and regenerated by the stem cells:

“They are very clever cells, because what we know from the evidence we’ve got is that they seem to have this ability to go to where the tissue needs them to go," Stitt says. "So they recognize where there’s not enough blood vessels and they can actually then participate in the blood vessel regrowth.”

Current treatments for diabetic retinopathy, including laser surgery to stop retinal leakage, are directed toward patients with advanced disease. Such medical interventions are painful, costly and frequently unsuccessful.

Stitt expects to begin human trials with the potentially eyesight-saving stem cell therapy in about two years.

You May Like

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. More

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

Dropout rate at an all-time high in South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during 3-year civil war More

Tennessee Songbirds Fly Coop Long Before Tornadoes Arrive

Researchers say birds apparently alerted to danger by sounds at frequencies below range of human hearing More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportionali
X
Aru Pande
December 19, 2014 1:45 AM
The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportional

The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid