“Of all the senses, Sight must be the most delightful.” One of the beautiful saying from Helen Keler which implies how important eyes are and how important is the vision. There are people who struggle with lack of vision or a decreased level of vision and look for various ways to come out of the darkness they live with every single day. In humans there are many conditions which are associated with some loss of vision or improper eye sight. One such condition is the Macular Dystrophy, which is actually a rare genetic disorder of eye that leads to loss of vision. Till the current date, there was no known effective treatment for such a condition and people who encountered this rare genetic eye disorder had to suffer from any kind of vision loss in their life. However, the latest development from the stem cell technology has proved the very fact, “There is nothing called impossible in science!” The major breakthrough seen with the Stem cell therapy in the treatment or restoring of vision in the patients suffering from macular degeneration has generated a new ray of hope for all those silent eyes to let their closed dream come out of eyes with the possible means of restoring their vision without any side effects. This current article will revolve around this genetic eye disorder of Macular Degeneration and also focus on the most advanced treatment for the condition via stem cell technology.
What Is Macular Degeneration?
As stated above, “macular degeneration is a rare genetic disorder of the eye where the affected person suffers from a kind of vision loss in due course of time.” It is mainly caused with the growing age and is thus mostly age related issues. However in rare cases, young people also suffer from macular degeneration.
Let us study more about the Macular Degeneration in the following array of our article.
Facts About Macular Degeneration:
- Macular dystrophy is a genetic disorder of eye which affects the cells in a particular portion of the retina known as macula. Macula which is responsible for central vision, gets damaged due to the hold of such a rare eye disorder and in turn people suffer from difficulty reading, driving or usual daily activities requiring central vision.
- There are two types of macular degeneration, namely Juvenile macular degeneration and the age-related macular degeneration. Though juvenile macular degeneration, occurring in young ones is very rare; the AMD or age related macular degeneration is seen with growing age with the gradual loss of vision or blurred central vision due to damage of the eye cells in the macula.
- Age related macular degeneration is the leading cause of visual impairment in the United States.
- Age related macular degeneration does not affect the peripheral vision and thus there is no total vision loss in this type of eye genetic disorder.
- There is no other known treatment available for macular degeneration other than the most advanced treatment of stem cell technology which makes use of the human embryonic stem cells to restore the loss of central vision caused in the genetic disorder of the eye.
- There are no clear studies on the fact that macular degeneration occurs more vigorously in women than men. Also it is found that white people and people with Chinese ethnicity have more chances to suffer from the same than people from other ethnicity.
Types Of Macular Degeneration:
There are mainly two major types of macular degeneration seen. Let us study them in brief below.
- Juvenile Macular Degeneration: Though it is very rare that macular degeneration hit the young people, yet the condition when young aged people suffer from the central vision loss due to damaged macula, is termed as Juvenile Macular degeneration. This can either be present during the time of birth or can develop at a later phase of youth.
- Age-Related Macular Degeneration: Usually macular degeneration occur in aged people, especially above 50 years of age. This is accompanied with the loss of central vision due to the affected or damaged cells in the macula of the eye retina. Symptoms like trouble while reading or blurred vision, difficulty recognizing faces etc, are characterized with the age related macular degeneration (AMD).
Causes Of Macular Degeneration:
As studied earlier that macular degeneration occurs due to damage in the eye cells present in the macula of the retina. Coming to a further generalized study on the causes of AMD or age related macular degeneration; we can come up with the below explanations.
- There are two prime types of age related macular degeneration. One being the Dry age related macular degeneration and other being the Wet age related macular degeneration.
- The Dry age related macular degeneration is caused when there is an excessive build-up of waste products called drusen in the macula which damages the cells of the macula.
- The cause of the occurrence of Wet age related macular degeneration is that there is a growth of some abnormal blood vessels from the beneath of the macula which damages the macula cells. It is also sometimes referred as Neovascular age related macular degeneration.
Preventive Measures For Reducing The Risk Of Macular Degeneration:
Though it is not always possible to prevent macular degeneration in you; it is always possible to keep the growing risks of age related macular degeneration in control by following steps.
- In case you are a regular smoker, stop smoking.
- Try to reduce alcohol consumption in case you are dependent on alcoholic drinks
- Make sure you are taking enough of leafy and green vegetables in diet.
- Use UV- absorbing sun glasses whenever you are moving out.
Available Treatments For Macular Degeneration:
Though there are some suggestions that taking leafy vegetables in diet can slow down the progression of age related macular degeneration and also anti- VEGF medications might help in reducing the Wet age related macular degeneration, yet till date there is no known absolute treatment available for macular degeneration, except the vibrating invention of the most advanced form of treatment via stem cell therapy. Research have been in progress since many years and now with the latest news on the discovery of the most effective treatment for macular degeneration via stem cell technology with the use of human embryonic stem cells; there has been a kind of relaxed breath among the sufferers and the doctors treating the condition as well. Now there is a hope that stem cell technology can be now available in a more generous way to treat the loss of vision caused due to macular degeneration. More about this latest development is what the next section of the article holds in it.
Latest Treatment For Macular Degeneration Stem Cell Technology:
Stem cell technology is one of the hottest topics studied in the recent day’s medical science. There are a lot of ongoing research on stem cells and the magical impact of stem cell transplants in treating a number of health conditions, including the latest development of treating macular degeneration.
There are the embryonic stem cells, adult stem cells and the umbilical cord blood stem cells which can be categorized under the major types of stem cells. Usually, mouse embryonic stem cells and human embryonic stem cells have been taken for various scientific research. UCB stem cells too have a greater potential to be used in the stem cell therapies for treating various fatal diseases in human beings.
Known for its marvelous property to grow in to any other cell types in the body; stem cells have been a major source of research or treatment source for various diseased conditions or disorders in human. The breakthrough achievement in the discovery of one potential treatment method for macular degeneration via stem cell transplant; has taken the technology to two steps higher. Let us study about the research or the advanced treatment found for Macular degeneration.
Stem Cell Technology To Treat Macular Degeneration: A Clear Explanation On The Research
- Human embryonic Stem cells were used in the process of treating patients with macular degeneration.
- 18 patients were taken for the trial and 9 out of them had dry age related macular degeneration, while other 9 patients suffered from a kind of Juvenile macular degeneration called the Stargrat’s macular dystrophy.
- Human Embryonic Stem Cells (hESCs) were treated with chemicals and allowed to grow in to the retinal cells (pigment cells) which were then transplanted into the patient’s eye behind the retina of the affected eye.
- Around 50, 000 to 150, 000 such retinal cells were injected to the patients’ affected eye which suffered from damaged macula cells in the retina.
- It was found that more than 50% of the patients (i.e. approximately 8 out of 18 patients) with the implanted pigmental retinal cells started experiencing an improved vision after the stem cell transplant. It was also explained that there was no side effect seen with this kind of treatment method.
- The patients tolerated the implanted pigment cells for a time period of 37 months with gradual improvements in vision. A follow up period of 22 months in the patients also did not show any noticeable side effects like the growth of tumor or cancer.
- This proved that Stem cell transplant is absolutely a safe technology which can be used for the treatment of macular degeneration in a better way without any side effect.
Final Note On Macular Degeneration And Stem Cell Technology:
As a belief, “There is always a hope till the last breath of life.” Implying the same to the patients with macular degeneration who meet with a loss of their central vision and are in the haunt of finding the best treatment for them to restore back their lost vision; Stem cell technology is going to be one of the finest hope in providing the best of the life drop to their damaged macula or the macula cells and regenerate their wonderful vision towards the beauty of life without any side effects.
Hope the small scale treatment discovered by the stem cell scientists in the current time; goes viral and the general public soon come to take the benefits of this stem cell technology for treatment of macular degeneration.