An interdisciplinary team of scientists funded by University of Toronto’s Medicine by Design initiative believes they can improve the outcomes of conditions like age-related macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa. These conditions usually cause structures in the eye to be lost leading to vision loss. Structures like photoreceptor cells that absorb light in the eye and retinal pigmented epithelium (RPE) that support them can cause these structures to die. Now this group of scientists are trying to see if stem cells put into the eyes can restore vision by “material transfer”. This is, transferring the material contained in one cell to another. The team will take this stem cell transplantation and see whether they can actually overcome the mutation in RP by transferring the stem cell’s material to the photoreceptors. They believe that this research will provide a new way to think about cell therapy and what it can do for different conditions.
What this means for Usher syndrome: Vision loss in Usher syndrome is a type of RP. This research is attempting to take stem cell therapy a step further to find ways to restore vision loss in patients with RP. This research is still at the beginning stages but could be a possible therapy in the future.