In a recent study, retinal cells coming from adult human eye stem cells were successfully put into the eyes of monkeys. This is an important early step in attempting to treat blindness. This is an attempt to treat blindness due to retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) dysfunction. The RPE is a layer of cells in the retina and is necessary for vision. Researchers took retinal stem cells from donated cadaver adult eyes and grew them into RPE cells. These were then put in monkeys using a patch. This is the first-time safety and feasibility of stem cell-created RPE were transplanted into a non-human primate. The RPE cells were still part of the eye three months later and were able to do some of the work that the monkey’s RPE was doing. Further experimentation needs to be done, but this is a first step in showing RPE cells created through stem-cells can be transplanted.
What this means for Usher syndrome: The success of this study, even though in early stages, could be a good template for future attempts at stem cell therapy for Usher syndrome.