Individuals that have permanent damage to their photoreceptors are unable to repair or regenerate new photoreceptors. Researchers and engineers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison may have a possible solution for these individuals living with vision loss. Researchers were able to make new photoreceptors from human pluripotent stem cells (cells able to develop into any cell of the adult body). Even with these photoreceptors, there was still the challenge of delivering them into the eye. To solve this problem, the researchers worked with engineers to create a micro-molded scaffolding photoreceptor “patch” that can be implanted into the host retina. This patch is made from poly(glycerol-sebacate) or PGS, which can be safely metabolized by the body. Soon this scaffold will be tested on large animals, and if successful, it will eventually be tested in humans.
What this means for Usher syndrome: Not only were researchers able to create new photoreceptors, they have also worked with engineers to create patches for these photoreceptors that can go in the damaged area within the eye. If testing goes well with large animals, this therapy could be tested on humans to help restore vision loss. As vision loss in Usher syndrome is caused by retinitis pigmentosa (RP) which causes photoreceptors to stop working, this could be a possible treatment in the future.