Tags: Health Topics | Stem Cell | Glaucoma | Retina | Eyes

Stem Cell Byproduct May Protect Against Glaucoma

Stem Cell Byproduct May Protect Against Glaucoma

(Dreamstime)

By    |   Monday, 30 January 2017 09:38 AM

A byproduct of stem cells may hold the key for one day protecting against glaucoma, a leading cause of blindness in the United States.

That's the determination of a new study by researchers at the National Eye Institute (NEI), part of the National Institutes of Health, which showed stem cell secretions, called exosomes, seemed to protect the retina in the eyes of rats.

Since stem cells can morph into any type of cell in the body, they have long been thought to hold promise for failing eyesight due to glaucoma and other degenerative eye diseases, which are more common in people with diabetes. But stem cells are prone to immune rejection and unwanted cell growth, making them a difficult candidate for productive study.

Exosomes, on the other hand, do not have these limitations. Once thought to be the waste disposal system of cells, exosomes are packed with proteins lipids and gene-regulating RNA — which can send signals to protect cells in the retina. And since exosomes are not hindered by rejection and unwanted cell growth, researchers were excited to test them on the retina.

Exosomes were injected weekly into the vitreous fluid of the test rats. The vitreous fluid is a clear gel located between the lens of the eye and the retina. The exosomes were first tagged by fluorescent material to allow tracking as they moved into the retina. After induced injury to the retina, those treated with stem cell exosomes lost only about 30 percent of their retinal ganglion cells, the cells responsible for proper retina functioning — essential for eyesight— compared to the 90 percent loss of the untreated test subjects.

Researches determined this was the work of the messenger RNA — which can interfere or silence gene expression. They said that since they do not know the exact pathway of the protective exosomes, more research is crucial.

"We need to know which particular microRNA — there are more than 2,000 different microRNA molecules — are delivered into the retinal ganglion cells and what proteins or signaling pathways are being targeted upon arrival," said Stanislav Tomarev, a principal investigator at NEI. "We also need to attempt to target exosomes to specific sets of neurons and other cell types or groups of cells."

Tomarev said he and other team members want to test their results with other known beneficial therapies in order to find the optimal therapeutic effect. It may be a combination of exosomes and traditional therapy that will work best to combat glaucoma and other degenerative diseases of the eyes.

Their findings were published in the journal Stem Cells Translational Medicine.
 

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A byproduct of stem cells may hold the key for one day protecting against glaucoma, a leading cause of blindness in the United States.
Stem Cell, Glaucoma, Retina, Eyes
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2017-38-30
Monday, 30 January 2017 09:38 AM
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