Scientists have helped blind mice see again by transplanting immature retinal stem cells into their eyes.
The research team from UCL (University College London) worked on mice with a form of eye damage known as photoreceptor loss, which occurs in many human eye diseases. The team managed to transplant photoreceptor precursor cells into the animals’ retina, which then developed into new photoreceptors.
The researchers now hope that one day stem cells could be used to treat a variety of human eye diseases, including age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy.
“Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in people of working age in the UK," said Dr Angela Wilson, Director of Research at Diabetes UK.
"There are around 105,000 people with diabetes who are blind or visually impaired due to a condition called retinopathy that affects the blood vessels of the retina.
"If this research means that stem cells might have the potential one day to help restore the sight of people who suffer from diabetes-related sight loss then this is very exciting news.
"Nevertheless, it is important to remember that if diabetic retinopathy is identified early through retinal screening, and treated appropriately, blindness can be prevented in 90 per cent of those at risk.”
Diabetes UK is actively campaigning for all people with diabetes to receive retinal screening on an annual basis.