One of the discoveries that most obsess scientists is the cure for blindness and other disorders associated with vision.
In recent years, many advances have been made in this field, especially at the level of minor conditions, such as myopic. However, getting sight back to those who do not have it, either from birth or due to some later problem, remains a difficult obstacle to overcome.
It is clear that stem cells they have a lot to offer in these investigations, since they are capable of transforming into different cell types, so it is not unreasonable regenerate eye tissues damaged with your help. This is precisely what a group of scientists from the Osaka University, which have used iPSc, based on one of the newest advances in stem cells, to obtain all the components of the eyeball. Although at the moment they have only done it in rabbits, the results are very encouraging in view of the extrapolation to humans.
What are iPS cells?
As you know, stem cells are those capable of differentiate in the form of different types of specialized cells, in addition to self-renew, giving rise to new stem cells. Therefore, they are very useful, since they can be used to generate healthy cells that are fully functional and regenerate damaged tissues. For example, recently it has been possible to obtain sperm with their fertilizing capacity intact.
Although they can be obtained from many sources, the most common are embryonic stem cells, so they present a large number of ticos inconveniences by those who oppose the use of embryos in research.
This has for many years been the search for a way to obtain large numbers of these cells without having to use human embryos. Finally, in 2006, This process paid off with the discovery of the induced pluripotency stem cells (iPS), obtained by Takahashi and Yamanaka. To generate the iPS, these researchers took cells from adult tissues, to which they induced the expression of four genes capable of de-differentiate them and transform them into stem cells, similar to those found in embryos.
This marked the beginning of a new era in the field of regenerative medicine, since they offered an immense range of possibilities and, in addition, successfully surpassed the barrier of ethics.
How can stem cells be useful in curing blindness?
The diseases associated with sight can be related to any of the different components of the eye, from the retina up to cornea. Therefore, it is very important to regenerate all your tissues.
This is the basis of the research of these scientists, the results of which have been published in Nature. But not only have they obtained the tissues independently, they have gone much further, obtaining what they have called a proto-eye. For this, it is necessary to cultivate the iPS obtained from the skin, generating first four rings simple of different types of cells, which end up becoming the different parts of the eye.
As I told you at the beginning, these experiments have been carried out with rabbits, whose skin cells finally generated functional corneas, which could be implanted in the diseased eyes, restoring sight to the animals.
Although there is still a lot of research to be done, these scientists are optimistic and hope that they can have good results in humans over a period of three years. The end of blindness may be near. And all thanks to the stem cells!