The eye is a well-studied body regarding the development of experimental methods of treatment, it is easy enough to operate, it is also very often protected from the development of inflammatory processes that can affect the implementation of therapeutic interventions. Surgeons are also able to observe and track the progression of treatment.
At the Mayo Clinic, doctors are currently working on the development of new methods for growing stem cells derived from patients’ own tissues; such a regenerative approach in the future can lead to restoration of vision in people who have completely lost it.
What happens in the eye of an elderly patient
Macular degeneration is the main cause of partial blindness among people over 50 years old. Embryonic stem cells could be used to build new pigmented retinal epithelial cells that feed the visual cells and absorb light; such grown new cells can be transplanted into patients with vision loss.
Such technology can slow down or prevent the loss of spill cells, however, while obtaining new retinal visual cells from embryonic stem cells may lead to even more interesting results, the researchers found that obtaining and subsequent transplantation of such cells presents some difficulties. . Previous studies using an animal model, in particular laboratory mice, have shown that this technique can work successfully and that transplanted cells can be fully integrated into the retina, restoring vision in experimental animals.
There are two types of photoreceptive cells in the retina: rods and cones. The rods are stimulated by light of various intensities, they distinguish a wide range of sizes, shapes and brightness, and cones perceive colors and small details. Researchers were able to get sticks from embryonic stem cells and are currently working on obtaining cones and their subsequent transplantation in experiments with animal models. With the successful completion of such studies, experiments involving people will be the next logical step.
In the absence of adequate neuroprotection, however, new transplanted cells may also be susceptible to degenerative disease of the retina of at least the primary cells that they must replace. This problem is associated with the importance of gene therapy, which can correct the biochemical pathologies that lead to cell death.
Nevertheless, there is a certain form of treatment that has already led to the restoration of vision in patients with advanced degrees of degenerative retinal disorders. Along with limb restoration, medical prosthetics can be used to restore individual functions among patients who have lost their eyesight, for this, retinal prostheses are needed.
What is retinal prosthetics?
It is natural that the main task of doctors for patients who have almost completely lost their vision is to restore it. In this, the Argus II retinal prosthesis, which is suitable for use among patients with advanced retinitis pigmentosa, successfully helps doctors and patients.
Currently, there are 15 patients in the United States who underwent a retinal prosthesis, after the operation they are able to navigate in the crowd, in shopping centers without using a cane.
A camera connected to a pair of glasses transmits visual information to a small chip attached to the back of the eye through a small computer worn on a trouser belt. Such a chip can send light signals directly to the optic nerve, bypassing the damaged retina and providing the patient with visual information in the form of flashes of light.
Such a retinal prosthesis provides artificial vision, which is not comparable to any previous visual experience of patients. This form of vision can be recognized as basic in comparison with normal vision, however, for patients with impaired vision – this is a big step forward.
Patients describe such a new vision obtained as somewhat crude, but still very useful and effective. This technology restores rudimentary vision, however, as a result, the development of this direction can improve artificial devices, which will subsequently make it possible to treat patients with an advanced form of macular degeneration, for example, Stargardt macular degeneration or macular degeneration associated with aging.
The future prospects of this type of treatment are really amazing, however, the widespread use of such technologies in the near future seems doubtful. Such an artificial retina currently costs $ 144,000, and according to WHO experts, approximately 90% of people with visual impairments live in low-income settings.
How to maintain eye health?
Many people are lucky, because the likelihood that they will lose their sight is low enough, however, at the same time, their eyes and eyesight are still subject to various injuries. It is worth noting that most of the visual impairment can be prevented by certain measures.
The National Institute of Vision suggests that some simple measures can provide fairly good vision retention. They include:
- To give up smoking. Smoking is associated with an increased risk of cataracts, damage to the optic nerve and macular degeneration associated with aging;
- Maintaining a balanced healthy diet and optimal body weight;
- Hands and contact lenses must be thoroughly cleaned to reduce the risk of developing eye infections;
- You need to know the family history of diseases, since a sufficiently large number of eye diseases, for example, retinitis pigmentosa, are inherited, and therefore a known risk of developing these conditions can improve the level of treatment available;
- It is advisable to regularly undergo a thorough ophthalmological examination.