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Retinal Pigment Epithelial Cells can Help Treat Glaucoma

Years of research for finding treatment of glaucoma may be finally beginning to pay off. Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that damages the optic nerve (the nerve that connects eye to the brain) and causes gradual vision loss.

Lab tests have been conducted on adult stem cells from the bone marrow. When these cells are grown together with retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells, they can be reprogrammed into photoreceptor cells and other retinal cells. Protective nerve cells in the retina might also be developed using this technology.

The retina of the eye contains all photoreceptor cells that are responsible for vision. Beneath the retina lie the RPE cells. RPE cells support the retina and renew light-absorbing pigments in the rod and cone photoreceptors. They also improve vision by capturing scattered light. They deliver nutrients to the RPE cells and prevent damaging substances from entering the retina. Damage to the RPE cells means death of photoreceptor cells. This ultimately leads to blindness.

Thus, research using RPE cells may lead to treatment that could stop or even reverse the progression of glaucoma.



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