by Dan Roberts
Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have succeeded in forming new retinal blood vessels in mice with ocular disease. The process uses “pluripotent” adult stem cells, which are derived from bone marrow and injected into the vitreous of the eyeball. When in place, these cells develop into endothelial cells and–in concert with other specialized cells called “astrocytes”–form the lining of the new blood vessels. In the mouse models, this process stopped the progression of macular degeneration.
Martin Friedlander, M.D., Ph.D., is the leader of the study. He is Associate Professor in the Department of Cell Biology and Chief of the Retina Service in the Division of Ophthalmology, Department of Surgery TSRI. According to Dr. Friedlander, not only can adult bone marrow stem cells be used to form new vessels, but they can also be used to deliver powerful anti-angiogenic drugs that will prevent neovascularization. This is promising news to people with the wet (exudative) type of macular degeneration.
For complete information on this research, see “Bone marrow-derived stem cells target retinal astrocytes and can promote or inhibit retinal angiogenesis” in the September 2002 issue of Nature Medicine.