Stem Cell Breakthrough Could Cure Glaucoma
UNMC discovery builds off research of Nobel Prize Winners in Science
Omaha, NE - More than two-million Americans suffer from glaucoma, 24-year-old Kevin Simpson is one of them.
"My vision has always been perfect too, it's something that I rely on and it was a little bit frightening to learn what the extent of threat glaucoma could be," Kevin Simpson said.
Simpson, who's stationed at Offutt Air Force Base, is part of an air crew that flies in an MC-12 plane. Although he has not lost his vision, a cure for glaucoma is critical in order for him to keep his job.
Dr. Iqbal Ahmad with the University of Nebraska Medical Center believes a breakthrough is on the horizon. "This is a stem cell approach which can eventually lead to the treatment of glaucoma," Dr. Ahmad said.
Simply put, Dr. Ahmad says adult stem cells can be reprogrammed then transferred into the affected eye, "The idea is that when you transplant these cells they will replace those degenerated retinal ganglion cells and the vision will be restored."
The breakthrough builds on the work of this year's Nobel Prize winners in science, who genetically altered adult stem cells to mirror the qualities of controversial embroynic stem cells.
Dr. Ahmad and his team performed the procedure on lab mice and saw great results. Although it could be several years before it's tried on humans, Simpson says the breakthrough gives him hope for himself and others with the disease.
"Somebody that's worse than myself, where they catch it later where you're already missing spots in your vision, to know you can come back from that is huge," said Dr. Ahmad.
Dr. Ahmad says the new stem cells could also cure macular-degeneration and other conditions that cause blindness. It could be at least five years before the stem cell transplant is used on patients.