Recently, stem cells have been used for medical treatment successfully. In Japan, a woman received the first medical treatment based on induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). After eight years of their discovery, iPSCs have been used for treatment.
The woman’s skin cells were harvested from her arm and these were reprogrammed into specialized eye cells to treat age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a condition that affects millions of elderly people worldwide, and often results in blindness. Last week, the woman, in her 70s, had a patch of the cells measuring 1.3 by 3 mm grafted into her eye in a two-hour operation. She is the first of six people lined up for the landmark treatment, developed by Masayo Takahashi and her colleagues at the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe, Japan.
In a pilot study to test the safety of putting iPS-derived cells into humans, the six are all receiving a graft of new retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells, which serve to maintain the eye’s light-sensing cells.
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