Friday, March 21, 2008

The "Eyes" Have It

Another example of how medical science can progress in dramatic, wonderful new ways without doing harm to the lives of tiny humans (and the moral consciences of researchers) can be found in a Science Daily edition from a couple of days ago:

Scientists at Schepens Eye Research Institute (an affiliate of Harvard Medical School and the largest independent eye research institute in the nation) have discovered what chemical in the eye triggers the dormant capacity of certain non-neuronal cells to transform into progenitor cells, a stem-like cell that can generate new retinal cells. The discovery, published in the March issue of Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science (IOVS), offers new hope to victims of diseases that harm the retina, such as macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa.

"This study is very significant. It means it might be possible to turn on the eye's own resources to regenerate damaged retinas, without the need for transplanting outside retinal tissue or stem cells," says Dr. Dong Feng Chen, associate scientist at Schepens Eye Research Institute and Harvard Medical School, and the principal investigator of the study. "If our next steps work in animal disease models, we believe that clinical testing could happen fairly quickly..."