Many people suffer from glaucoma which means searching for alternative treatments is essential. The common eye condition does not have a cure but innovation through medical research using stem cells shows promise. Using stem cells for eye repair is changing the way doctors treat and consider the future cure for this ailment.
Alternative Treatment for Glaucoma | Can Stem Cells Be It?
In This Article:
What Is Glaucoma?
An alternative treatment for glaucoma is mandatory due to the nature of the disease.
Glaucoma is an eye condition characterized by damage to the optic nerve. These are the nerves that send signals of light to the brain.
The damage is due to the build-up of fluid in the front of the eye. It then results in high intraocular pressure.
The disease can progress gradually. It may even take years before the symptoms start to appear. Once they do, though, the damaged nerves become irreparable. Unless the condition is managed, it can lead to vision loss or blindness.
The current treatments for glaucoma are to delay its progression. One of these is medication such as eye drops. The drops help lower the pressure build-up. Another option is surgery, which can improve the drainage system of the eye.
Alternative Treatment for Glaucoma: Stem Cells
Stem cell treatment for glaucoma is still in its early stages. In fact, many treatment options using stem cells are still in the clinical trial phase.
The possibilities, though, are exciting. For one, this alternative treatment for glaucoma may be the cure for glaucoma induced blindness.
The stem cell treatment for blindness may pave the way for optic nerve healing. This work may even be capable of reversing the damage entirely.
Stem cell optic nerve repair is not the only potential benefit either. In an interview with the Glaucoma Research Foundation, Jeffrey L. Goldberg, MD, PhD, explains that doctors can introduce these stem cells in multiple places.
For example, doctors can inject stem cells to form trabecular meshwork cells early in the disease. In this process, stem cells help lower the eye pressure.
They can also protect retinal nerve cells from breaking down. This “neuroprotective” effect can help keep the nerves young and undamaged. Patients may never have to suffer vision loss in the first place.
The alternative treatment for glaucoma may also treat other serious eye conditions. Besides stem cell retina repair, it may treat diseases that may lead to blindness including the following:
- Macular degeneration
- Optic neuritis
- Retinal vascular occlusion
Stem cell treatment may also reduce other risk factors such as diabetes.
The Use of Pluripotent Stem Cells
One of the advantages of using stem cell treatment for optic nerve damage is that there are many possible sources to retrieve stem cells from. These include pluripotent stem cells which are the “most powerful” of all stem cells since they can turn into any part of the body. The challenge with this type of cell is their optimal source, an embryo.
Fortunately, scientists have found a way to derive them from adult stem cells. The process involves getting blood or skin cells. A lab then reprograms them to become embryonic-like. These cells then become induced pluripotent stem cells.
Because they do not come from the embryo, doctors can now avoid ethical issues that people usually raise against stem cell therapy.
Costs of Adult Stem Cell Treatment for Glaucoma
This alternative treatment for glaucoma does come with challenges. One of these is the cost. It is not a cheaper option to the current forms of treatment. Trials proceed on a “patient-funded” basis. This means the individual bears the full cost, which can amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars. All research towards a cure is good research, though.
Can stem cell treatment for glaucoma cure blindness? See how it’s used to treat macular degeneration from this BBC News video:
Can vision loss due to glaucoma be restored? The alternative treatment for glaucoma called stem cell therapy may do just that. As long as there are people willing to undergo the trials, everyone is one step closer to achieving a cure.
Do you think stem cells are the alternative treatment for glaucoma? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below.